Just one bite of luscious dark chocolate can melt away any worries and send you to pure ecstasy-even if it’s for a moment! What’s not to like about that? And if that isn’t enough, it is beneficial to our health!
Chocolate is the most craved food in the United States. Americans consume about 11.7 lbs of chocolate per person annually. Swiss citizens consume the most – 22.4 lbs per person per year.
90% of the world’s cacao is grown by 5-6 million family farmers.
Worldwide production amounts to about 3 million tons. Organic cacao accounts for only a fraction of this. Purchasing organic chocolate will increase this important frontier of sustainability.
Cacao grows within 20 degrees of the equator, and does best when nurtured under the natural canopy of the rainforest. Africa produces 70% of the world’s crop, followed by Latin America and Southeast Asia.
There are three main varieties of cacao
Criollo – Highly prized & rare, thin light colored pods, wonderful aromas.
Forastero – More plentiful, thick pods, pungent flavor.
Trinitario – A cross of Criollo and Forestero, diverse range of characteristics, Good, aromatic flavor and easily grown.
Cacao pods grow out of the cacao tree’s stem and branches, from fragile flowers pollinated by rainforest insects. Cacao pods hold about 50 beans (really seeds). Around 200 beans make 1 pound of chocolate.
There are two main harvests per year, though some amount of cacao can be harvested year round.
Once harvested, the cacao bean and pulp are scooped from the pod and allowed to ferment for about 3-5 days. After this, the beans are dried, roasted, deshelled (winnowing) and ground into a fine paste called chocolate liquor. This is mixed with sweeteners and sometimes milk or other ingredients to make finished products. Click to learn more about types of chocolate, such as milk, dark and white.
Pests and disease destroy about 25% of the world’s cacao each year. Organic methods successfully combat these.
Chocolate and Your Health*
A recent study found that natural cacao powder – which we use in our products – has more antioxidants than alkalized or Dutched varieties.
Some cacao powder is processed with alkali to cut acidity and darken the color. This is called alkalized or Dutch process. We use only high-grade beans with exceptional full flavor, so we do not need to do this. Our cacao powder is “natural”/ non-Alkalized/Non-dutched. We also use natural process cacao in our hot chocolates, coffee beans and our bars. A recent study found that natural process cacao has higher antioxidant levels than alkalized/Dutched cacao. When baking, if you are using a recipe that calls for Dutch process cocoa powder, add 1/8 teaspoon baking soda for every 3 Tablespoons of Dagoba (natural) cacao powder.
· Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) measures total antioxidants. Chocolate has the highest ORAC levels per 100 grams (US Dept of Ag/American Chem Society).
Dark chocolate – 13,120
Milk chocolate – 6,740
· Antioxidant flavanols may help repair damage to smokers’ blood vessels, at least temporarily, according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
·Cacao has been associated with decreased diabetes & blood pressure (American Heart Association)
· Cacao is rich in B1, B2 and D vitamins, and magnesium and iron.
· Cacao is associated with improved vasodilation, helping increase stamina during exercise. (Athens Medical School)
· Cacao is cholesterol free. Its phenolic properties may also block oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
· Chocolate is associated with euphoria and reduced depression – due to phenylthylamine.
· Serotonin, a well-studied neurotransmitter, is thought to instill calm and relaxed feelings. Chocolate is associated with increased serotonin levels, a factor that is believed to explain chocolate cravings.
· Some researchers believe that serotonin is related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), explaining premenstrual chocolate cravings.
· Stearic acid, chocolate’s predominant saturated fat, has neutral effects on blood cholesterol.
· The European Board of Health lists chocolate as a pre-digestive aid.
What about caffeine?
· Rest easy – 1.4 oz of chocolate has only as much caffeine as a cup of decaf coffee.
What about allergies?
Jeremy Drelich, MD assessed a group of 20 individuals who reported allergic reactions after chocolate consumption. After a week without eating chocolate each individual received skin prick and blood tests for allergies to chocolate and component ingredients (milk, soy,almonds, peanuts, vanilla), and consumed unlabeled cacao and non-cacao samples. Sugar allergies were assessed by giving half the participants unsweetened chocolate and half chocolate made with cane juice. None showed definite evidence of a chocolate allergy, though some tested positive for non-cacao ingredients. By choosing organic products made without additives or fillers – such as organic dark chocolate made without refined sugar – you’ll may find yourself happily reunited with chocolate.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.
Dagobachocolate.com is gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free, soy free, vegan, organic and kosher! Other sources include: www.enjoylifefoods.com and www.sunspire.com chocolate/chocolate chips are also diary free, gluten free, soy free, allergen free, grain sweetened and organic.
Information taken from www.dagobachocolate.com