Everyone (or almost) loves it, few know its incredible properties : it is chocolate , a real king of sweets. But, in recent years, it has also been rediscovered in the salty environment . A food that will allow you to do the full benefits for your corp or and your mind here is what are its properties and best uses in the kitchen.
Chocolate: what it is
Food that comes from the seeds of the cocoa tree ( Theobroma cacao L. ): It is prepared from cocoa butter , the fatty part of cocoa beans. To this is added cocoa bean powder , sugar and other optional ingredients, such as milk, almonds, hazelnuts or other flavors.
In fact, the Mayans called it kakaw uhanal , or “food of the gods”: already aware of its properties , they reserved its consumption only to some classes of the population, such as royal families and warriors.
Long demonized , because considered the cause of pimples, oily skin, intestinal problems, weight gain and cellulite, It has been rehabilitated by nutritionists and doctors in recent years . In fact, it would seem to have preventive qualities against many diseases , from depression to cardiovascular disorders.
Chocolate is rich in benefits for your body : it provides vitamins, minerals and many antioxidants . Among the various types, it is the dark chocolate that counts the most nutrients: here are its main nutritional properties.
Milk or dark? The differences in calories, fats and antioxidants
Milk and dark chocolates are different for several factors : first the calories , which vary according to the type you choose:
bitter cocoa powder : 355 calories per 100 grams
gianduia : 509 calories per 100 grams
hazelnut and cocoa cream : 537 calories per 100 grams
milk : 565 calories per 100 grams
55/60% dark chocolate : 542 calories per 100 grams
70% dark : 560 calories per 100 grams
85% dark : 575 calories per 100 grams
The milk type has less calories than the 85% dark type, even if all types have a more or less equal caloric intake. This could make you think that one is worth the other or that the milk one is better than the dark one, because it is less caloric.
Instead, you must always remember that there is a substantial difference in the substances that determine the calorie intake : in fact, in the dark, a good part of the calories is given by the good fats . Instead, in the milk one , a large part of the caloric intake is given by carbohydrates , in particular sugars .
So the dark calories are considered “better” than those of milk one.
Another important difference concerns the level of antioxidants contained in the two types . The dark one,in fact, has a much higher quantity of polyphenols, in particular flavonoids, compared to the milk type : it is easy to understand it also from the bitter notes typical of the dark chocolate (the polyphenol content is always associated with a bitter and astringent taste). There are many studies that show how fondant can be considered almost a “food drug” : this is precisely thanks to flavonoids, which have a key role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
It is a food that performs many beneficial functions, which you cannot absolutely deprive yourself of.
- Antioxidant. Among the main beneficial substances of chocolate, especially in the dark version , there are antioxidants . Very important polyphenolic compounds , because they are able to prevent cellular aging processes by counteracting the action of free radicals.
- Helps keep the heart healthy . Chocolate performs a regulatory function on the cardiovascular system : it helps to reduce the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, improves circulation , prevents the risk of heart diseases . A 2003 study promoted by the National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition (Inran) in Rome claims that it is also good for the heart: but only bitter one . In fact, the results revealed that dark one increases the concentration of antioxidants in the blood by 20%.
- Natural antidepressant. Chocolate stimulates both anadamide , a neuro-regulator that transmits a “feeling of bliss”, and serotonin , a neurotransmitter that regulates a good mood. It goes without saying that it is an excellent ally to ward off depression.Furthermore, thanks to theobromine and the caffeine it contains, it is also a stimulating food.
- Thanks to the important mineral salts it contains – such as iron, magnesium, copper and potassium – it is also considered a remineralizing food.
- Although containing dark saturated fats , the dark one does not contain cholesterol. The vegetable fats contained in it, in fact, are transformed into unsaturated fats by our body very quickly. In milk chocolate, on the other hand, there is a greater percentage of potentially harmful fats.
Dark chocolate and diet
For years now chocolate has no longer been considered a “simple dessert”: those who follow a particular diet, must not necessarily give it up. In particular, it is good to choose the dark one , because it is richer in nutritional properties and with a better intake of calories and fats.
