When it comes to chocolate, I think it would be a little difficult to find someone who doesn’t like this scrumptious treat. Chocolate has been enjoyed in a variety of public ceremonies and events, and even in private occasions for centuries.
Chocolate consists of a number of raw and processed foods that are produced from the seed of the tropical cacao tree. The cacao tree is a Native to lowland, tropical South America, and it has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Central America and Mexico, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BC.
The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor. (Fermentation in food processing typically involves chemical conversion of carbohydrates into alcohols or acids.)
After fermentation, the beans are then dried, cleaned, and roasted, and the shell is taken off to produce what are known as cacao nibs. The nibs are then grounded and liquefied, resulting in pure chocolate in a fluid form. This form is called chocolate liquor. The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Chocolate contains alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine which have physiological effects on the body. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, derived from tryptophan that is involved in sleep, depression, memory, and other neurological processes. Scientists claim that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure.
As it relates to health issues, the consumption of chocolate has been connected to obesity, acne, and mild lead poisoning, and acid reflux. On the positive side, chocolate has also been tied to what are known as circulatory benefits, aphrodisia, and other health benefits.
The major concern that nutritionists have is that even though eating dark chocolate may favorably affect certain of, the amount needed to have this effect would provide a relatively large quantity of which, if unused, would promote weight gain. Obesity is a significant risk factor for many diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
There is a popular belief that the consumption of chocolate can cause acne. Various studies seem to show that this is the case for high gycemic index foods in general, though the question is still being studied. Milk is known to cause acne, including any which is mixed with chocolate.
Chocolate has one of the higher concentrations of lead among products that constitute a typical Westerner’s diet, with a potential to cause mild lead poisoning. Recent studies have shown that although the beans themselves absorb little lead, it tends to bind to cocoa shells and contamination may occur during the manufacturing process.
Theobromine in chocolate is also a contributing factor in acid reflux due to its relaxing effects on the esophageal sphincter muscle.
Now on to the benefits: Some studies have also observed a modest reduction in blood pressure and flow-mediated dilation after consuming approximately 100g of dark chocolate daily. There has even been a fad diet, named “Chocolate diet,” which emphasizes eating chocolate and cocoa powder in capsules. However, consuming milk chocolate or white chocolate, or drinking fat-containing milk with dark chocolate, appears largely to negate the health benefit.
Romantic lore commonly identifies chocolate as an aphrodisiac. The reputed aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate are most often associated with the simple sensual pleasure of its consumption.
More recently, it has been suggested that theobromine and other chemicals found in chocolate, most notably phenethylamine, can act as mild sexual stimulants. While there is no firm proof that chocolate is indeed an aphrodisiac, a gift of chocolate is a familiar courtship ritual.
Evidence from laboratory studies suggests that cocoa flavonoids may possess anticarcinogenic mechanisms, but it seems that more research is needed to prove this idea.
So we see that eating chocolate has its pros and cons. Depending on where you stand, you can decied whether the pros outweigh the cons or not. It is up to you. <i>Bon appetit!</i>