Chocolate is as much recognized as a food for gourmets as it is appreciated by those who wish to make an energy reserve. Often pointed out for its richness in calories and fat, chocolate is also a food with a thousand and one virtues. It is full of antioxidants, it contains a type of fat with certain health benefits and it even contains several vitamins and minerals.
Characteristics of chocolate:
- Rich in fat;
- Rich in carbohydrates;
- Source of magnesium and potassium;
- Anti-stress role;
What is chocolate?
Chocolate identity card
- Type: Sweet product;
- Origin: South America and Africa;
- Season: All year round;
- Color: Black to white;
- Flavor: Sweet.
Characteristics of chocolate
The name “chocolate” is reserved for the product obtained by mixing sugar and cocoa paste, whether or not they have been partially or partially degreased, or not cocoa butter and in proportion such that 100g of product contains, subject to special provisions relating to milk chocolate and chocolate with hazelnuts, at least 35g of cocoa paste, containing at least 18g of cocoa butter .
Word from the nutritionist
Chocolate is a caloric food rich in lipids and sugar. It is a pleasure food. One serving corresponds to a 10g square.
For 100g of dark chocolate:
|Beta carotene||38 µg|
15 benefits of chocolate: why eat it?
- Cocoa is one of the foods richest in flavonoids, especially catechin and epicatechin, which gives it, according to several studies, a great antioxidant capacity. Flavonoids account for 10% of the components of cocoa powder. They are responsible for certain cardioprotective effects attributed to cocoa. It is important to note that depending on the amount of cocoa they contain, not all chocolates have the same amount of flavonoids. Cocoa powder tops the list for the highest flavonoid content, followed by dark chocolate. Milk chocolate has a lower concentration of flavonoids than dark chocolate. This difference would be the result of the dilution effect caused by the addition of dairy products. Moreover, the antioxidant power of flavonoids is probably greater in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate, since it has been shown that milk can inhibit the absorption of flavonoids in the intestine. White chocolate, on the other hand, does not contain flavonoids since it is made only from cocoa butter.
- In general, research indicates that the consumption of flavonoids in food and drink can decrease the risk of atherosclerosis, a process leading to the onset of cardiovascular disease. In addition, flavonoids would prevent the oxidation of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) as well as the aggregation of blood platelets, two other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Finally, certain types of flavonoids improve the elasticity (ability to expand and contract) of the wall of blood vessels, a critical point in the prevention of coronary heart disease. Several studies have evaluated the specific effect of cocoa and dark chocolate consumption on different markers of cardiovascular risk.
- The consumption over a short period of dark chocolate rich in flavonoids can improve the endothelial function of healthy adults. This improvement would be associated with an increase in the concentration of epicatechin (an antioxidant) in the plasma. However, in another study, the beneficial effect of consuming dark chocolate on the dilation of blood vessels and endothelial function was not related to an improvement in the antioxidant status in the blood. Note that a malfunction of the inner wall of blood vessels (endothelial dysfunction) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This dysfunction precedes the process of plaque formation in the arteries.
- A high concentration of platelet microparticles increases the risk of thrombosis. Several studies have shown that a good number of components of chocolate, particularly catechin and epicatechin, have an antiplatelet effect similar to that of aspirin. The scientific literature reports that the daily consumption of cocoa drink in healthy subjects decreases the formation of microparticles and platelet aggregation. In addition, cocoa may be associated with a reduction in platelet activity, which could lower the risk of clots.
- The researchers observed a decrease in blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) in hypertensive elderly people (untreated) who consumed 100 g of dark chocolate for more than 14 days, which was not observed with white chocolate. At the same time, an epidemiological study reports that higher cocoa consumption is linked to lower blood pressure. Therefore, a balanced diet with a higher consumption of dark chocolate would favorably influence blood pressure in hypertensive elderly patients who are not receiving treatment and in healthy adults. The flavonoids in cocoa are believed to greatly contribute to this reduction in blood pressure.
