By: Hayley Hasberger
Online Section Writer
Chocolate…there are hundreds of combinations and ways to eat it. There are the basic varieties of dark, milk or white chocolate. The basics can be enhanced with nuts, toffee, extracts or spices. You can even consume it as a beverage or melted to create a fondue. Chocolate is also commonly found in baked goods such cookies, brownies and cake. There are just too many forms and possibilities of chocolate combinations to list them all. Yet, no matter what way you prefer your chocolate, it will always leave you feeling satisfied. If you needed another reason to love chocolate, cocoa has multiple ingredients that can be healthy for the body; as long you’re eating chocolate in moderation and not that entire 1 pound chocolate bar in one day.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and many people will be buying and gifting chocolates to their friends, loved ones or even themselves. Even though you may love to eat chocolate for its decadence, do you know its nutritious background?
The cocoa bean, and therefore cocoa, is a main component in the production of chocolate. Cocoa contains a large quantity of compounds called flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Flavonoids assist in reducing blood’s ability to clot by lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation, in turn helping reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks. The cocoa bean contains high quantities of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers. Cocoa also contains many essential minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese, which positively contribute to our daily health.
Not only does cocoa contribute to physical health, but also mental health. Cocoa contains an antidepressant and stimulant called phenylethylamine that acts similarly to dopamine and adrenaline. If you really like chocolate, even tasting it can release dopamine in the brain that can boost your mood.
Because the cocoa bean itself contains all these nutrient compounds, the chocolate that is most beneficial for you to eat is dark chocolate. This is because dark chocolate contains the largest quantity of cocoa, and the more cocoa the better. On average dark chocolate contains about 70 percent cocoa, though there are some varieties out there that contain over 80 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, milk chocolate normally contains 50 percent cocoa, yet some milk chocolate candies can contain as little as 7 percent cocoa. Sadly, white chocolate only contains cocoa butter, which provides none of the nutrients held in the cocoa bean.
A drawback worth mentioning about the cocoa bean is that it is 50 percent fat, mainly composed of saturated fats. Therefore, chocolate itself is fattening because it also contains milk and large amounts of sugar. Milk adds to the fat content, which can affect cholesterol level, and large quantities of sugar are known to have negative effects on health such as weight gain. Also, you must take into account anything you are pairing with your chocolate such as nuts, toffee or fillings, all of which can dramatically increase the fat and sugar content. So, always be mindful of how much chocolate you are consuming and the quantity of cocoa in the product, since that is the healthy component.
Even though there are some negatives to chocolate, it has its positives too. So, continue to savor your chocolate fix, no matter how you choose to enjoy it. Valentine’s Day is a just another good excuse to treat yourself to a delicious cocoa product.