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Scharffen Berger et al. (2007) state that cacao plants were first used by an ancient tribe, the Olmecs (1200 to 300B.C.). Soon, the Mayans began using the cacao. The Mayans will make a cold, bitter drink by grounding the cacao bean, and mixing it with spices, water and chilies. The cacao was also believed to be a divine gift by the Toltecs. Between the 14th and 16th centuries, cacao beans were used as a form of currency by the Aztecs. After the Spanish took over the Aztecs, they began drinking chocolate hot and sweet. Chocolate bars were made possible by Joseph Fry in 1847. Chocolate continue to evolve, becoming the popular treat we all know today.How It Is Made
Cacao beans are removed from their pods before fermenting and drying. The fermented and dried beans are then roasted, winnowed, milled and pressed, creating chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor is then mixed with different ingredients to make different types of chocolate. Then the mixture has to be refined, conch, tempered and moulded before the chocolate bar is made.Types of Chocolate
Chocolate has evolved into many types. For example, bitter chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate and many more.Myths
One popular chocolate myth is that chocolate is believed to cause acne. Studies have shown that there is no link between chocolate and acne.
Another myth is that chocolate causes migraines. Again, research has shown that there are no facts relating chocolate to migraines.Thesis Statement
Chocolate myths have brought up many debates on the nutrition value of chocolate. Thus, this study investigates the health value of chocolate.
This study draws on information gathered from various articles, World Wide Web sites, and a personal survey.Chocolate is Healthy High antioxidant value
First of all, chocolate has a higher antioxidant value than blueberries. Antioxidant is a substance, such as vitamin C, vitamin B or beta carotene, which counteracts the damaging effects of oxidation in a living organism. (Concise Dictionary) Cacao has been found to have a higher antioxidant capacity than red wine and tea. Red wine, tea and blueberries are well known food with high antioxidant value. A chocolate with high cacao content contains a higher antioxidant value. (Yap 2010) The antioxidant value of different types of food can be seen in Figure 1. Thus, it can be concluded that dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate, which all have higher cacao contents than other types of chocolate, is beneficial for our health.
Chocolate also defends the body from damage of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable, highly reactive forms of oxygen that can attack the body in various ways. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals, which are being categorized into various types and they inflict varying degrees of cellular damage in different parts of the body. (Yap 2010) Free radicals are neutralized by antioxidants. This will prevent any change in the structure of healthy cells, thus curbing any cause for chronic diseases.Lowers Blood Pressure
Chocolate helps arteries relax, widen and maintain their flexibility. According to Scharffen Berger et al. (2007), a research involving a group of four hundred and seventy men, tested on whether chocolate has the same ability as red wine and tea to reduce risk of heart disease. It was found that the men who consumed the most cocoa-containing products were half as likely to die from cardiovascular disease as those who consumed the least. This is because cocoa helps arteries relax, widen and maintain their flexibility, which aid in lowering blood pressure.
Besides that, chocolate is found to have the ability to raise HDL (good cholesterol) According to Yap (2010), a study in a Penn State University showed that volunteers following a diet containing small amounts of cocoa powder had their the good cholesterol (HDL) raised. Bad cholesterol (LDL) remains the same because the antioxidants in cocoa slow down the oxidation of LDL which prevents "hardening of the arteries". Furthermore, Thompson and Manore (2009) also revealed that studies have shown chocolate have the ability to reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases.Lowers anxiety / Brightens mood
It is well-known that chocolate releases endorphins chemicals in the brain. Endorphins chemical in chocolate is released by a compound called phenylethylamine (PEA). This results in a pleasurable feeling. Chocolate companies in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States have collected a data that revealed twenty seven percent of consumers in these countries buy chocolate to improve their moods. (Yap 2010) Chocolate releases natural feel-good chemicals called endorphins in the brain. (Scharffen Berger et al. 2007)
Chocolate raises serotonin levels in the brain. Ordinary chocolate is known to raise serotonin levels in the brain, which produces feelings of elation. (Scharffen Berger et al. 2007) Smolin and Grosvenor (2008) explained that consuming chocolate causes the brain to produce natural opiates, which dulls pain and improves mood.