On the contrary, this type of bitter one would seem to actually promote weight loss , increasing your body’s ability to burn fat. According to a study published by the University of Detroit , cocoa would cause weight loss as much as training.
According to the data, the intake of the flux triggers, on a cellular level, an activity similar to that of physical effort . The researchers focused in particular on mitochondria : a sort of small cell power plant capable of generating energy. These are stimulated by epicatechin , a component of chocolate, creating a muscular reaction similar to that which is created when doing intense physical activity.
Of course this does not mean that it can be considered a substitute for physical activity. And, unfortunately, the high calorie content makes it impossible to eat all the chocolate you want: for those on a diet , the maximum daily quantity is 2-3 squares , better if eaten as a snack, for breakfast, and not after eating.
Instead, athletes can indulge in more because they burn so many calories during physical activity, also benefiting from the action of magnesium against muscle cramps.
Chocolate and pregnancy
Chocolate would be particularly useful in pregnancy: according to a study by the Université Laval Québec City (Canada), this food would be able to encourage regular development of the fetus.
Then, the researchers monitored 129 women at risk of preeclampsia , a complication of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, and asked them to consume 30 grams of various types and qualities of chocolate per day for 12 weeks.
The data from the study indicate that this food would improve the flow of maternal blood to the fetus and, therefore, could have a positive impact on the growth and development of the placenta and fetus . This is an interesting starting point, which however requires further investigations and insights.
Therefore, moderate consumption during pregnancy is not, however, generally contraindicated.
But, the recommendation is to prefer dark chocolate and eat it without excess , following the food indications of your gynecologist, especially in case of overweight.
How to buy and taste chocolate
The chocolate is savored not only the palate, but also with the other senses will also provide these parameters to evaluate its quality.
For example, the view , for example, is essential: to understand how good a tablet is, just look at it well. In fact, the upper part must be shiny and homogeneous, while the lower part must be uniform and smooth. No part of the chocolate should have bubbles, streaks or spots.
Even the ‘ sense of smell plays a key role in the choice: beyond the various flavoring, smell a bit’ Bitten dark chocolate is synonymous with quality.
Pay attention to the temperature you keep it at: above 23-24 degrees the chocolate starts to suffer , in particular the milk chocolate and the gianduia. To keep it as long as possible, you need to put it in a dry place, protected from temperature changes and possibly in the dark.
For the properties described, it is important that anxious individuals make limited use of them . Because of ‘ vasodilator effect, those who suffer from migraines should avoid it.
Finally, chocolate stimulates the gastro-intestinal system: it is therefore not suitable even in the case of gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome . Finally, given the presence of sugars, it is not a food suitable for diabetics.
Alternative uses: beauty masks with chocolate
It is used to do many different things : among these also beauty masks, which will help you improve skin and hair.
Thanks to antioxidants , chocolate contributes to the health of the skin, helping it to stay young . To prepare a chocolate face mask , melt two dark chocolate cubes in a bain-marie: add a spoonful of honey, mix and leave to cool.
Apply the chocolate mask on the face and leave for 15-20 minutes. Then rinse well with warm water and put on a moisturizer.
The fondant helps improve the circulation of the scalp and makes the hair brighter.
Furthermore, thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect , it removes skin infections .
To make a compress , just add small quantities of chocolate or cocoa to the hair wraps and apply everything before shampooing, keeping the mixture on your head for about ten minutes.
For the freshness of the feet and the health of their skin, you can take a foot bath by mixing half a glass of coarse salt, a spoonful of grated chocolate and half a spoonful of bitter cocoa.
Chocolate in the kitchen
Chocolate is, of course, one of the absolute protagonists of pastry making: cakes, creams, puddings, semifreddo, tarts. The most famous of the cakes is certainly the sacher torte : two layers of cocoa sponge cake with a layer of jam in the middle, all covered with tempered chocolate.
But it is also used in savory dishes , and not only in recent years: the famous roast with chocolate sauce testifies to this. Even gourmet restaurants use chocolate – mostly cocoa – to create interesting contrasts.
Among the savory recipes, the most common is certainly that of chocolate tagliatelle : but with chocolate you can also make risotto, stuffed pasta, braised meat and lobsters.