Cocoa has some often overlooked health benefits. Years of confectionary companies adding huge quantities of sugar has given chocolate a bad name, but the truth could not be more surprising, or indeed pleasing!
REDUCES HEART DISEASE RISK
The CDC reports heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women in the United States. One way to lower your risk is to consume about 1 ounce of dark chocolate a day. It reduces inflammation and floods your body with flavonoids and antioxidants that protect from free radicals linked to heart disease and certain cancers.
Your morning mug of dark chocolate is loaded with flavonoids, much loved for increasing the skin’s hydration and improving complexion. They also absorb harmful UV light, protecting you from skin cancer along with suitable sunscreen.
The tannins in cocoa contain oxalic acid, which lowers acid production and reduces plaque growth. This prevents tooth decay as long you practice good dental hygiene every day. In addition, dark hot cocoa contains theobromine, known to harden enamel and help prevent discolouration.
KIND TO DIABETICS
Enjoy a small indulgence without worrying about glucose levels. Use dark chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder and a small amount of honey, about a teaspoon per cup, as a sweetener. Melt in milk and the resulting drink will taste like joy. It contains about 600 milligrams of an antioxidant called gallic acid, which is used to treat diabetes. Healthy fats in dark cocoa help blood absorb sugar slowly, which prevents insulin spikes.
HIGH IN VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Dark cocoa is rich in potassium, copper, magnesium, iron and other important vitamins and minerals. These support good health and protect you from anaemia, type 2 diabetes and dangerous heart problems.
Drinkable chocolate contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant and triggers the production of endorphins that make people feel pleasure. Plus the high concentration of antioxidants calms rising stress hormones. These effects are compounded when dark chocolate is melted into a drink because heat releases significantly more antioxidants.
A Cornell study found a cup of cocoa offers twice as many cancer-fighting antioxidants as a glass of red wine and as much as three times more than a cup of green tea. Researchers attribute this abundance to higher levels of flavonoids. Researchers also advise we drink a cup in the morning, saving tea and wine for later.
Will Clower, PH.D. neuroscientist and author of the book Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight says having dark chocolate five minutes after a meal or 20 minutes prior reduces your appetite by as much as 50 percent. The key here is moderation. Consuming a small quantity of dark cocoa satiates the appetite and, since it prevents insulin spikes, keeps the body’s fat-burning ability going strong.
Cocoa’s flavonoids aid the body in processing nitric oxide. This prevents blood clots by making platelets less sticky and improves blood flow, which in turn lowers blood pressure and helps the heart stay healthy. These anti-clotting, blood-thinning capabilities significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke.
STIMULATES THE MIND
Increased blood flow means an increase of oxygen to the brain. Drink a cup of hot chocolate and your mind will be sharper. Some researchers believe drinking cocoa helps stave off dementia and helps treat those who already have it.
One of the little known facts about chocolate is how many distinct flavour profiles it has – over 400. That is why tasting and enjoying these is an art in its own right, as not even fine wine has so many flavours!
The chocolatiers we love understand that each stage of the chocolate-making process impacts on its final flavour and that is why they take so much time to work with farmers and ensure their quality of life, so that they can grow the finest beans. This understanding and care is what leads to some fantastic chocolate bars being made.
Since even the slightest inconsistencies in fermentation, roasting etc can vary the final flavour, no two batches are ever quite the same. We think that makes tasting chocolate all the more exciting - even if you've had the bar before, there is always something new to experience!
We have put together a few of the more common flavours in our guide to help you enjoy your chocolate experience even more.
How to taste chocolate
Eating chocolate involves all your senses. Start by observing the smoothness and shine of the bar. Good chocolate should make a satisfying snap when you break off a piece. When it comes to tasting, we recommend letting the piece sit on your tongue for a moment, so it warms and softens. Inhaling through your mouth, as when tasting wine, and exhaling through your nose adds an aromatic dimension to the chocolate and brings out more complex flavours. As you chew slowly, think about the taste and texture and compare it to our flavour guide. Green tea makes an excellent palate-cleanser, so try drinking some before you taste the chocolate and see if you notice more flavours.