Chocolate is a popular food product made from cacao beans. It also contains milk, sugar, butter, and other ingredients. Some products also contain artificial sweeteners and added flavors.
Darker varieties contain higher amounts of cocoa powder and lower amounts of milk, while lighter varieties contain lesser amounts of cocoa. It is loved by many, across ages. Cocoa powder can also be used to prepare desserts, beverages, and baked goods.
In this article, we shall discuss the health benefits of cocoa and how to choose the right one for you.
What Is Cacao?
Cacao beans are a type of fruit rich in naturally occurring minerals and antioxidants. These compounds protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. These beans grow on a small tropical American evergreen tree, from which cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate are made.
Chocolate Nutritional Facts
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 100-gram bar containing 70 - 85% cocoa provides:
- 604 calories
- 7.87 grams of protein
- 43.06 grams of fat
- 46.36 grams of carbohydrates
- 11.00 grams of dietary fiber
- 24.23 grams of sugar
- 12.02 mg of iron
- 230.00 mg of magnesium
- 3.34 mg of zinc
Cocoa beans are also a good source of the following beneficial compounds:
Check out the reasons why chocolate is good for your health
How Is Chocolate Made?
The production process consists of fermentation, drying, roasting, and grinding cocoa beans. Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifiers, flavors, and milk are mixed to make the final product during industrial production. Homemade products can be made without the use of food additives.
Is Chocolate Good for You?
The following are the evidence-based health benefits of cocoa:
1) May help reduce blood pressure
The flavonoids present in cacao beans stimulate the production of nitric oxide, which helps in the reduction of blood pressure.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Medicine indicated that flavan-3-ols can improve blood circulation.
2) May prevent heart disease
A study published in Frontiers of Nutrition has shown that consuming flavanol-rich foods can prevent heart disease. Studies are also being conducted to understand the clinical potency of these compounds.
3) Might boost brain health
Cocoa is among the foods that boost the brain and memory. Flavonoids can be beneficial in improving memory and cognition. These compounds can protect the brain from oxidative damage from free radicals.
These compounds can also reduce the risk of dementia and similar neurodegenerative disorders. Compounds like caffeine and theobromine work as a stimulant.
Dark Chocolate for Health
Products with a higher percentage of cocoa can be extremely beneficial to your health. They contain higher amounts of minerals and antioxidants than other products.
Most of these products contain lower amounts of sugar and hence are better than the ones that are sweetened with a lot of sugar. You can also prepare them at home. Here's one easy recipe using cocoa powder:
- 1/2 cup of coconut oil
- 4 tablespoons of organic honey
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- A pinch of salt
- 1 cup of organic cocoa powder
- Artificial sweetener (stevia/allulose)
- Heat the coconut oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat.
- Add the honey, vanilla essence, and a pinch of salt and mix them.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and add the cocoa powder. Mix well to remove any lumps.
- Add the sweetener of your choice and mix well.
- Pour this mixture into silicone molds, and keep it for at least 30 minutes in the freezer or in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
- Enjoy once they are hardened.
Learn whether dark chocolate is really good for you.
Is Chocolate Bad for You?
Cocoa is not harmful to your health, but the sugars and additives present in most packaged products can be detrimental. Sugar can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Try to buy varieties without added sugar for better health.
Is Chocolate Addictive?
Certain stimulant compounds present in cocoa can be addictive in nature. However, they are present in very small quantities and might not have a significant effect on the brain when consumed in moderate quantities. Remember to follow the serving instructions on the pack.