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Chocolate, due to the seductive and psychological effects it has on the human body, is both the most universal and most mysterious of sweets.
A flavourful work of art, with its bittersweet undertones and smooth texture, chocolate has been defined as a ‘’sensory bomb designed to explode in the mouth’’.
Basically chocolate is sweetened cocoa, sometimes enriched with milk or cream and embellished with fruit flavours or alcohol. The nutritional composition of chocolate varies depending on varieties and brands, but on average we can look at its value per 100 grams.
Chocolate’s essential component, cocoa, is very rich in iron, phosphorous, potassium and vitamins B1 and B9. It also contains a certain number of psychotropic components such as magnesium, theobromine, caffeine and phenyl ethylamine.
There exists a multitude of chocolate varieties that are classified into three groups:
- Dark chocolate, is the lowest in fat (24 g/100 g), low in sodium (12 mg), but high in sugar (64 g/100 g).
- Milk chocolate is higher in fat, contains 7 times more salt, but has less sugar (55 g/100 g).
- Light or diet chocolate is slow in sugar but also higher in fat. It’s a good solution for diabetics, however, doesn’t have a lot of benefits for those looking to lose weight as its caloric economy of 14% compared to normal chocolate is compensated by the lack of taste and satisfaction that may cause overconsumption.
Chocolate is a very high calorie food that should be avoided for weight-loss diets but it shouldn’t be demonized as its high calories overweigh other more toxic elements that substitutes contain.
It’s also important to know that a 100g bar of chocolate contains as many calories (528 cal) as 200 g of chips,a normal portion for a teenager, or 6 tablespoons of oil that any household could add in its family salad.
Chocolate is classified as a food very high in sugar (especially bar chocolate) and has been forbidden to diabetics for ages. Today, due to the discovery of its moderate glycemic index, it can be consumed in moderation at the end of a balanced meal.
Chocolate, a food high in fat (30 %) only contains 17 % of saturated fatty acids and only 13 % of palmitic acids known to be atherogenic. Because of this, it isn’t necessary to radically exclude this food for cardio-vascular issues in those of normal weight. Fatty meats and cheeses are much more harmful. However, diabetics at risk for cardio-vascular problems should choose traditional chocolate and avoid light chocolate, which is paradoxically, too fatty for them.
Chocolate is rich in phenyl ethylamine, a serotonin precursor involved in mood regulation, causing an exhilarating effect and acting as a mild anti-depressant, which would explain its massive consumption (500 g/day) among those who suffer from seasonal depression.
Furthermore, chocolate is very rich in magnesium, a mineral known for its soothing and anxiolytic characteristics. Chocolate also contains theobromine and caffeine, both psycho-stimulants that promote wakefulness and intellectual performance.
Chocolate is most likely the food that holds the strongest sensorial and emotional kick.
Incorporating in its composition, cocoa with a bitterness only rendered agreeable with a strong concentration of sugar, cocoa butter with its smooth consistency that tempts the taste buds, and salt to balance the flavor. This combination creates a symphony of sensations in the mouth that satisfy and reinforce the euphoric and stimulating effects.
This remarkable combination of neuro sensory effects explain the huge number of people suffering from stress, fatigue or PMS who succumb to eating chocolat, as well as those who seem to develop a dependence on this “sweet drug”.