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  • Writer's pictureMollie Maxwell

The magic of chocolate

The raw ingredient of chocolate is the cacao bean grown in tropical climates, and the fruit is then processed through a length method of fermentation, drying and roasting ( see below for more details )

Chocolate has been around in one from or another for five thousand years and traces of it in ancient pottery vessels have been discovered in the South American rainforest ,in what is now Ecuador.

Mayan chocolate was a revered brew made of roasted and ground cacao seeds, mixed with chillies, water and cornmeal.

Mayans poured this mixture from one pot to another, creating a thick foamy beverage called “xocolatl”, meaning “bitter water.”

However, not all chocolate is created equally and a lot of chocolate that is bought in bars, truffles, individual servings is loaded with sugar and may have a very low cacao content which means that you are not getting the benefits of the cacao but you are getting the detrimental effect of the sugar, colouring, preservatives etc.

Dark chocolate that contains at least 70 % cacao, on the other hand contains powerful antioxidants, among the most beneficial is epicatechin, which is a compound found in plants that fight inflammation and protect against cell damage caused by free radicals.

Dark chocolate can benefit you in the following ways :

  1. Increased heart health. The antioxidants can lower lbodd pressure andreduce th risk of clotting and also increase heart blood circulation, lowering the risk of stroke, heart disease

  2. Flavonols prevent the immune system from going into overdrive and reduce oxidative stress caused by cells fighting against free radicals, a common cause of many disease.

  3. Epicatechin protects cells and supports the process that makes insulin which may help to combat diabetes.

  4. Flavonols have a positive effect of brain function, better reactions, visual-spatial awareness and stronger memory, possibly due to increased blood flow to the brain.

  5. Increased production of nitric oxide in the blood which assist with circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen used while exercising, allowing greater exercise intensity.

  6. Stress reduction due to the lower level of the stress hormone cortisol produced by eating dark chocolate.

The higher the cocoa content the more beneficial flavonols the chocolate contains. Ideally at least 70 %

The power of chocolate.

  • The higher the cocoa content, the more beneficial flavonols the chocolate contains. Most of the benefits seen in research are associated with chocolate that has at least a 70% cacao content.

  • Researchers have not come up with a hard and fast recommendation of how much dark chocolate should be consumed to achieve these health benefits. Experts recommend minimally processed dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao content, and maybe have an ounce as an occasional treat.

  • You should always check the label to be aware of the calorie, fat and sugar content, which could potentially affect the overall health benefit.

  • For some people, chocolate can trigger acid reflux or migraines.

Dark chocolate has many health benefits and can definitely be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Check the labels to ensure that the cacao content is a minimum of 70% and remember that a little bit now and then is OK.

Apart from the health benefits of chocolate, it is also a sumptuous, slightly decadent pick-me-up, with its silky mouth-feel and rich texture, there is something unmistakably special about it. Chocolate is not craved-for and revered without reason, the endorphins released when indulging in a beautifully hand crafted bite of dark chocolate is truly magic and a treat to be savoured.

The following abstract comes from the National Library of medicine.

The chemistry behind chocolate production

"Chocolate production is a complex process during which numerous chemical reactions occur. The most important processes, involving most of the reactions important for development of the proper chocolate flavor, are fermentation, drying and roasting of cocoa bean, and chocolate conching. During fermentation, formation of important precursors occurs, which are essential for further chemical reactions in the following processes of chocolate production. Roasting is one of the most important processes due to the occurrence of Maillard’s reactions, during which aroma compounds are formed. In this paper, we have reviewed the most important chemical reactions that occur with proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and polyphenols. Additionally, we present other components that may be naturally present or form during the production process, such as methylxanthines, aldehydes, esters, ketones, pyrazines, acids, and alcohols.

Chocolate is a product widely consumed by all generations. It is rich in fat, proteins, carbohydrates, polyphenols and other bioactive compounds. Cocoa beans are main ingredient for production of chocolate. The chocolate production process consists of fermentation, drying, roasting, grinding of cocoa beans, mixing of all ingredients (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifiers, aroma, and milk components if needed), conching, and tempering. Major chemical reactions occur during fermentation, drying, roasting of cocoa beans, and conching of chocolate mass. These reactions are the most important for flavour and aroma development

Fermentation of cocoa beans is a process in which growth of yeasts and bacteria occur in the pulp and it is conducted at cocoa plantations as a part of the cocoa beans’ production. In this stage, breakdown of sugars and mucilage occurs. It consists of three phases:

Fermentation is the key stage for the production of precursors for development of proper chocolate aroma.

Drying of cocoa beans is conducted after fermentation to lower the moisture content and complete oxidative processes induced during fermentation of cocoa beans. After drying, cocoa beans have 6–8% moisture. Low moisture content prevents mold growth and makes the beans more stable for transport and storage.

Roasting of cocoa bean is usually conducted in a chocolate factory as a first stage of chocolate production. It is a high temperature process, usually conducted at temperatures between 120 and 140 °C, which is important for the occurrence of Maillard reactions. Roasting reduces contents of undesirable components, produces chocolate-specific aroma and flavor, and decontaminates the cocoa beans. In this phase, all precursors formed in the previous phases react and form numerous compounds .

Grinding and mixing of all chocolate ingredients are very important for achievement of the right particle size of all ingredients. The main ingredients used in chocolate production are cocoa liquor (obtained by grinding cocoa beans), cocoa butter (obtained by pressing cocoa liquor), sugar, and milk (in the case of milk chocolate)

Conching is a mixing and heating treatment that is conducted to produce liquid chocolate (all solid particles are coated with fat), evaporate volatile acids, achieve a proper viscosity, remove excess moisture, and develop a desirable colour.

Tempering is a process by which to obtain a stable product. Tempering is conducted thermally and results in stable and consistently sized crystals of cocoa butter which then affect growth of a stable crystalline network during cooling."

National Library of Medicine. :Barišić V, Kopjar M, Jozinović A, Flanjak I, Ačkar Đ, Miličević B, Šubarić D, Jokić S, Babić J. The Chemistry behind Chocolate Production. Molecules. 2019 Aug 30;24(17):3163. doi: 10.3390/molecules24173163. PMID: 31480281; PMCID: PMC6749277.

"Cacao seeds are a super fruit" read the article here.,a%20sweet%20pulp%20%5B2%5D.

Crozier SJ, Preston AG, Hurst JW, Payne MJ, Mann J, Hainly L, Miller DL. Cacao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chem Cent J. 2011 Feb 7;5:5. doi: 10.1186/1752-153X-5-5. PMID: 21299842; PMCID: PMC3038885.


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