The Latin word for cocoa- theobroma- literally translates to, ‘food of the Gods.’ Cocoa has been used for thousands of years by Central American cultures, primarily as a bitter drink. Mayans used cocoa to create a ritual beverage that was shared during marriage ceremonies. When the beans were exported to Europe by the Spaniards, Europeans sweetened the chocolate and made it into bars. By the late 1700s chocolate shops were common throughout Europe and it became affordable. Today, dark chocolate constitutes a cocoa content of 60 per cent or greater (Learn more at The Centre for Flavonoid Research).
Cocoa is a fantastic source of flavonoids, a special class of antioxidant that are responsible from the strong, pungent taste in cocoa. You can read more about this in our post: 7 Reasons Why You Should Eat More Chocolate.
Here’s the thing: the more the chocolate is processed, the more flavanols are lost. It’s important to understand that not all forms of chocolate are rich in flavonoids. Be picky about the type of chocolate that you choose to consume.
As a child, you probably ate milk chocolate growing up. It’s the sugar in milk chocolate that is well-received by your taste buds. According to the Cleaveland Clinic and many other sources, milk chocolate contains less of the original cocoa bean than dark chocolate does. It’s often diluted with the addition of milk solids, sugar and cream and hence, its nutritional quality is minimal in comparison to dark chocolate. The more cocoa in chocolate, the higher the nutritional quality. Dark chocolate often has less added sugar and fat, which also boosts its overall nutritional value and why it’s more beneficial in moderation.
The fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter, which is made up of 1/3 oleic acid (a heart-healthy mono-saturated fat that is also found in olive oil) and 2/3 stearic and palmitic acids (forms of saturated fat which increase cholesterol and risk of heart disease). The good news is research has shown that stearic acid has a neutral effect on cholesterol, neither raising nor lowering it. Palmitic acid does negatively affect cholesterol levels but it only makes up 1/3 of the fat calories in chocolate.
So, don’t feel too guilty in indulging in a small piece of dark chocolate every now and then. Zebra Organics offers a great selection of dark chocolate products, including Anandamine, a blend of unsweetened heirloom cacao and tonic herbs. Anandamine is handcrafted in small batches using organic and wildcrafted ingredients, freshly-ground spices and love. It’s an excellent addition to smoothies, water, tea or cold-pressed coffee.