Do you love chocolates?

Honestly I am not a big chocolate fan but I decided to write this anyway because I know many of you just love…love…love chocolate. Actually everyone in my family is chocolate lover; my son would only eat dark chocolate and my daughter and my husband like everything chocolate. I remember an incident when I was little where my brother gave me chocolates as a birthday gift, and since I didn’t like chocolate, I said he could have them. I guess that was his plan all along 😊. But honestly there are so many health benefits, I might just start eating some chocolate myself.

Where does chocolate come from?

So let’s talk about where chocolate comes from. Chocolate comes from cocoa (pronounced koko) and cocoa comes from cacao (pronounced kuh-kao) tree. It is the fruit derived from the pod. Once cacao beans are removed from the pods, they are fermented and dried. After that they are roasted and cracked to separate the beans from the shell. These beans are also called as cacao nibs which are filled with fat. Cacao butter is extracted from the nibs by grinding them. It is a thick dark brown paste also known as “chocolate liquor” that contains both cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Cocoa solids or powder can be separated from this paste which is then used to make white or dark chocolate. So what is the difference between cacao and cocoa?  Cacao usually refers to cacao beans that have not been roasted and cocoa is the term used for beans that have been roasted.

Health Benefits of Cocoa

Cocoa is loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants such as flavonoids that has many health benefits. Studies have shown that these flavonoids may help to improve insulin sensitivity, improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. It may also helps to reduce inflammation, improves cognitive function and may also help with weight loss. But wait…we are talking about Cocoa here and not chocolate bars or a candy bars that you buy at gas station. These are most definitely loaded with sugar, milk, cocoa butter and other unhealthy ingredients. Put simply, when the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate is higher and the amount of sugar is less, you have found a healthy chocolate.

So when it comes to the health benefits of chocolate, quality and cocoa percentage matters!

How can we enjoy health benefits of Chocolate?

The best way to get benefits of chocolate is by using 100% plain dark cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is the richest source of flavanols which provide the most health benefits without the extra sugar or other undesirable ingredients. One ounce of milk chocolate contains only 12mg of flavonoids and one ounce of baking chocolate may contain up to 500mg or more (made from 100% cocoa solids). As the bitterness of the chocolate increases, so do the health benefits. 1 ounce of cocoa powder also contains 5.5 grams of protein and abou 9 grams of fiber with only 1.5 grams of natural sugar. Total carbohydrates in 1 ounce of unsweetened cocoa is 16 grams of carbohydrates and 1tbsp is only 3 grams of carbohydrates. Chocolates with higher content of cocoa solids (70% or more) provides better health benefits. And of course…moderation is key! One ounce of dark chocolate a day can keep your cravings away 😊 but the best would be to use cocoa powder which is low in calories and high in all antioxidants, phytonutrients and minerals like magnesium, manganese, copper & zinc. Cocoa does have some caffeine in it, so if you are sensitive to caffeine, limit.