Is there a more universally-loved treat?
Chocolate, in a mostly unprocessed form, has a surprising number of health benefits. But if you aren’t used to eating the darkest chocolate, it can take a while to adjust to the taste.
Because we don’t want you to have to go your whole life without eating chocolate again, this is our advice to adjusting to the taste of dark chocolate.
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A Brief History of Chocolate
Chocolate is one of the most beloved foods in the world. The cacao bean, found within the fruit of the cacao tree, is from which chocolate is made.
For starters, the scientific name for the cacao tree is theobroma cacao. Theobroma translates from Greek as “food of the Gods” – an apt moniker!
Chocolate has been around for more than 3,000 years. Yet, early forms of chocolate were nothing like the sweet treats we are used to eating in the present day.
Ancient civilizations inhabiting South America were the first known cultivators of cacao. Mayans, Aztecs, and Olmec civilizations revered cacao as possessing sacred qualities.
Only the elite members of these ancient societies consumed the cacao bean. Priests, warriors, and rulers would drink beverages made from cacao beans at ceremonies.
To brew this special drink, cacao beans would be subjected to a fermenting process. Then, the beans would be roasted and ground into a paste which would then be formed into small cakes.
These cakes would be mixed vigorously with water to create a chocolate drink. Depending on the ceremony, other spices would be added to the beverage (i.e. chili, vanilla, etc).
The Spanish conquistadors brought chocolate back to the Spanish courts from Mexico. As raw cacao is bitter, the Spanish used cinnamon and sugar to sweeten the beverage.
Despite this sweet alteration, one aspect of chocolate remained the same. Only the upper echelons of Spanish society were able to afford and consume chocolate.
Incredibly, Spain kept chocolate a secret for almost 100 years. Chocolate was eventually introduced to France through a marriage. The King of France Louis XIII married a Spanish princess in the early 16th century.
From there onwards, chocolate spread throughout French courts and across Europe. European governments began establishing cacao plantations in tropical, equatorial countries.
Over the years, different forms of chocolate edibles and beverages were developed. A British chocolate company experimented with cocoa butter to create chocolate bars.
Different brands and types of chocolate began to be sold. For example, the Swiss began adding milk to their chocolate.
Today, approximately $75 billion per year is spent on chocolate worldwide! (Source)
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
There are many types of chocolate that exist in the market. Chocolate comes in different colors and with a range of additional ingredients.
Chocolate has leaped forward from its modest historical origins as a raw cacao beverage. It is now available in an abundance of forms, from luxurious desserts to ice cream and candy bars.
The two most well-known and popular types are milk chocolate and dark chocolate. But aside from the obvious color distinction, what else differentiates the two?
Well, the basic ingredients for a start.
Dark chocolate typically consists of only three elemental ingredients:
- Cocoa powder
- Sugar (in limited quantities or not at all, depending on the brand)
- Cocoa butter
Like with most food products, the better the quality the purer the ingredients are. Poorer quality dark chocolate may include vegetable oils and artificial ingredients.
A high quality dark chocolate will contain between 70 and 80 percent of cocoa solids. 100 grams of a good dark chocolate is worth approximately 600 calories.
That same serving of dark chocolate is nutrient-packed. It provides the following daily value allowances:
- 98 percent of manganese
- 89 percent of copper
- 67 percent of iron
- 58 percent of magnesium
Studies have linked consumption of dark chocolate to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Up to 100 grams of dark chocolate a day can decrease your risk of cardiovascular infarctions.
Comparatively, milk chocolate contains significantly less cocoa. Milk chocolate also contains dairy and far more sugar than dark chocolate.
Although milk chocolate does contain many of the same nutrients as dark chocolate, it is in smaller quantities. This is due to the lack of cacao.
Most commercial brands of milk chocolate are made up of over 50 percent sugar. Additionally, milk chocolate is more likely to contain artificial ingredients and flavorings.
Adjusting To Sugarless Chocolate
Dark chocolate’s health-boosting properties are due to higher concentrations of cacao. Cacao beans in their raw form have even more powerful health benefits.
Cacao nibs are essentially pieces of cacao beans. They do not contain any additional or artificial ingredients.
Cacao nibs have powerful antioxidant properties. They also contain high amounts of essential minerals and vitamins.
Although cacao nibs do have an intense chocolate flavor, they are bitterer than both dark and milk chocolate.
The amount of nutrients and benefits you gain from eating cacao depend upon its purity. If you can work your way up to enjoying raw cacao nibs, all the better!
If you’re used to eating very sweet types of chocolate, start off slowly. Don’t begin by selecting a brand of dark chocolate containing 80 percent cacao if you aren’t ready.
The average milk chocolate contains less than 30 percent cacao. Ideally, you can start off by eating chocolate brands with up to 50 percent cacao content.
How do you choose the right chocolate to set about adjusting your taste buds? The chocolate you select should be bitter enough that the taste is only tolerable.
It shouldn’t be bitter to the point that eating it puts you off entirely – that isn’t the goal of this exercise!
Eat between two and three squares of your selected chocolate daily for a minimum of three weeks. Ideally, your taste buds will begin adjusting to and savoring the flavor.
After that, select a brand with cacao content 10 percent higher than what you started with. Repeat the process until you’re able to eat and enjoy chocolate brands containing up to 90 percent cacao.
If you’re finding it difficult to enjoy chocolate with high percentages of cacao, don’t give up. Cacao nibs can be added to healthy smoothies or breakfast bowls for all the nutrients with none of the bitterness. (Source)
Here are some of our favorite chocolate recipes and resources.
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