Chocolate - the word itself evokes incredible associations for a type of food product that affects not only on taste buds but also the mind. Under severe stress, we go for a bar of chocolate to bring us comfort. Infinitely many kind and romantic gestures are also associated with chocolate.
However, the sweet temptation for people of all ages is also seen as a threat to health and especially to the figure. Amid the chaos of so many clichés and claims, the claim that chocolate is not only delicious, but also very good for health is becoming more and more believed.
We should be immediately agree on one thing and that is that this does not apply to every chocolate product. It is valid only for dark chocolate, which contains over 70 percent cocoa. Simply put, this only applies to the familiar bitter dark chocolate and its its health effects come from the cocoa powder and raw cocoa without added sugar.
The history of chocolate is long and interesting. Fun moments and interesting facts come to reveal one of the wonders of the plant world around us, which is here to serve us and if we use it properly, we can enjoy its wonderful taste, along with its benefits.
Origin of chocolate
The history of real dark chocolate began about 4, 000 years ago. And most of this story goes with the idea of a drink with a bitter taste. In 1900 BC, the ancient Mesoamericans cultivated cocoa beans and then began to produce a thick paste from fermented roasted cocoa beans. It was mixed with spices such as vanilla, honey and others, diluted with water and the end result was a sparkling invigorating drink.
In the fifteenth century, the bitter drink was brought to Europe and became difficult to access, the way it was in its homeland. Until the middle of the 19th century, chocolate was served as a liquid, until in 1847 the cocoa press was introduced and a method was applied by pouring the chocolate mixture into molds and hardening it into an easily digestible product.
Over time, chocolate ingredients have been constantly replaced by cheaper options and today cocoa butter is hardly found in most chocolate products. This leads to the creation of food with harmful effects on health and weight. However, real dark chocolate, obtained mainly from ripe cocoa beans, is good for you and healthy.
And where the name of chocolate came from is not entirely clear. It is believed to come from a word in the language of the Indians xocolatl, composed of the words hosos meaning bitter and atl, which is the word for water and drink. It is not clear whether the bitter drink came from a local dialect or was later on though of.
The composition of real dark chocolate includes only cocoa butter and crushed cocoa beans.
The process of creating dark chocolate begins with the collection of cocoa pods. Only the ripe ones are collected because they contain enough cocoa butter and only they ferment and give the typical aroma and taste of chocolate, which we know well.
Drying and grinding the raw material is the next step, in which the chocolate butter is released and the remaining mass is called chocolate liqueur, although it does not contain alcohol.
Cocoa butter is obtained from the fat released during the pressing of the cocoa pods. As a by-product of cocoa butter production, it is used not only for the production of dark chocolate, but also for medical, cosmetic purposes and in aromatherapy.
The rest of the mass after the extraction of cocoa butter is finely ground and cocoa is obtained.
Chocolate is made from cocoa butter and chocolate liqueur. Dark chocolate does not contain whole milk.
Chocolate is sensitive to the effects of temperature as well as moisture and therefore it is kept in the dark. It easily absorbs any odors and therefore needs to be kept away from other food.
Health benefits of dark chocolate
The health benefits of natural dark chocolate are associated with the ingredients raw cocoa and cocoa powder. Cocoa contains minerals important to many organs and systems in the body.
Magnesium takes care of the bone strength and helps the process of muscle relaxation and contraction, preventing the formation of painful cramps. Iron ensures healthy red blood cells. Zinc supports the process of forming new cells.
Dark chocolate is richer in antioxidants than all other foods. Flavanols are in excellent amounts in dark chocolate, which makes it one of the best foods against many diseases. Thanks to flavanols, the elasticity of blood vessels is created and this way the risk of heart attacks and strokes is significantly reduced.
Dark chocolate is a prevention against coronary heart disease, as those who regularly consume the sweet temptation have a 37 percent lower risk of developing the disease.
The connection between cocoa in dark chocolate and blood pressure levels is that flavanols increase nitric oxide in the blood and this leads to dilation of blood vessels.
The presence of triptofan means that it is converted into serotonin and therefore chocolate affects our mood.
The phenylethylamine in it is another chemical that causes addiction for some people. The contained theobromine plays the role of caffeine, but without its side effects. These three chemicals make chocolate an appealing food.
Various studies have shown that dark chocolate lowers blood pressure levels. Improving blood flow under the influence of cocoa leads to lower blood pressure, but this process is short-lived. It reduces the levels of bad cholesterol.
The bioactive ingredients of dark chocolate are also beneficial for the condition of the skin. Flavanols protect against sun damage by improving blood flow, which increases skin hydration.
Dark chocolate also improves the brain function. Only 5 days of regular consumption of cocoa shows increased blood flow to the brain. Cognitive function is also improving and it is no coincidence that Nobel Prize winners feature countries with regular chocolate consumption.
A piece of dark chocolate helps against blood clotting. And this is a tasty and pleasant prevention against strokes and heart attacks. The sweet temptation has over 200 beneficial chemicals in its composition.
How to spot real dark chocolate?
The authenticity of the chocolate is checked mainly by examining the ingredients. If cocoa powder is used instead of ground cocoa, then the product is fake. The real one should contain cocoa butter and crushed cocoa beans.
Real dark chocolate has a shelf life of 6 to 8 months.
When consumed, dark chocolate should be melt in your mouth, not in your hands.
It has a shiny smooth surface and a characteristic crunching sound is heard when it's broken.
Dark chocolate is widely used in cooking. With it you can make great chocolate muffins, dark chocolate tart, chocolate mousse, hot chocolate, soft chocolate cake, and why not homemade dark chocolate bars.
If palm oil is used instead of cocoa butter, the chocolate can be burned. The real one does not burn, it melts when the temperature rises.
Real dark chocolate is a vegan food and every real vegan always distinguishes the taste of real food with such qualities.