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A look at the history of chocolate and how it is contracted into the treats we eat. Looks at the potential health benefits of chocolate in its raw form and the potential dangers of excessive consumption. Also gives chocolate consumption rules for health.

“They say that 99 out of 100 people like chocolate and the other one lies”

We all relish in the delights of chocolate from time to time, and for some chocolate is a daily indulgence. Almost everybody loves chocolate, but for some the relationship is as bittersweet as the cocoa been itself. We all know that too much chocolate is not a good thing, but if we choose the right types of chocolates and practice moderation, we can successfully incorporate this delicacy into a healthy lifestyle.

Chocolate was first discovered by the ancient Aztec Indians, who believed the cocoa bean was brought by the Gods from Paradise.

It was brought to Spain in the 1500’s, where it was enjoyed as a sweet drink. Milk chocolate was invented in Switzerland in 1876 and the rest, as they history.

Why Do We Love It So Much?

Chocolate contains many chemicals that are addictive. Chocolate does contain some caffeine but it’s not much (about 30mg per bar, which is not even half a cup of coffee). Its main psychoactive component is a caffeine-like substance called theobromine (Theobroma means food of the gods). Besides theobromine chocolate contains other psychoactive compounds such as phenylethylamine and cannabinoid-like fatty acids that could all contribute to its addictive potential. This, plus its high fat and sugar content and rich, creamy texture make it the perfect comfort food.

Ever wondered why chocolate has been branded as a substitute for sex? There is a physiological explanation. Theobromine and phenethylamine are powerful stimulators of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is thought that the dopamine surge from eating chocolate turns on hormones that make a woman more interested in sex.

Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of mood enhancing chemicals. In general, levels are higher in dark chocolates than in milk.

Types of Chocolate

Chocolate comes in many forms, and the less adulterated or processed the chocolate is, the better it is for you. Chocolate is essentially a range of different products made by mixing cocoa bean with cocoa butter (a fat) and sugar. Cacao and cacoa are actually two terms for the raw form of chocolate. Cacao is made by cold-pressing raw beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cocoa and removes the fat (cacao butter). Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. Cocao therefore has more enzyme potential and greater nutritional value.

Dark chocolate contains cocoa, sugar and cocoa butter but no added milk solids. The cocoa content of commercial dark chocolate bars can range from 30% (sweet dark) to 70- 80% for extremely dark bars.

Milk chocolate is similar to dark chocolate but contains either condensed milk or dry milk solids.

Milk chocolate must contain at least 3.39% butterfat, and 12% milk solids. It also contains more sugar than dark chocolate.

White chocolate has no cocoa in it but must contain a minimum 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids, and a maximum of 55% sugar.

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