In addition to that, Scharffen Berger et al. (2007) state that chocolate is one of nature's most concentrated sources of theobromine. Theobromine is a mild, natural stimulant and "cousin" of caffeine. However, theobromine is not as strong as caffeine. Theobromine has been used as a cough suppressant. Although the theobromine level in chocolate is not as high as those found in clinical trials, eating a bar of dark chocolate will still help when one is having a bad cough.Provides a lot of energy
In addition to that, some chocolate are used by the military. Scharffen Berger et al. (2007) explained that twenty to forty pounds of chocolate were shipped overseas to field bases during World War I. During World War II, chocolate bar rations have to meet specific requirements set by the U.S. Army. The bars needed to be about four ounces, high heat resistance, little taste and high food value. According to Smolin and Grosvenor (2008), chocolate is energy-dense and provides one hundred and fifty thousand calories per ounce. These chocolate are easily eaten and usually bought for traveling.Chocolate is Not Healthy Some chocolate are stripped of its health promoting properties
Unfortunately, some facts have shown that chocolate is not as healthy as intended. First of all, dairy products added to chocolate inhibit the absorption of nutrients. According to Yap (2010), some studies indicate that ingesting dairy products hinders the absorption of the nutrients of cocoa. Eating milk chocolate would just be taking in empty calories. Besides that, the antioxidant level is not raised. It is even lowered in certain cases. Drinking dairy products while eating chocolate also result in the same effect. This lowers the nutritional value of chocolate.
A great example of a type of chocolate stripped of its health properties is the white chocolate. According to Star (2005), white chocolate does not have any cocoa bean content. The cocoa beans are the main source of nutrients for chocolate. Without the cocoa bean, white chocolate only has a high content of fats from both cocoa butter and milk fat. This makes white chocolate the least healthy choice of chocolate.Some chocolate contain high sugar and fat contents
The most beneficial chocolate are those with a high concentration of chocolate liquor and bitter taste such as dark chocolate or bittersweet chocolate. This bitter taste came from the flavanols in chocolate.
As a result, many manufacturers take out this bitter component or add lots of sugar to rid chocolate of this bitter taste, making chocolate not as healthy as it is supposed to be. According to Yap (2010), even some semi-sweet chocolate can have up to sixty five percent of sugar.
Another fact is that chocolate may cause hormonal imbalance due to the high sugar level. Many types of chocolate are added table sugar, which is a host of serious health disorders such as hormonal imbalance, diabetes, heart disease, and cancers. (Yap 2010)High calories
All the unwanted sugar in chocolate results in very high calories. According to Yap (2010), many commercially marketed chocolates tend to have very high sugar and fat contents. Empty calories are also a result from the added dairy product as it inhibits the absorption of cocoa nutrients. According to Yap (2010), extensive studies conducted on animals have proven that consuming high calorie food shortens lifespan. As a result, eating the wrong type of chocolate will give the exact opposite of what the benefits should have been.Some chocolate contain artificial sweeteners
Lastly, "chocolate for diabetes" contains artificial sweeteners. The artificial sweeteners added into "Chocolate for diabetes" are very known neurotoxins. They also cause the same hormonal imbalance from consuming other sugary foods (Yap 2010) Yap (2010) also found that studies have shown that insulin could be secreted in response to sweet-tasting beverages, irrespective of whether they contain table sugar. Natural sweeteners are by far healthier and safer than artificial sweeteners. But many manufacturers still use artificial sweeteners to make chocolate for diabetes.Conclusion
Based on the evidence discussed, I strongly believe that chocolate is healthy. The types of chocolate which have low cacao content and high sugar content, such as milk chocolate or white chocolate, should be avoided. Chocolate myths should also stop spreading. This way, more people can know that chocolate is actually beneficial. The government and non-government organizations should do their part in educating the public about the health benefits of chocolate. This way our country's cocoa industry can improve. I believe that we can gain the health benefits of chocolate if we eat it in moderation and choose the right kind of chocolate, such as dark chocolate.