You want beautiful skin? Eat dark chocolate! You want a stress-free sleep? Eat dark chocolate! You want energy? Eat dark chocolate! You want to feel in love? Eat dark chocolate! You want to loose weight? EAT DARK CHOCOLATE! The solution to your every problem has arrived!!
Everyone should love chocolate. Besides the above, the taste, the flavor and the warm and fuzzy feeling you get after eating it, isn’t that enough reasons for being a chocoholic! Plus, the way it feels when it melts in your mouth! Dare I say orgasmic!?
The unthinkable truth was I was NOT a lover of chocolate. I would much prefer a hearty, savory turkey stuffing over the melt in your mouth chocolate goo. THEN I discovered the benefits of dark chocolate! The health benefits of dark chocolate, that is.
The way I like to put it is this: I discovered the worlds best pharmacopoeia! I switched my love affair to not only the worlds best aphrodisiac but also one of the worlds best pharmacy for whatever ails you, as the benefits of dark chocolate re many.
Now, there is lots to talk about, this Mayan super-food, including the scientifically proven facts supporting the health benefits of dark chocolate, but before we get to all that, I would like to start at the beginning and shed some chocolate truth on the whole chocolate industry.
In this article we will discuss the difference between dark chocolate and regular chocolate; how chocolate is made; what is cocoa?; what is cacao?; what is the difference between cocoa and cacao; what is chocolate liquor?; what percentage of cocoa should we look for when buying a dark chocolate bar?
Then we will get into the cacao fields and talk about the benefits of dark chocolate.
I DISCOVERED CHOCOLATE PHARMACOPOEIA HEAVEN!
Is dark chocolate better than the regular chocolate?
Dark chocolate is so much better than the regular chocolate! Such a powerful confectionery even without all that sugar crap!! Wondering why I’m saying powerful? Because dark chocolate has healing powers!! And science documents this. Dark chocolate actually fills you with health benefits directly coming from the pocket of nature.
Grocery stores are often filled with sugary chocolate products; we often don’t get to see past them. So, I decided to write this article to let you guys know about the hidden chocolate treasures. All you chocoholics! You can thank me later.
Before heading towards the benefits of dark chocolate, you need to know about how it is different from the regular chocolate.
For that purpose, I’m writing a brief account of how chocolate is produced and where its ingredients come from. To describe it in a nutshell: dark chocolate is made from COCOA.
But what is cocoa? Where does it come from? What does it have? It’s like opening up a Pandora box of the secret chocolate world. Better yet, it is like getting the golden ticket and visiting Willy Wonka himself!
Yes, your favorite chocolate bar has a whole story behind it and you need to know that! So, here it is FROM BEANS TO THE BAR STORY!
What is Cocoa?
This is what you’ve grown up mixing in your smoothies, hot chocolate, brownies and shakes for chocolate flavor. I’m talking about that favorite cocoa powder of yours. This cocoa powder is obtained from a plant Theobroma Cacao. Interesting fact to mention here is that Theobroma is a Greek word and it means “foods of god”. Undoubtedly this plant gives you a food that makes you believe in the heavens above! But what is harvested from this plant isn’t cocoa. It is in fact a raw form called CACAO. CACAO SEEDS are heated at high temperature and processed to form cocoa beans and grinded into cocoa powder which ultimately becomes basis of chocolate formation.
How is cocoa made?
Cocoa is made from CACAO seeds through an extensive processing procedure. No wonder chocolate is delicious; a lot of elegant work is done to prepare it! The chocolate plant (Theobroma cacao) is found in tropical countries and it grows cacao pods when matured. These pods are the size of a football and filed with many beans. So, they are opened up and the fruits are extracted along with their pulp. These fruits are cacao.
Now these cacao beans are fermented in sacks or between banana leaves. This fermentation gives richness of flavor and deliciousness of taste. Fermented cacao is sun-dried to reduce the moisture and roasted at a high temperature. Roasting gives them dark color and further brings out the flavor. After heating, the cacao shells and pulp are removed. Now they are cocoa and you can form different products from it!