- The presence of oxidized LDL in the blood is an important factor in the onset of cardiovascular disease. Probably because of the antioxidant potential of flavonoids, cocoa powder and dark chocolate would prevent the oxidation of LDL. Several studies have also shown that dark chocolate, containing a large amount of flavonoids, could increase HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and lower LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol). These results demonstrate that the consumption of dark chocolate could play an important role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Some data show that dark chocolate, rich in flavonoids, improves the sensitivity of body cells to insulin, which is not observed with white chocolate. This effect could be explained by the flavonoids contained in dark chocolate. Note that poor sensitivity of cells to insulin, also called “insulin resistance”, can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Chocolate is a good source. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH. Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.
- Chocolate is an excellent source of magnesium for women and a good source for men, their needs being different. Magnesium participates in bone formation, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.
- Chocolate is an excellent source of iron. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also participates in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses).
- Chocolate is an excellent source of zinc. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. Zinc also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (production), the storage and the release of insulin.
- Chocolate is an excellent source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals.
- Chocolate is an excellent source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.
- Chocolate is a source of potassium. In the body, it is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus promoting digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses.
Choosing the right chocolate
Quality chocolate is smooth, shiny and snaps, while lower quality products are lumpy, covered with white powder and crumble rather than break openly.
Many other ingredients – milk solids, emulsifiers, preservatives – can be used in the composition of chocolate. As for chocolate confectionery, which often contains only a hint of cocoa, it is better to avoid them.
Certified organic chocolate contains only ingredients from organic farming or animal husbandry, including milk and sugar.
The different forms
Chocolate exists in various forms: powder, tablet, bar … It can be black, white or milk and contain oleaginous fruits, cereals or dried fruits for example.
It is recommended to avoid keeping chocolate in the refrigerator, because cold affects its flavor (except when it has been cooked, in which case it is better to refrigerate it). Keep it in its original packaging, in a cool place, away from light and moisture. Under these conditions, it can be kept for one year.
How to cook it? How to match it?
Baking chocolate is a delicate operation, which can be controlled by following the following rules.
- Cut the chocolate into coarse pieces and put them in the upper part of a double boiler or in a cul-de-poule. Avoid baking chocolate directly on the fire, as it is very sensitive to high temperatures.
- Place the cul-de-poule over a saucepan filled with simmering water, making sure that the bottom does not touch the water (it would get too hot).
- Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking and heat until the temperature on the candy thermometer indicates 40 ° C to 43 ° C. Remove the cul-de-poule from the heat, add a large piece of chocolate and stir to melt, until the thermometer reads 30 ° C to 33 ° C. Keep this temperature throughout the preparation, putting back on the heat if necessary.
- Even cold water mixed with chocolate can ruin it: avoid splashing and make sure that the utensils used to work the hot dough are dry. Even the fruits should be well dried before the soaking or coating operation. On the other hand, large amounts of water, milk or cream can be added to chocolate, provided that these liquids are at the same temperature as it.
The culinary possibilities are almost endless: mousses, creams, cakes, sauces, frosting, caramels, truffles, macaroons, pies, soufflés, charlottes, profiteroles, ice cream, etc. Rich and sweet, these preparations should only be on the menu for special occasions. A word of advice: when the recipes allow it, for example for the preparation of hot chocolate, reduce the amounts of sugar or eliminate this ingredient entirely. You quickly get used to bitter chocolate, which has a stimulating effect on the digestive system.
- At the water. Put 100 g of chocolate in pieces in a cup of warm water, and cook in a double boiler until smooth. Add three cups of hot water, bring to a gentle boil, then cook for 10 minutes over very low heat. Then beat with a whisk and serve very hot, sweetening to taste.
- With milk. It is best to first melt the chocolate in a little hot water before adding the warm milk. When the preparation is homogeneous, bring to a boil, whisk, then pour into a chocolate maker (high container with a pouring spout and a horizontal handle, used to serve hot chocolate) or, failing this, directly into the cups . If desired, flavor with cinnamon or vanilla. You can also add pieces of roasted almonds or peanuts.
First prepare a hot chocolate, let cool, pour into a tall glass filled with crushed ice, stir vigorously, add cold milk and beat vigorously until frothy. We can add a small glass of orange juice.
- Chocolate fondue: Melt the chocolate in milk and hot cream (about 400 ml of liquid for 400 g of chocolate) by adding a little cinnamon or a vanilla pod. Put the pan on a fondue stove. The guests will soak in this preparation strawberries and pieces of apricots, apples, bananas, peaches, kiwi, pineapple, melons, oranges or grapefruit, as well as almonds, walnuts or dried fruit. If you have surpluses, you can place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put them to harden in the refrigerator.
