Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oh, For The Love of Chocolate!

Warning: A very long and chocolatey post!

I LOVE chocolate! I think it's one of the greatest gastronomic creations ever. So, I've decided to share some information I've researched from various sources and dispel certain myths about chocolate!

- Chocolate comes from the Aztec word "cacahuatl" or "xocolatl", which means bitter water.

- The Mayans and Aztecs were the first to discover chocolate and believed that the cocoa beans originated from Paradise and would bring wisdom and power to anyone consuming them.

- Chocolate is derived from cocoa beans. It was called cacao originally, but became cocoa as a result of misspelling.

- Cocoa trees require warm, moist climates and are largely found in West Africa - Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria. The scientific term for the Cocoa Tree is 'Theobroma Cacao'. This is the Greek term for 'Food for the Gods' (I couldn't agree more!).

- A cocoa pod contains about 40-45 cocoa beans. It takes about 135-270 cocoa beans to make a pound of chocolate.

- Chocolate is an excellent source of energy. A single chocolate chip can provide enough energy for an adult human to walk a distance of 150 feet. Napoleon supposedly carried along Chocolate on his military campaigns, and always ate it to restore energy. Nowadays Sports-persons are often given Chocolate energy bars after sporting activities to restore carbohydrates.

- Chocolate has over 500 individual flavor components, more than half of strawberries and vanilla. No wonder it tastes so good!

- A normal chocolate bar usually contains ratios of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla, and milk is added for dairy chocolate. The different ratios will determine what type of chocolate is made. For example, dark chocolate contains more cocoa powder, cocoa butter, vanilla and less sugar.

- Cocoa beans contain approximately 50% fat. It is primarily comprised of two saturated fatty acids (palmitic and stearic acids) and one mono-unsaturated acid(oleic acid). Cocoa butter and chocolate do not raise blood cholesterol. However, when consuming milk chocolate or lower grade chocolate where a part of the total fat content comes from milk fat or various other types of fat, the cholesterol level might be adversely affected.

- The cacao bean contains quite a lot of carbohydrates, but most of it is starch, soluble dietary fibers, and insoluble dietary fibers. A very small proportion is simple sugars. Sugar is added during the manufacture of chocolate.

- Cocoa beans contain polyphenols (similar to those found in wine) with antioxidant properties which are health beneficial. These compounds are called flavonoids and include catechins, epicatechins, and procyandins. The antioxidant flavinoids are found in the nonfat portions of the cocoa bean. The flavinoids also reduce the blood's ability to clot and thus reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks.

- Chocolate contains theobromine is a very mild stimulant with a mild diuretic action (increases the production of urine) and helps boost blood sugar levels. Theobromine can be toxic to animals like dogs, cats, parrots and horses.

- Chocolate also contains chromium, which helps to control blood sugar.

- Cocoa beans contains a very low amount of caffeine, much less than found in coffee, tea and cola drinks. There are about 5 to 10 milligrams of caffeine in one ounce of bittersweet chocolate, 5 milligrams in milk chocolate, and 10 milligrams in a six-ounce cup of cocoa. Compare this to 100-150 milligrams found in a cup of coffee.

- Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is a slight antidepressant and stimulant similar to the body's own dopamine and adrenaline. Phenylethylamine is also a substance your body manufactures when you're "falling in love." That's why so many people have considered chocolate an aphrodisiac.

- Cocoa and chocolate can increase the level of serotonine in the brain. Serotonine levels are often decreased in people with depression and in those experiencing PMS symptoms.

- Cocoa beans are rich in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.

- Chocolate contains vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, C, E and pantothenic acid.

- Contrary to popular belief, chocolate does NOT cause acne. Acne is usually due to an improper diet or a hormone imbalance.

- Dark chocolate may actually discourage tooth decay and lead to fewer cavities and whiter teeth, due to its high cocoa-to-sugar ratio.

- 98% of the world's cocoa is produced in only 15 countries.

- Cocoa butter, which is the fat extract from roasted and crushed Cocoa Beans, is often used as a massage cream.

- White chocolate cannot legally be called chocolate, since it doesn't contain any cocoa powder, just cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla.

- Chocolate was re-born in 1879 when Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle introduced milk chocolate to the world. In the same year Rudolphe Lindt introduced the conching process which makes chocolate smooth and soft.

- Chocolate syrup was used for blood in the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's movie, "Psycho". This scene, which is of 45 seconds, actually took 7 days to shoot.

- Americans eat almost half of the world's yearly supply of chocolate. Every Russian and American space voyage has included chocolate bars. At the same time, it's a lot less than the Swiss. While the average American eats 10-12 pounds of chocolate a year, the average Swiss eats 21. However, the Swiss have one of the world's lowest obesity and heart failure rates.

- Cocoa powder contains almost of all the antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. The higher the cocoa content means a ratio of more cocoa powder and less sugar. So, the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it contains, the more healthy benefits it offers and the better it is for you. However, it still contains cocoa butter and sugar which raises the calories, so consume moderately. You will find that you don't need to eat a lot of dark chocolate, since the chocolate concentration is much higher and more satisfying! Usually a few ounces will be enough.

- You can use 100% cocoa powder in foods solely for it's nutritional benefits without adding the calories. (I use it freely in my protein shakes to add the flavor, depth and intensity of chocolate!)

- Chocolate can be used in both sweet and savoury applications. Did you know that salt, heat from chilies/peppers and certain spices actually go very well with and even enchances the taste of chocolate?

So, salivating YET? Had your chocolate fix today?


Vivien Lim said...

Mark, all I have to say is...

Mark said...

LOL...that's all you have to say my dear =)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to share this post about chocolate, it makes history much more entertaining, ha ha. Love for chocolate all around, for chocolate is the greatest food of all.

p.s. did you plate that last dessert picture? looks great.

Mark said...

Hehe, I wish I did coz then I would be able to polish it off! =P~