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Truths and tales on chocolate
Chocolate is a source of energy – True!
Dark chocolate is well respected for being rich not onlyin magnesium (112mg/100gr) but also in phosphorus (173mg/100gr), whilst milk chocolate is a welcome contributor of calcium (200mg/100gr). Add to that regular traces of iron, sodium, fluoride and copper as well as vitamins( B, B2 and PP) and one can see why chocolate has enjoyed such an enduring reputation over the centuries.
Chocolate is also provides a non-negligible quota of our daily rations of lipids, glucides, protides and fibre, although for white chocolate the contributions are reduced since it contains no actual cocoa.
In summary chocolate is an unrivalled re-energizer after intense physical effort (total caloric value 500kcal/100gr) and a handy stimulant after hours of brain sapping intellectual activity.
Chocolate is responsible for Crisis de Foie (liver problems) – False!
Whilst it’s plausible that chocolate could cause some digestive problems when consumed to excess, there’s no scientific evidence regarding the liver functions of chocolate enthusiasts who consume pralines filled with whisky on a daily basis.
Chocolate causes cavities – False!
Contrary to popular myth chocolate provides no real risk just as long as a rigid dental hygiene regime is rigorously pursued. One mustn’t forget that chocolate actually contains substances such as fluoride, tannins and phosphates that fight cavities.
Chocolate is responsible for skin allergies – True & False!
We can’t do enough to crush the urban myth that in some way cocoa is responsible for attacks of acne OR other allergic reactions. A recent study of people susceptible to food allergies showed that chocolate was implicated in only 0.8% of the cases.
We suspect that the real villains with regards allergic reactions are those elements sometimes contained in the chocolate (soy, milk proteins, other vegetable fats,…) rather than the cocoa itself. The secret here is clear, non-confusing labelling, although we remain mindful that we cannot dismiss the fact that there may be new consumers whose digestive system cannot assimilate the odd oil consumed within the chocolate.
Chocolate protects the cardiovascular system – True!
A recent study (July 2000) published by a leading American university shows that a moderate and regular consumption of chocolate could have beneficial effects on long-term health in much the same way as green tea or wine.
Other analysis has shown that 40 gr. of dark chocolate deliver the same beneficial effects as a glass of red wine. Its diverse elements protect the heart from blood clots, inhibit plaque formation and reduce the risk of coronary thrombosis in subjects that do not smoke and are in fundamentally good health. In addition, chocolate contains flavanoids, substances with antioxidant properties also found in aspirin, as well as traces of sterotonin, which controls the regulation of arterial hypertension.
Can chocolate help to improve your memory – True!
Research by American psychologists in the 1990’s revealed that people who learned a list of words while being exposed to the scent of chocolate scored markedly better when asked to recall the list in the presence of the scent. The explanation seems to lie in the effect of chocolate scent on brain activity. Recent studies at Middlesex University have shown that chocolate scent has a dramatic effect on so-called theta waves, a form of brain activity known to be linked to memory-intensive tasks.
Chocolate is a drug – False!
Consumption of chocolate doesn’t provoke any of the symptoms that drug taking does: withdrawals or increased cravings and consumption. And though it is true that cocoa contains substances (anandamides) that are contained in cannabis, a man of 60 kg (130lbs) would have to consume 11 kg (24.25lbs) per day to get the same effects. Given the weight gain that this would cause, one would imagine it easier to make a weekly round trip to Amsterdam!
Chocolate increases cholesterol - TRUE AND FALSE
Dark chocolate has an insignificant amount of cholesterol, in the order of 1.3mg/100gr.
On the other hand, the fatty acids present in cocoa butter do contain the capacity to lower one’s LDL cholesterol level (the one that is bad for our body) without diminishing the level of HDL cholesterol, which conversely has a beneficial effect.
As for milk chocolate and pralines, the milk or cream that they contain can lead to a rise in bad cholesterol.
Chocolate causes constipation – FALSE!
100 gr of cocoa contains as much fibre as 100 gr of whole grain bread (9 gr). It therefore makes sense that the consumption of chocolate can contribute to the good working of the intestinal tract.
Please note, the more cocoa chocolate contains, the less sugar, an ingredient that can interrupt intestinal functions.
Chocolate causes euphoria – True!
Cocoa contains theobromine (an alkaloid stimulant) as well as caffeine. The result of this is that cocoa has a tonic effect on the central nervous system, which means it can only reduce stress or anxiety but also act as a notable anti-depressant, thanks to the phenylethylamine contained within.
For premenstrual women, chocolate can also have a positive effect by helping to replenish any sugar deficiencies.
Our timeless love affair with chocolate isn’t that surprising when one considers the many positive body balance ingredients contained within it.
From a purely energy giving perspective it’s well known that chocolate is rich in sugars that assimilate easily into the body, helping us to overcome short-term pangs of hunger.
Chocolate is an aphrodisiac –True & False!:
Alas no serious study has ever demonstrated that chocolate might have any ‘credible’ aphrodisiac qualities
Cocoa content myth
It always frustrates us when people assume that the percentage of cocoa solids is the key determinant when establishing a bar’s quality credentials. In truth, it simply provides a loose sense of how bitter or sweet a bar is, but even here conclusions are at best foggy as factors such as the types of beans, the manner in which they are stored, roasted, refined and conched will all play their role in the final outcome.
As with wine and cheese, top chocolate is all about the individual and the ‘right eating occasion.’ Some flavours combine gloriously with a creamy, well-rounded milk chocolate whilst some flavours benefit from a bitter dark chocolate canvas.
The simple truth is that fine chocolate appreciation comes in many shades.