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Chocolate, especially the dark variety, is not only delicious but is also healthy. Although it is difficult to make oneself eat small amounts, there are too many calories in a larger portion because of the saturated fat. Eating too much defeats the benefits that chocolate can give you. You can have 3 1/2 ounces of dark chocolate once a day (about half a candy bar) and look forward to that pleasure daily rather than have to give up chocolate altogether if you are on a diet.
Cocoa beans have been around for millions of years in the South American rain forests, and its botanical name means "food of the gods". The cacao tree was worshipped by the Aztecs and Mayans.
There are seven varieties of chocolate, but the ones we are most familiar with are:
1. Bitter (unsweetened) with no sugar added, is mostly used for baking.
2. Bittersweet (semi-sweet) contains more cocoa butter, some sugar, and about 50% "liquor" (from processed cacao beans).
3. Milk chocolate, the most consumed, only contains a small amount of cocoa and also has powdered or condensed milk.
4. White chocolate has the highest amount of sugar along with milk fats and solids. Since it contains little to no cocoa, it doesn't offer the minerals and vitamins of "real" chocolate.
Unsweetened cocoa powder has heart-healthy flavonoids, is sugar-free, low-fat, is very low in sodium and cholesterol, and is a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, zinc, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.
Many studies have shown that chocolate has antibacterial components that can help prevent tooth decay and cavities, as long as it is not in products with high amounts of sugar, and is a better choice than hard or sticky candies. There are also a number of antioxidants which aid your body in releasing the toxins caused by free radicals which can cause heart and other diseases. It also contains anti-inflammatories, minerals, and vitamins. Dark chocolate also lowers blood pressure.
It is surprising, but an ounce of chocolate only has the same amount of caffeine as a whole cup of decaffeinated coffee. Depending on where the beans are grown, the taste is different.