Chocolates are a sweet treat loved by kids and adults alike. Chocolates come in many forms like milk chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate. Chocolates are often associated with weight gain since it contains a lot of calories and are often eaten as dessert. While chocolates are often avoided due to fear of gaining weight or getting diabetes, chocolates can actually be good for the health as long as the right type of chocolate is eaten.
Cacao and the Process of Chocolate Making
Chocolate production begins with cacao trees. Cacao trees bear fruits that are melon-like and each pod contains about 20 to 40 seeds which are also called cocoa beans. Cocoa beans are responsible for giving chocolate its distinct flavor. The cocoa beans are removed from the pods and placed in a large pile for fermentation. The fermentation process takes about a week and allows the cocoa bean to harden, get darker, and develop a rich flavor. The beans are then cleaned and stored in the factory where they will be roasted at high temperatures which makes it easier to remove the shells. The inside of the bean is also known as the nib and this is the part of the cocoa bean used for making chocolate. The nibs will then undergo a grinding process to turn it into liquid form called chocolate liquor. Cocoa butter can be extracted from the chocolate liquor and form cocoa presscake which is usually made into cocoa powder. Other ingredients are added to chocolate liquor depending on the type of chocolate to be produced.
Why Dark Chocolate is Best for the Health
Dark chocolate is made by combining chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla. In the United States and Europe, chocolate must have at least 35% cocoa solids to be considered as dark chocolate. Cocoa beans naturally contain antioxidants, specifically flavonoids which are antioxidants present in plants. Cocoa normally undergoes several processes in order to become a specific type of chocolate and flavonoids are lost in chocolate in each process. Dark chocolate contains the highest levels of antioxidants compared to other types of chocolates since it contains a high amount of cocoa solids. Dark chocolate is also better for the health since it contains less sugar and fat usually found in milk and white chocolate.
Antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are compounds in the body and the environment that cause cell damage and cell death. Free radical damage is associated with premature aging as well as with chronic health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and cancer. Antioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals in the body so that damage is prevented or reduced by the very least.
Benefits of Dark Chocolates
Dark chocolate helps reduce food cravings and prevents overeating. Dark chocolate is more filling compared to other types of chocolates and also lessens cravings for snack foods. Dark chocolate also reduces excretion of cortisol, a hormone produced by the body in response to stress. Cortisol increases insulin production which in turn causes increased appetite.
Lower Blood Pressure
Numerous studies have already been conducted showing the value of dark chocolate in lowering blood pressure. Flavonoids present in cocoa solids which are found in large amounts in dark chocolate help dilate blood vessels in the body, causing blood pressure to decrease.
The antioxidants present in dark chocolate help prevent free radical damage. Free radical damage increases the risk of heart disease due to damage to the cells in the body. Flavonoids present in dark chocolate also help reduce LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol in the body by as much as 10% which also reduces the risk for heart disease.
Dark chocolate promotes insulin sensitivity which is especially valuable for individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas and is needed for glucose to be able to enter cell in the body. Repeated exposure of cells to insulin due to excess intake of sugary foods can cause insulin resistance which is the major problem in type 2 diabetes patients. Increased insulin sensitivity from eating dark chocolate also prevents weight gain by ensuring proper utilization of nutrients in the cells.
Dark chocolate has a lot of health benefits but it is important to remember that anything in excess can be bad for the health. Eating dark chocolate in moderate amounts can help you get the most out of this type of chocolate.