As Christmas is approaching, we would like to introduce you to the world of chocolate. Also, we would like you to be aware of the benefits of consuming natural organic dark chocolate which contains at least 70% cocoa.
Chocolate begins at the Theobroma Cacao Tree. Pods from this tree are harvested for the making of chocolate only once fully ripened. The natural sugars in cocoa beans fuel the fermentation process, which causes much of the classic cocoa flavour. Once harvested, the seeds are separated from the pods and pulp and the fermentation process can start.
Fermenting: Raw cocoa beans have a bitter and undesirable flavour. Fermentation transforms this bitterness to the classic cocoa flavour we are familiar with. Fermentation is achieved with natural yeast and bacteria that are present on the cocoa beans. The beans are simply left out in the heat and moisture to ferment for approximately seven days. After fermentation, the beans are quickly dried to prevent mould growth.
Roasting : After fermentation and drying, the beans are thoroughly cleaned and removed of any debris. Cocoa beans are typically roasted using the dry roast method, which needs constant stirring to ensure even heating. Dry roasting allows the flavour to stay pure. This is the final step in creating the classic cocoa flavour.
Processing: After roasting, the hull is removed from the bean and the inner nib is extracted. The nibs are then ground into a fine powder, which contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The cocoa butter usually liquefies from the frictional heat while grinding the nibs. This liquefied form of pulverized cocoa nibs is referred to as cocoa liquor. Cocoa liquor is then poured into moulds, allowed to cool, then sold and transported in these blocks. These blocks are known as unsweetened or bakers chocolate.
Blending : Cocoa liquor, baking chocolate, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter can be blended with various ingredients to create an endless number of cocoa products.
To produce the chocolate candies, cocoa liquor is combined with extra cocoa butter (for smoothness), sugar, milk, and sometimes vanilla, emulsifiers, or stabilizers. The ratio of sugar and milk to cocoa creates varying degrees of milk or dark chocolate. The specific ratio in which ingredients are blended creates signature recipes, which specialty brands often guard closely.
For years, we didn’t know why bittersweet dark chocolate seems to improve cardiovascular health.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas said they had solved the question. Specific chocolate-loving microbes in the gut convert an otherwise indigestible part of the sweet into anti-inflammatory compounds, they said.
Dr John Finley and his team tested cocoa powder and solid dark chocolate, using a series of modified test tubes to simulate humans’ gurgling guts, researchers exposed several forms of cocoa powder to digestive juices and enzymes, and they found something.
What they found was that after cocoa was “digested,” long molecules called polyphenolic polymers remained within the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract.
The molecules were too large to cross the walls of the gut and be used as nutrients, according to a researcher, They do nothing for us but they travel down the GI tract after we consume them. So, until they encounter some of the many microbes that inhabit the human colon, particularly Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, researchers said.
The smaller molecules that result from this fermentation can go through the gut wall and be used by the body. These materials are anti-inflammatory and they prevent or delay the onset of some forms of cardiovascular disease that are associated with inflammation.
Some of the studies have suggested that dark chocolate can cause blood vessels to dilate, and thus lower blood pressure, although this is not possible with white chocolate as it made of cocoa butter without cocoa solids.
It has been unclear exactly why this happens, but researchers had focused on the effects of anti-oxidant flavanols, such as catechin and epicatechin.
Finley said these were among the compounds that were poorly digested, yet acted upon by gut microbes. The other substance that was fermented was dietary fibre, which makes up about 30% of cocoa powder.
He said that the amount of cocoa powder that appeared to produce beneficial effects was about two tablespoons a day.
One of the issues involving dark chocolate, Finley said, was the amount of sugar and fat that chocolate candy contained. You could avoid those substances by putting cocoa powder on oatmeal, for example.
The potential benefits of eating chocolate:
– anti-ageing effect
– lowering cholesterol level
– preventing cognitive decline by helping preserve blood flow
– preventing diabetes by regulating blood sugar
– preventing obesity by increasing metabolism
– contains copper, iron, manganese, dietary fiber, protein and calcium
In conclusion, when you start to eat dark chocolate it may not have the sweet taste to begin with, but in no time at all you won’t be able to go back to milk chocolate. It will taste horrendously sweet. Don’t forget, 2-3 squares of organic dark chocolate per day, keeps you healthy, and stops craving for sugar and unhealthy snacks.
If you would like to get some healthy desserts ideas with chocolate, here is an example for a good recipe: http://www.newyoubootcamp.com/recipes/-beetroot-blueberry-and-chocolate-brownie.php