It all starts with the cocoa tree (don’t you wish you had one of these growing in your back yard!)
The cocoa pod (fruit) hang from the tree and hold the cocoa seeds that are at the heart of all things chocolate (you can see the seeds inside the pod in this picture). I had the opportunity to remove one of the seeds (which I was warned not to bite into) and taste it.
To make chocolate, the seeds are removed, fermented, roasted and ground, and then pressed into cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Then made into any number of yummy chocolate varieties. Among them, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate. Most of us will agree that it tastes good but have you heard about it being good for you too?
When talking health benefits, research has shown that dark chocolate, but not milk chocolate or white chocolate, may help lower blood pressure and provide other cardiovascular health benefits, along with being a good source of antioxidants.
The focus on dark chocolateis due to its higher percentage of cocoa solids, therefore delivering more flavanol antioxidants. While milk chocolate also contains cocoa solids, the addition of sweeteners, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk (or cream), and flavors dilute the percentage therefore leaving it less “healthful” as compared to dark.
Remember that like most things, more is not better. Even dark chocolate has calories. To enjoy the health benefits of dark chocolate or the yummy taste of milk chocolate while still staying calorie controlled- try these healthful tips:
- One ounce of dark chocolate will provide the health properties that you are looking for without tons of added calories, fat and sugar. It may also satisfy your sweet tooth.
- If it is milk chocolate that you crave, try a piece plain. Savor the flavor and enjoy a small piece of the real thing. While you may not get the health benefits from this kind, it’s ok to indulge on a small piece on occasion
- Try drizzling a little mix of dark and milk chocolate with other healthy foods such as strawberries, blueberries, seeds and nuts.