TIME TO GO DARK
● A little bit of dark chocolate goes a long way
● Dark chocolate as a means to harm reduction
Thanks to the Mayans for the discovery of the cacao plant that birthed the delectable decadence of… chocolate!
From as early as 1900 BC, cacao beans were recorded to have been consumed as a bitter concoction at royal Aztec feasts, utilised as a form of currency, and even used as an element at spiritual rituals - all of which indicates its highly sought-after value.
But ever since, cacao beans have evolved into a sweet, insatiable, delicious delicacy - a worldwide phenomenon, if you may - that has rendered it easily accessible to many in a variety of forms: dark, milk, and white chocolate.
From chocolate candy bars to cakes, mousse, fudge, truffles, alcohol, milkshakes and so on, it’s no wonder why chocolate has a strong foothold over the lives of many today.
Among all, one serves to be the less harmful alternative to satiate your chocolate cravings. Before we get into that, let’s first take a step back and ask the “whys” and the “hows”.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE CRAVINGS
The answer in a nutshell boils down to the sugar and fat content contained in chocolate.
Many people turn to chocolate for that instant boost of external gratification when we’re feeling down or hungry. This is especially true for women whose chocolate cravings tend to heighten at a certain time of the month, coinciding with their monthly pre-menstrual cycle when blood sugars levels are low and hormones are askew.
According to research, people who claim to be addicted to chocolate are more inclined to be addicted to alcohol, smoking, sex and gambling.
While it is irrevocably challenging to deny or go straight cold turkey with this sweet, velvety goodness, your solution lies in…
...THE “DARK” SIDE
Also known as “dark chocolate”!
But how is dark chocolate any different from milk or white chocolate? Well, the distinction between these different types of chocolates lies in its chemistry of sugar, milk, cocoa powder and cocoa butter concentration.
|Type of Chocolate||Composition||Amount of Cocoa Solids|
|White chocolate||milk + sugar + cocoa butter||None|
|Milk chocolate||milk + sugar + cocoa butter + cocoa powder||20% - 30%|
|Dark chocolate||sugar + cocoa butter + cocoa powder||More than 35%|
White chocolate is notoriously coined as “faux” chocolate for lacking the key ingredient that defines a “true” chocolate - ie. cocoa. It contains a solid amount of cocoa butter which amplifies its creamy “chocolatey” texture, but relies heavily on sugar for its sweetness.
Meanwhile, milk chocolate, “the sweet middle child” that forms the basis for most popular sweet treats, combines cocoa solids diluted with milk solids, cream and sugar to give it a smooth and creamy taste.
And then there’s our protagonist - dark chocolate. Dark chocolate inherently contains a higher concentration of cocoa solids which makes for its relatively bitter taste, as a result of lower sugar levels.
THE LIGHT IN THE “DARK”
Contrary to popular belief, not all chocolates are all bad. Dark chocolate has been proven to contain a handful of undeniable health benefits, with one of its star players being… flavanol.
Below are a few of the benefits of consuming dark chocolate:
RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS
Flavanol and polyphenols found in dark chocolate are potent antioxidant properties which are crucial in neutralising free radicals and reducing the risks of oxidative stress. These qualities of dark chocolate are to thank for lowering inflammation in the body, protecting you from potential diseases, and enabling healthier aging.
REDUCES THE RISKS OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES
Flavanols in dark chocolate is also a major player in improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure as it stimulates nitric oxide which causes the dilation of blood vessels. Additionally, polyphenols and theobromine compounds in dark chocolate also work to reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (aka “bad” cholesterol), while raising the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (aka “good” cholesterol).
IMPROVES BRAIN FUNCTION
In a small study conducted in 2018, consuming dark chocolate may better brain function and help in the prevention of neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as flavanols are suggested to enhance the brain’s ability to grow and reorganise.
JAM-PACKED WITH MINERALS & VITAMINS
Yes, you read that right! To name just a few, dark chocolate contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, omega-6 fatty acids, riboflavin and more, making it an absolute treat for one’s immune system.
These are just the tip of the iceberg for the wonders of dark chocolate.
While there is evidence proving the powerful health benefits of dark chocolate, it’s important to remember that moderation is still key as dark chocolate does carry a huge load of calories and can easily contribute to weight gain.
CHOOSE THE LESSER EVIL
When seen in the grander scale of all things chocolate, dark chocolate is still the lesser evil. The higher the cocoa content in the chocolate you consume, the higher the antioxidants and the lower the sugar content it contains - and that is a good thing! Having said that, it’s important to always check the labels on the back of your chocolate bar before making any chocolate purchases, just to be doubly sure of its true contents and quality.
So, the next time you’ve got that chocolate itch creeping on, choose the lesser evil and switch to a bar of dark chocolate instead.