Chocolate is now officially a superfood. Tuck in!
Chocolate is the latest superfood. Just another wonderful excuse to indulge in it without a smidgeon of guilt!
Many types of food are associated with passion, love and romance; strawberries and cream, decadent desserts shared with a single spoon, even oysters and sushi.
But few come close to the flood of good feelings a good bar of dark chocolate can create as it boosts serotonin levels in the brain.
Now, new research by the Hershey Centre for Health and Nutrition in the US has labled chocolate as a ‘superfood’, confirming what we suspected all along, the stuff really is good for you.
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GOOD CHOCOLATE 101
Chocolate is created by roasting the beans of the cocoa plant, powdering them and forming a liquor, which is then mixed with a form of fat and usually some sugar.
The fat allows the chocolate to form a solid substance, and the sugar affects the bitterness of the chocolate. The taste of the chocolate itself is controlled by varying the time and temperature that the beans are roasted.
Keep in mind that milk chocolate has no cacao in it – only milk solids and fat, so no health properties there at all. Really good dark or bitter chocolate is made by adding the bare minimum of milk.
This is because milk solids hamper the body’s ability to absorb the healthy plant compounds that give dark chocolate its ‘superfood’ status.
And for chocolate to count as a ‘superfood’, it has to consist of at least 75% cocoa solids.
The healthy plant compounds – in this case an abundance of anti-oxidants and polyphenols – are naturally occurring chemicals that help prevent the oxidation (early death) of body cells, as well as ward off the early onset of cancer and heart conditions.
TAKE A BREAK: Do the chocolate and candy quizz
According to Dr. Debra Millar, who coordinated the chocolate project at Hershey, the results show that dark chocolate could in fact be labelled a ‘superfood’, and that – gram-for-gram – cocoa powder contains more healthy compounds than the powdered form of most other fruit, including acai and blueberries.
Willy Harcourt-Cooze of Willy’s Wonky Chocolate Factory TV show, says a pilot study at Brunel University discovered that chocolate is in fact a stimulant. In other words, it increases your heart rate and your perception of energy is greater after having consumed it. Good for getting pulses racing then, if you should need that.
They also discovered that you burn fats – not the typical carbohydrates – if exercising after having eaten cacao. Excellent just before bedtime then!
“Unfortunately the healthy properties of dark chocolate are destroyed upon heating and melting the chocolate,” Dr Millar added. So best you enjoy it straight from the wrapping, or grated over a bowl of strawberries and papaya.
The study was conducted by Hershey’s, America’s most famous chocolate empire, so we’re thinking maybe they have a vested interest in promoting chocolate as a superfood.
But, we say it’s OK and the more reasons they give us to eat chocolate, the merrier – as long as it’s as dark as the night and pure as the driven snow…
READ: TASTE readers' tips for cooking with chocolate
HOT CHOCOLATE TIPS
For a romantic treat, head out to a wine estate that does chocolate and wine pairings, like Waterford. Or buy a few dark slabs and try it with a Zinfandel or Merlot wine at home, nestled in a cosy spot on the sofa or patio.
If you don’t care about the nutritive properties and would gladly melt chocolate to make something fabulous, try these:
Woolworths stocks a selection of chocolate that fits the superfood bill. Try Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa or splash out on Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s Willie's Supreme Cacao in Madagascan Black, Venezuelan Black and Indonesian Black.
MORE CHOCOLATE: Hannah's hints and tips for the perfect hot chocolate