Table of Contents:
- What is chocolate made of?
- Is chocolate unhealthy?
- What is the difference between superfood chocolate and supermarket chocolate?
What is chocolate made of?
All chocolate should be made from cacao beans - the bean, the butter and some sort of sweetener. Cacao or cocoa is the seed or nut of a fruit typically found in the Amazon, Central American and Southern Mexico. Native Americans always preferred bitter chocolate - just the raw cacao. It was the Europeans who first combined this bitter cacao with refined cane sugar to make what we now know as chocolate.
There is a lot of conflicting articles about chocolate in the media. Some say its full of sugar and unhealthy, some state it’s chock full of antioxidants. Well guess what, both statements are true!
Is Chocolate Unhealthy?
Technically no. Chocolate in its raw form and its purest state can actually be healthy for you, not something that other snacks and sweets can claim.
In fact raw chocolate has the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world. By weight, cacao has more antioxidants than red wine, blueberries, acai, pomegranate and goji berries combined! This is only true though if the cocoa is kept at low temperatures during the processing.
The benefits of consuming high antioxidant foods are to protect our cells from oxidative damage, however consuming a raw chocolate that is filled with processed sugar and other flavourings and colourings would just be cancelling out the benefits of the chocolate.
So if you want to enjoy the antioxidant benefits of the raw chocolate, it is advisable to also look into the added ingredients.
Jeanne Louise Calment of France who lived until 122 years old attributed her longevity to consuming 2.5 pounds of bitter dark chocolate a week. Imagine if she ate raw chocolate!
Dark chocolate is also a very good source of magnesium. Magnesium is known to be the most deficient mineral in the west. Over 80% of North Americans are chronically deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is one of the most important nutrients for the heart and brain and it is also a useful aid in promoting bowel movements, relaxing cramping and muscles and building strong bones.
PEA Happy Hormones
Listen up guys, this one is for you! This is why chocolate on a first date can never hurt! Chocolate includes phenylethylamine. This ingredient (with such complex spelling that I won’t type it out again > < ) stimulates the brain’s pleasure centres and promotes the feeling of attraction and excitement.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a chemical we produce in our bodies when we fall in love, chocolate is the only food that releases these happy hormones and this is why there is a deep connection between love and chocolate. PEA molecules also shut off appetite and can increase focus, and alertness. However, just like the antioxidants, PEA is destroyed when heated.
Chocolate contains tryptophan, a chemical in the brain that is used to produce the neurotransmitter, serotonin. High levels of serotonin stimulate the secretion of endorphins our feel good hormones. It’s no wonder that we reach for that piece of chocolate when we’re stressed and fighting against a deadline. Our bodies knows what we need!
Superfood chocolate v.s. supermarket chocolate?
What I call supermarket chocolate, is a far version from the original chocolate that the Aztecs ate.
Supermarket chocolate is usually dutch processed which uses heat and treated with alkaline salts to make it milder and to change its color. Dutch processing removes about 65-90% of the flavonoids originally in chocolate.
Chocolate contains some omega 6 fatty acids. And like all fats, but especially omega oils, cooking them and heating them to high temperatures will destroy this fat and oxidize it making it dangerous to the body.
REFINED SUGAR & OILS
Quality chocolate should have pure and simple ingredients, namely cocoa, cocoa butter and a type of sugar and sometime includes an emulsifier like lecithin.
However sugar should not come first. Many of the times, if you read the ingredients in the supermarket chocolate brands, a refined sugar is the first ingredient and some cheaper brands don’t even use cocoa butter but they use canola oil or some kind of vegetable oil which is much cheaper.
Don’t be fooled by organic chocolates either. Some organic chocolates also have sugar as the first ingredient.
CHEMICALS, COLOURING, ADDITIVES
When you’re getting to the really bad chocolate that they’re passing out during Easter and Halloween, like M&Ms and Hershey’s, you’re probably also going to see colouring and cheap emulsifers and additives. Look out for PGPR a popular emulsifier and also shelf life extender that’s sometimes used in replacement of the more expensive cocoa butter.
This is why when friends introduced me to Pana Chocolate during a trip in Australia, it was love at first sight and taste. Pana Chocolate checks all of the boxes.
💗 Dairy Free
💗 No Refined sugar : using coconut nectar
💗 Clean simple ingredients
😋 Flavours that create an O-M-G explosion in your mouth
Check out Pana Chocolate’s Head Chef’s Raw Chocolate Halva recipe here