Why You Should Add Dark Chocolate To Your Diet

If you are feeling guilty when you’re eating chocolate, would like to know the full story of chocolate from where it’s from to what it does to your health, then you’re at the right place!

Let’s start from the beginning: chocolate main ingredient is cocoa powder or cocoa butter, which are both produced by the cocoa beans that grows on the cocoa tree. Wow! Never said “cocoa” that many times in a sentence before 😉

Breaking news: chocolate is amongst the food that can make you improve your memory and focus!

That said, let’s first see a little bit about where it comes from and where it’s produced.

From the Mayan Civilization to Us

A little bit of history: the word “cocoa” comes from far away: it has been invented by the mayan civilization. They were calling the cocoa tree “cacahuaquchtl”, which also was … the tree of mayan gods! They also invented the pre-chocolate drink way before everyone else, by mixing dried fruits, hot peppers, honey, and vanilla. That drink actually had the color of blood, not sure it would have the same success today!

The cocoa tree has been cultivated for more than 3000 years. It had a major place in the mayan and aztec civilizations as they were using it both for food and an exchange currency. For example, 100 cocoa beans were required to buy a slave. The aztec legend goes that the original cocoa tree was created by Quetzalcoatl, which was the forest god. That’s why the cocoa tree was synonym of wealth and strength.

When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived to Mexico, he received cocoa beans instead of the gold he was expecting. Nethertheless, he brought that back to Spain, and that’s how cocoa beans crossed the borders and arrived to Europe! Cortés also planted cocoa beans in many places during his trips such as Caraibes, Africa islands, and Trinidad (Spain).

And What About Chocolate?

The main cocoa producers today are Africa and South America. However, the first chocolate bar was created by an English company, that had the genius idea to mix cocoa butter, chocolate liquor and of course, sugar.

Today, Switzerland is known to have the best chocolate quality of the world. That’s not a coincidence that this country is the one where people consume the most chocolate: about 10,9 kg per person per year!

South American Cocoa Tree VS African Cocoa Tree

It exists about 20 varieties of cocoa trees, divided in 2 main groups: the ones that produce high quality cocoa, which grow in South America, and the ones that produce a good cocoa, used for international commerce, which comes from Africa.

The cocoa tree can height up to 8 meters and always have flowers, that can be either pink, yellow, white or red depending on the varieties, and big leaves, which are pink then dark green when and bright it’s ripen.

First Step: Obtaining Cocoa Powder

The fruit of the cocoa tree, called the cocoa pod, has between 30 to 40 cocoa beans inside. It’s pretty big as it can weight up to 30 cm. Every cocoa bean contains an almond, an integument and a seed. Only the almond is edible after it has been processed by several steps:

  • Fermentation takes about 3 to 9 days. It consists to heat up the beans (to 50°) to kill all the bacterias and activate several enzymes that will create the precious chocolate taste. After that, the cocoa beans are dried in the sun.
  • Then, the triage process is sorting the cocoa beans from the residues
  • The torrefaction is major as it will make tannins reduce the bitterness of cocoa beans. This particular step determines the taste and color of the final product.
  • Final step is to crush the beans in order to remove the beans from their shells. It will create a yellow cocoa paste, which is composed of 53% of cocoa butter.

From the cocoa paste, you obtain cocoa powder by extracting, crushing and sieving the cocoa butter.

Second Step: Get The Chocolate!

So now you know all the steps to obtain cocoa powder, which are not that easy, let’s get into the big deal! Chocolate manufacturing is a pretty complicated art, that would not be fun otherwise!

Indeed, sugar and cocoa are not 2 components that mix up well together, which make it difficult to obtain homogenous mixture. So to make chocolate, you’ll need to mix chocolate paste, sugar and cocoa butter. This concoction needs to be heated up then cooled down to get to the final product: chocolate! Yayy 🙂

Unsweetened VS Dark VS Milk VS White: Which Is Yours?

You’ll find many types of chocolate, from the less to more sugary you have:

  • Unsweetened chocolate is used by chocolate maker. It needs to be processed in order to be edible, as it will be very bitter
  • Dark chocolate is a mix between an unsweetened chocolate to a semi-sweetened one. It contains usually between 60 to 90% of cocoa powder
  • Milk chocolate has milk powder, sugar and vanilla mixed  to cocoa butter. That’s why this chocolate sweet
  • White chocolate is not produced from cocoa paste but from cocoa butter, as the milk chocolate. There are others components such as condensed milk or milk powder, sugar (a lot), and vanilla.

