Good news for chocoholics

Most of us think chocolate is a gift of love, almost as romantic as giving flowers. If we’re lucky, the object of our affection will be thrilled to bits and we might get a piece of the action! Well, it seems our instincts are correct, at least for dark chocolate which has recently been shown to have a number of health benefits. It’s good for your heart, cardiovascular system and actually helps people who suffer from high blood pressure or high levels of cholesterol.

Apparently, dark chocolate (minimum 35% cocoa) has a lot of flavonoids. Seriously, flavonoids are not some new marketing term invented by the supermarkets. Flavonoids are anti-oxidants – which everybody knows are the best thing since sliced bread. Why? Well, its simple, if you eat foods rich in anti-oxidants they protect us from free radicals. I know this sounds like science fiction but free radicals are bad news. They are a natural by-product of our metabolism or digestive system but they make our bodies age and can cause all sorts of problems including heart disease.

Fruit and vegetables that are red or dark coloured tend to contain lots of anti-oxidants. Actually, now this is beginning to make sense to me. After all, a pomegranate can last for months and berries can be dried and eaten long after summer. It’s my assumption that anti-oxidants naturally slow the deterioration of these fruits, so they won’t go off before their sell-by date.

Of course, chocolate also has a lot of sugar and calories so it’s not exactly a health food if you eat too much of it. Also, the smooth milk chocolate that most people love is not as rich in flavanoids as dark chocolate which has more cocoa.

These bars are “made in Turkey” and contain 70% cocoa.

Personally, I like dark, bitter chocolate and welcome this good news about the cocoa bean. A cup of cocoa or hot chocolate is one of my favourite winter drinks. Cocoa is also the key ingredient of any successful chocolate cake – another favourite of mine. It’s almost inconceivable to imagine life without it.

Like coffee, Theobroma cacao is a tropical plant and the cocoa we love comes from it’s seeds. These start as beautiful, orchid-like flowers that grow only on the trunk of the little cacao tree. The flower becomes a fruit or pod containing about 24 seeds. This matures to a rich purple or red colour before harvest.

Cocoa is also one of the most labour-intensive crops to grow and process. Sadly, where most of the world’s beans originate, there also lurks a dark side to chocolate … which gets mixed into our cocoa, a secret ingredient that makes me sick and spoils my love of chocolate 😦  I think it’s only fair that people should know more about this but… before you look at my next post … take a minute to complete the challenge.

1 minute challenge:

Which is the odd one out (something that is different from the others) and why?

a sugar cube / a pomegranate / a bar of dark chocolate / an orange?

Click here for the answer.

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