Chocolate is getting a lot of publicity and praise from the health department. This is why I decided to take a closer look at the facts. They say that it is high in antioxidants that may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack. All of that sounds about right but the amount of chocolate and the kind of chocolate is the determining factor. To understand how much is too much we have to know what chocolate is made of.
The cocoa bean comes from a tree native to the Amazon rainforest in the America’s. It’s a tree that loves the shade and high moisture. The tree can grow up to 40 feet and yields its fruit that is about 1 foot long. The fruit pods come in yellow, purple, brown and orange and are filled with cocoa beans which come in a sweet-sour pulp. The flavor of the beans depends on the soil, temperature, sunshine and rainfall. Cacao fruit has to be opened and the beans need to be fermented for there to be any kind of chocolate flavor. The fermentation takes anywhere from 2-7 days. The longer the fermentation determines the aroma and flavor. After fermentation the beans are then sun dried for 1-2 weeks and are then roasted for optimum chocolate flavor. The shells are then removed and ready for making paste, butter, cocoa and chocolate.
Cocoa and dark chocolate are rich in antioxidants but that does not mean its all good for you. Chocolate and cocoa are high in carbohydrates, fat, and sugar. Once you mix the cocoa with milk and sugar it becomes even more fattening and has little to no health benefits. The amount of chocolate is another important factor. Eating 1 small square (20g) of dark chocolate every 3 days may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and blood clots. Eat more than 20g of cocoa and you’ve increased your risk of heart disease and increased your body’s level of cholesterol and fat. You’ve also just threw antioxidants right out the window.
Chocolate is not a source of antioxidants. Nor is it a great way to keep your cholesterol down. It is something that you can treat yourself to once in a blue moon and if consume it correctly you might even receive benefits from it. If you want to receive antioxidants, vitamins and minerals then get it from a reliable source which has no side effects no matter how much you eat it. Fruits and vegetables will never do you wrong.