Chocolate Nutrition Facts

For 30g of cocoa powder, you’ll have:

  • Proteins: 5,4g
  • Fats: 7,8g
  • Carbs: 15,6g
  • Fibers: 12g

That’s not all! Cocoa powder and chocolate are both very nutritive as they:

  • Have lots of fibers
  • Have caffeine and theobromine
  • Are a high source of copper, potassium, iron, phosphorus
  • Are full of vitamin B12 and vitamin B6
  • Have some riboflavin, pantothenic acid, thiamine

Top Health Benefits of Chocolate

Tips to Buy, Store, and Cook Chocolate

When you’re at the supermarket to buy some chocolate, remember that the darker, the better! For example, 1 square of dark chocolate has 351 mg of theobromine and 59 mg of caffeine and 1 square of milk chocolate only has 138 mg of theobromine and 18 mg of caffeine. So if you want the full effects, go for a dark chocolate with at least 70% of cocoa powder.

Best is to store it at room temperature. You can keep chocolate for a long time (few months) if it’s correctly packed. If you prefer it cold, put it in the fridge or freezer. You’ll see a white pouches on the chocolate that is totally normal, it’s because of the cocoa butter. Don’t worry, it will taste the same 🙂

You may already know how to use or cook chocolate as there are so many ways! You can add some to desserts such as cakes, puddings, and muffins. Some countries like Spain and Mexico use it with salty meals. For example, they season seafood, chicken or duck with a chocolate, hot peppers and sesame sauce. Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments if you’ve already tried that!

I hope this article didn’t make you hungry for chocolate! If it has, you can crack out the snacks recipes below and tag us on Instagram 🙂

3 Guilt-Free Dark Chocolate Snacks That Will Blow Your Mind

Healthy Banana Bread Chocolate Chip Oat Breakfast Bars

All natural foods and no flour, eggs, dairy, or butter in these vegan & gluten free bars! They are low in fat and high in fiber. Perfect for your late mornings 🙂

Prep Time10 minsCook Time15 minsTotal Time25 mins
Ingredients
 2 ¼ cups gluten free oats
 ½ tsp baking powder
 ½ tsp baking soda
 1 tsp cinnamon
 3 medium ripe bananas
 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
 ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
 ¼ cup honey (agave nectar if vegan)
  cup dark chocolate chips

Ingredients

Ingredients
 2 ¼ cups gluten free oats
 ½ tsp baking powder
 ½ tsp baking soda
 1 tsp cinnamon
 3 medium ripe bananas
 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
 ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
 ¼ cup honey (agave nectar if vegan)
  cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

1

All natural foods and no flour, eggs, dairy, or butter in these vegan & gluten free bars! They are low in fat and high in fiber. Perfect for your late mornings 🙂

Healthy Banana Bread Chocolate Chip Oat Breakfast Bars

Get the recipe here

Vegan Homemade Nutella

This recipe is so easy to make with only 4 simple and healthy ingredients. It's low in saturated fat and sugar. Add this chocolate spread to some wholemeal toasts for a healthy and tasty breakfast option.

Prep Time15 minsCook Time27 minsTotal Time42 mins
Ingredients
 3 cups raw or roasted unsalted hazelnuts
  cup dairy-free dark chocolate, chopped
 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
 ½ tsp sea salt

Ingredients

Ingredients
 3 cups raw or roasted unsalted hazelnuts
  cup dairy-free dark chocolate, chopped
 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
 ½ tsp sea salt

Directions

1

This recipe is so easy to make with only 4 simple and healthy ingredients. It's low in saturated fat and sugar. Add this chocolate spread to some wholemeal toasts for a healthy and tasty breakfast option.

Vegan Homemade Nutella

Get the recipe here

Raw Chocolate, Coconut and Seed Energy Bars

These bars will raise your energy level up! They are low in saturated fat and high in fiber. You can prepare them the night before, keep them in your fridge overnight and pack some for your afternoon snack.

Prep Time10 mins
Ingredients
 ½ cup shredded coconut
  cup raw unsalted cashew nuts
 ¼ cup cacao powder
 1 tsp sunflower seeds
 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
 50 g craisins
 70 g dried figs, stem removed
 250 g fresh dates, pitted

Ingredients

Ingredients
 ½ cup shredded coconut
  cup raw unsalted cashew nuts
 ¼ cup cacao powder
 1 tsp sunflower seeds
 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
 50 g craisins
 70 g dried figs, stem removed
 250 g fresh dates, pitted

Directions

1

These bars will raise your energy level up! They are low in saturated fat and high in fiber. You can prepare them the night before, keep them in your fridge overnight and pack some for your afternoon snack.

Raw Chocolate, Coconut and Seed Energy Bars

Get the recipe here