15 MAY, 2013

Myths and Truths about chocolate

Chocolate comes from the fruit of the tree Theobroma cacao (Latin for «food of the gods») and is also known as cocoa tree. Today, the scientific data we have regarding chocolate shows that chocolate has a number of important ingredients, such as carbohydrates, essential amino acids, minerals and trace elements. However, chocolate also consists of ingredients of which the consumption should be monitored, such as saturated fats and cholesterol. The main types of chocolates are, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.

Dark Chocolate

One hundred grams (100 gr) of dark chocolate, or the average size of a medium sized chocolate bar found in stores, has approximately 543 calories. It should be noted that depending on the cocoa content, the total number of calories differs slightly from chocolate to chocolate. It consists of carbohydrates and simple sugars. It also consists of essential amino acids, such as tyrosine, which is associated with mood elevation that may occur following the consumption of a bit of chocolate. The presence of other substances, such as theobromine and phenylethylamine, which have a positive effect on the nervous system, can partly explains why chocolate can be addictive to many. Also, dark chocolate also consists of fats, the majority of which are “bad” – saturated fats and some monounsaturated – as well as, minerals, such as potassium and some calcium. An important advantage of dark chocolate is that it does not have a lot of cholesterol, a mere 8 mg per 100 gr. It also contains caffeine, about as much as a cup of Greek coffee. However, the most important fact about dark chocolate, which has become the subject of scientific interest, is its levels of antioxidants, namely the polyphenols, which are also found in green tea, red wine, etc, which have very positive effects on the body.

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate’s main difference from dark chocolate is that it contains less cocoa, which has been replaced with milk. This, however, does not differentiate the calories between the two that much. Even though most people consider dark chocolate to be more suitable for dieting, the caloric difference is somewhere between 10 and 30 calories. The main difference between dark chocolate and milk chocolate is that milk chocolate has three times the amount of cholesterol that dark chocolate has, but it also has 3 to 4 times the amount of calcium. It also contains less caffeine and theobromine, which are substances that affect that central nervous system, as well as fewer antioxidants. Based on its ingredients, we would say that milk chocolate is better for children and adolescents, meaning younger age groups, due to the increased calcium levels and low caffeine. However, when referring to adults and seniors, we would recommend dark chocolate due to high levels of antioxidants and because of the lower levels of “bad” fats and cholesterol.

White Chocolate

Unlike dark chocolate and milk chocolate, white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, which is why it has more calories, lower quality fats and a bit more cholesterol than milk chocolate. It also contains many essential amino acids, minerals and trace elements and totally sufficient amounts of calcium. White chocolate contains no caffeine or theobromine and so it is not especially stimulating or addictive. It is an excellent choice for women who are pregnant or who are breast feeding due to the lack of caffeine.

Other types of chocolate

Depending on the combinations that can occur, there are many other types of chocolates available to the consumer, such as chocolate with nuts or with rice grains, as well as, chocolate with fruit (for example, raisins) etc. What should be noted is that usually there is relatively little to no difference regarding calories. Chocolate combined with nuts could slightly increase calories but also increases the quality of the chocolate, due to the nuts’ ingredients, such as good fats and high biological value proteins.

Overall, we would say that for a long time, chocolate was considered one of the main causes for tooth decay and facial acne. Studies do not indicate that any of the main ingredients of chocolate are the cause for acne, whereas, in the case of tooth decay and other dental problems, chocolate’s high content of sugars can be a cause. Also, obesity is another condition for which most consider chocolate the culprit, and it is this opinion that restrains and often deprives a large number of people of the enjoyment of the sweet taste of chocolate. The truth is that chocolate, aside from being a nutrient-rich food, is a product with high energy content. However, what matters is that there are no bad foods, but bad nutrition. Exaggeration is the root of most problems. Each one of us, even those following a weight loss diet, can include a small piece of chocolate in the daily, healthy diet or, if they prefer, a small chocolate bar as their weekly dessert. Enjoy chocolate in moderation and remember that it is excess consumption that leads us to taste the bitter side of chocolate.

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