How dark chocolate is made from cocoa?
After removal of the shells, only roasted cocoa nibs are left. These nibs are grinded into making chocolate liquor. Don’t get the wrong idea from LIQUOR! It’s just a fancy word and has nothing to do with alcohol. This chocolate liquor is processed further to extract two things:
• Chocolate butter
• Chocolate press-cake (a fat-free cocoa by-product)
Chocolate butter is mixed with chocolate liquor to make high-quality chocolate and press-cake is grinded into cocoa powder to use in baking product! Chocolate butter can also be used in moisturizer (chocolate in your lotion: exciting!). Chocolate liquor is where story takes a twist. You can make either dark chocolate from it or other chocolate forms (white chocolate, regular black chocolate).
Dark chocolate has high amount of cocoa (more than 60%) with little or no milk products. Other types do have varied quantity of milk. It also has relatively a low amount of sugar. The fat content of dark chocolate is also low because there’s no milk. Pertaining to high amount of cocoa and low sugar content, dark chocolate makes an amazing SUPERFOOD! Regular chocolate has high milk and sugar content that reduces the healing powers of chocolate.
How are cocoa and cacao different?
Having interacted with many chocoholics, I’ve noticed people tend to mix cacao and cocoa. Let me clear this misconception: THESE TWO ARE DIFFERENT!
Cacao is a raw product obtained from the chocolate plant hidden in the cacao pods; whereas, cocoa is roasted form of it. Cacao is processed extensively to convert into cocoa. Fats are removed from it in the form of chocolate butter during processing. So, cocoa is lower in fat and some other nutrients. Cocoa also has rich flavor bestowed on it by roasting and fermentation. Cacao doesn’t offer that rich or intense flavor. So, you can use raw cacao as well in baking but it’s different from cocoa.
Raw cacao is a whole load of nutritious substance in itself and has many healthy benefits but let’s leave that for some other day. Today, I’ll stick to benefits provided by the dark chocolate.
What are the health benefits of dark chocolate?
Since I’ve covered all the bases, it’s time to see what dark chocolate has in store for you! It’s loaded with minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and stimulants and choke full of cocoa. Each of these nutrients has a unique health benefit. Scientists have also done extensive research on benefits of dark chocolate (they are chocoholics too, we are everywhere!). Some of the benefits are listed below:
1. It protects your skin
Dark chocolate and your skin are like best buds!! Chocolate has so much to offer on the skin front that once you supplement dark chocolate in your life, there’ll be no space for chemical cosmetics.
Dark chocolate has a bunch of Flavonoids and Catachins (types of anti-oxidants). These anti-oxidants are the protectors of your skin. They neutralize the free radicals produced in your body. No free radicals mean no collagen damage and your skin stays elastic and young!!
Hello to NO WRINKLES!!
Flavonol also has an ability to produce nitric oxide from your Endothelium. NO is an arterial muscle relaxant hence improves blood flow! Your skin gets a lot of blood full of nutrients so gets a dewy glow and stays healthy! There’s more in the form of UV protection too. Science says that cocoa’s antioxidants absorb the UV rays and provide photo-protection. The possibility of sunburn also decreases and overall health of your skin improves.
Chocolate also improves your stress and anxiety levels. Stress has a significant effect on collagen deterioration. That’s why you need to counter it for a better skin health. Dark chocolate enhances Serotonin and Dopamine that elevate your mood. So, your skin gives a refreshing look!!
2. It protects your teeth
Your first reaction to this would be a raised eyebrow and an inner voice screaming: REALLY???? CHOCOLATE AND HEATHY TEETH??? That’s an OXYMORON!!!
But it’s true!! Chocolate has cocoa and cocoa has anti-bacterial activity. It kills harmful bacteria in your mouth. All my childhood I’ve heard this mantra of not eating chocolates and candies because they inflict my dental health! But chocolate is not the culprit. SUGAR in it does that! So, dark chocolate goes easy on your teeth and inhibit plaque formation and kill cavity forming bacteria.
