Chocolate is a favorite food, both children and adults. It’s just that chocolate is often seen as a food associated with weight gain and diabetes, so many avoid it. In fact, benefits of chocolate contains nutrients that can support body health. However, it is important to pay attention to the choice of chocolate consumed, both in portion and type.
Most of the chocolate sold in the market is sweet chocolate that has been added with a lot of sugar, for example milk chocolate, chocolate bars, or in the form of various cakes. That’s all if consumed in excess can be bad for health. Conversely, if you choose the right chocolate, its consumption can be healthy and prevent various diseases such as heart disease. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure all you get is the benefit.
1. Kind of chocolate
Chocolate has beneficial properties and it comes from the main ingredient of chocolate, namely cocoa beans, which have gone through various processes to become a product that is enjoyed today.
Cocoa beans can be found on the tropical tree Theobroma cacao L. which means “food of Gods”. Since ancient times chocolate has been used for medicine. It’s just that, over time its use has changed.
The cocoa beans are dried and roasted to make the cocoa liquor, which contains lean cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Well, the amount of cocoa liquor in chocolate is known as the percentage of cocoa, which is commonly found in chocolate packages with writing like 45 percent cocoa or some even 90 percent cocoa.
This difference in percentage will result in different chocolates. Some types of chocolate that are known to many people are milk chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate.
Milk chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, powdered milk, lecithin, and cocoa (about 20-25 percent) and has a bright appearance, with a distinctive aroma and has a sweet taste and a distinctive bitter cocoa accent.
White chocolate contains cocoa butter, milk, and sugar without cocoa solids. The taste is sweet and delicious.
Dark chocolate contains solid cocoa beans (up to 80 percent of total weight) and cocoa butter. This chocolate has a strong cocoa aroma and it melts in the mouth, leaving a pleasant and bitter taste.
Each type of chocolate has a different quality, depending on the percentage of cocoa used. The higher the cocoa content, the more chocolate has a good effect. When viewed from the percentage, dark chocolate is the best.
2. Cocoa content
Cocoa in chocolate has good health benefits. It contains various components, especially lipids or fats (35 percent oleic acid, 25 percent palmitic acid, and 35 percent stearic acid), minerals (magnesium, copper, potassium and calcium) and polyphenols.
It also contains fiber and theobromine. Fat is one of the most important components of cocoa. The oil in cocoa is called cocoa butter or cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter is a mixture of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. The unsaturated fat in the form of oleic acid was 35 percent, while the saturated fat was palmitic acid as much as 25 percent and stearic acid as much as 35 percent.
In general, saturated fatty acid consumption is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease because saturated fatty acids can increase levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and total cholesterol in the blood.
The saturated fatty acid in cocoa, namely stearic acid, does not raise serum lipid levels to the same level compared to other saturated fatty acids.
Chocolate also contains a lot of minerals, some important minerals including magnesium, copper, potassium and calcium. The amount of minerals present in chocolate is based on the amount of cocoa bean solids. Dark chocolate is said to have more minerals than milk chocolate.
The total amount of polyphenols in cocoa can reach 12-18 percent of the dry weight of whole cocoa. One of the polyphenol compounds, namely flavanols, gives a bitter and bitter taste to cocoa products. These flavors are often disguised in chocolate by aggressive processing and other flavors. However, the concentration of polyphenols in cocoa has decreased during processing by up to 10 times.
3. Benefits of cocoa for the cardiovascular system
A series of beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system are possible after regular intake of foods and drinks containing cocoa.
Well, consumption of chocolate is known to improve endothelial function. The mechanisms that enhance endothelial function in humans are unknown. However, studies have found that the availability of NO after chocolate consumption is significant.
In a study by Kwok et al. In 2015 regarding the relationship between chocolate intake and the cardiovascular system, it was stated that high consumption of chocolate was significantly associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, and cardiovascular system death.
4. How much chocolate must be eaten to get its benefits?
The exact amount of cocoa that is recommended for inclusion in the diet for its health benefits is unclear.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends 0.1 ounce (2.5 grams) of highly flavanol cocoa powder or 0.4 ounce (10 grams) of high flavanol dark chocolate containing at least 200 mg of flavanols per liver to achieve heart health benefits.
Even so, these numbers are considered underestimated by other researchers, who claim higher amounts of flavanols are needed to see their benefits.
Overall, it’s important to choose a source of cocoa that is high in flavanol content – the less processed, the better.