The Goodness Of chocolate!
The humble cocoa power can be used in a multitude of ways and its versatility in the culinary world is surely incontestable – The modest blend of cocoa powder, cocoa butter and some sugar, yields a delightful product that intoxicates the senses and chocolate is no doubt one of the most popular flavours in the world of desserts and confectionanes.
Chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which are the seeds of the cocoa tree native to Central and Southern America. It was first consumed as a bitter beverage by Aztecs 3000 years ago and was later brought to Spain by Columbus. Subsequently, it gained popularity throughout the noble houses of Europe. Since that time, it has become increasingly popular and today it is consumed across the world as a source of pleasure and gratification.
In the recent years chocolate has been considered an unfavourable indulgence due to its fat content and it has been dishonourably credited with illnesses such as obesity, acne, high blood pressure, diabetes and even migraines. However, research studies over the last decade prove that chocolate offers several health benefits!
Why Chocolate Is Good!
The discovery of biologically active phenolic compounds in cocoa has led to significant research. Cocoa is considered a source of important phytonutrients such as flavonoids, flavanols and antioxidants. These phytonutnents are responsible for reducing oxidative damage to tissues, improving blood flow to the brain, lowering blood pressure, delaying ageing and preventing atherosclerosis.
Additionally, chocolate is a good source of magnesium which helps control PMS. The feel good factor after consumption, results from the release of happiness producing brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) such as dopamine and serotonin. Therein lies its addictive charactenstic. Chocolate also contains small amounts of caffeine and theobromine that may help induce alertness. But before you reach for that piece of chocolate cake, it is imperative to understand that not all forms of chocolate contain high levels of phytonutnents. Cocoa naturally has a very strong taste due the presence of flavonols. Processing the cocoa powder generally reduces this taste.
Unfortunately, the more chocolate is processed (through things like roasting. fermentation. alkalizing, baking, etc.) the more phytonutrients are lost. Typically, most commercial chocolates are highly processed, although in recent years, most major chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the phytonutrients intact. Lined up here are some simple quick and easy recipes using different varieties of chocolate. The temptation of chocolate is impossible to resist and it seems as if the old adage of ‘everything in moderation’ holds true for this wonderful creation.