3. It protects your heart
I’ve written about anti-oxidants being heart protectors many times. They are like your best pals when it comes to your heart! And dark chocolate has A LOT of them! It has a rich amount of Polyphenols and Flavonoids. They dilate your blood vessels and improve blood flow. This decreases your blood pressure as well. Cocoa also decreases the incidence of stroke and cardiometabolic diseases.
Dark chocolate has a lot of anti-inflammatory compounds that prevent vascular inflammation. They keep off platelets from sticking together and forming a clot in the artery. That means a reduced risk of heart attack! Science also says that dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity that lead to improved cardiovascular health.
So, eat lots of dark chocolate and protect your heart!
4. It improves cholesterol levels
Dark chocolate has low fat content because there’s no milk product in it. So, milk is ruled out. Other than that, we could have worried about fats in chocolate liquor but that’s not going to happen! Not when you’re eating dark chocolate! Because fats in cocoa liquor are “good fats”! GOOD FATS!!! IS THERE A THING LIKE THAT??
Yes, HDL is the good fat.
It doesn’t harm your body and dark chocolate has plenty of it. So, dark chocolate reduces the levels of LDL (bad fat) and enhances HDL in your blood. That’s how it maintains cholesterol levels in your body! Ain’t I giving you plethora of excuses for consuming as much chocolate as you want? You can thank me as soon as you start getting all these health benefits!!
5. It has good effects on your brain
Cocoa has phenylalanine (PEA) —a compound produced in your body when you’re in love! EVEN CHOCOLATE LOVES YOU!!! How fuzzy do you feel when you eat it!! Thank the PEA for all these lovey dovey feelings because it makes your brain release endorphins. These are happy neurotransmitters in your body that make you feel elated. So, never been in love? Hold it there; you’ll get it one day.
But till then, ENJOY CHOCOLATE!!!
Dark chocolate has a lot to offer on your brain front. It counters stress by releasing serotonin and dopamine. It sheds away anxiety and makes you feel calm and peaceful. Cocoa also has caffeine in it which is a potent stimulant. It enhances your brain activity and helps in increasing the attention spans. No wonder you crave chocolate in exams!
6. It helps in cutting weight
Dark chocolate has a lot of fiber content. Seems like your guts bacteria have a treat too whenever you eat chocolate. It keeps your bowel movements healthy but there’s more! It helps you in losing weight. It’s like I’m determined to burst every myth you had ever heard about chocolate!
Now, by chocolate one assumes it will make you gain weight. If you remember it was the same reason I quit eating chocolate. BUT CHOCOLATE ISN’T THE CULPRIT!
SUGAR IS! So what you need is dark chocolate with less sugar and a lot of cocoa.
Because cocoa with its fiber content keeps you full. It induces satiety in your body by releasing satiety hormones from your brain. These hormones signal your brain that you’re not hungry and you don’t need to eat! This hunger suppressor mechanism does wonders in reducing your craving hence you lose weight!!
7. It improves diabetes
Chocolate increases insulin sensitivity in cells. Does this ring a bell? Maybe your doctor talked about something like this when he told you about your diabetes? Actually when your cells don’t have enough insulin or are incapable of responding to insulin present in your body, it leads to diabetes. So, for preventing diabetes insulin sensitivity should be normal. Dark chocolate makes that possible! As I’ve told you earlier, dark chocolate increases insulin sensitivity. That’s why it prevents diabetes and even if you have diabetes, you can get help from it!
So, there you have it —All you need to know about the benefits of dark chocolate! It’s nothing less than a superfood. Supplement it in your life NOW and start enjoying these treatments already! The health benefits of dark chocolate are waiting for you! The question is, why are you waiting to receive them? Get to the grocery store now and start reaping the benefits today!
Till Next Time,
Growing Younger Everyday