- Ganache: It is prepared with 200 g of semi-sweet chocolate and 125 ml of cream. Heat the cream and bring it to a boil. Remove from fire. Melt the chocolate as indicated above and add it to the cream, stirring continuously. If desired, flavor with vanilla or another essence of your choice (almond, tangerine, orange, etc.). Cool to allow the preparation to thicken. With the ganache, we will prepare truffles by forming dumplings which we will roll in dry cocoa. We can stuff them with nuts or dried fruit.
- Pasta sauce: Saute finely chopped garlic, celery and onion in olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned) and cook for about fifteen minutes. Just before serving, grate the chocolate (30 g to 50 g) and let it melt in the sauce.
- Mole Poblano: There are many recipes for this Mexican sauce that is usually served with turkey. Brown three or four types of peppers in olive oil (ancho, mulatto, chipotles and pasilla) with pumpkin or squash seeds, peanuts, flaked almonds and herbs (anise seeds, pepper from Jamaica, cloves, cinnamon sticks). Put everything in the blender with a little water, add red and green tomatoes, garlic and onion and mix again. Put on the heat, add vegetable or chicken broth and cook for about twenty minutes on low heat. Pass, return to the heat and add grated chocolate and a few drops of wine vinegar. To serve.
- Chocolate plums: Prepare a syrup with water, sugar (or honey) and red wine, which you will flavor with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, bay leaf and nutmeg. Add plums and simmer until tender. Add grated chocolate and put the preparation in a serving bowl. You can serve this warm sauce with a roast, or cold, for dessert, with a little whipped cream.
- Chocolate bananas: Brown half bananas in butter, place in a serving dish and cover with melted chocolate.
- Chocolate omelet: Beat eggs with a little cream, add the preparation to melted chocolate, pour into an oiled pan and cook over low heat for ten minutes.
- Fruit salads: Garnish with chocolate shavings or sprinkle with cocoa powder.
Chocolate is a food often implicated in the appearance of acne. Studies on the subject are few, date from several years and are mostly weak from a methodological point of view. They therefore do not, for the moment, establish a conclusive link between chocolate and acne. Despite everything, a recent study controlled with a placebo group demonstrated a positive correlation between the consumption of chocolate and the increase in acne lesions. Studies with a larger number of subjects are to be planned to clarify this relationship.
Several foods are responsible for migraines, the most common being chocolate. The presence in chocolate of vasoactive amines (for example adrenaline) linked to neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) would explain the appearance of headaches. These amines act by directly affecting the blood vessels or, indirectly, by causing the release of certain substances (epinephrine and norepinephrine). The most powerful headache trigger in chocolate is theobromine, a methylxanthine contained in cocoa and having a chemical structure similar to that of caffeine. In people who already suffer from headaches, chocolate would not increase the pain.
Acid reflux results from a malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter and causes pain in the thorax region (see our sheet Gastroesophageal reflux). Certain foods, including chocolate and cocoa, help open the lower esophageal sphincter, which causes stomach acid to rise. Methylxanthines, found in chocolate and cocoa, decrease the resting tension of the esophageal sphincter and cause reflux of gastric contents into the esophagus. People who suffer from acid reflux should therefore avoid these foods, especially after eating.
A peptic ulcer is an open lesion of the stomach lining. Consequently, this lesion is often accompanied by inflammation and destruction of this mucosa. People with peptic ulcer should eat chocolate and cocoa in moderation since they contain methylxanthines which can cause severe pain, especially if consumed on an empty stomach or just before bedtime.
Diets without oxalates
Oxalates are mainly found in products of plant origin. In order to prevent oxalo-calcic lithiasis (kidney stones made up of oxalates and calcium), it is recommended to avoid chocolate and cocoa since these have a high content of oxalates and increase oxaluria.
History of chocolate
The term “cocoa” dates from 1532. It comes from the Spanish cacap , borrowed from nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) cacauatl , and designates the seed (also called “bean”) of the fruit of the cocoa tree. By extension, it also designates the powder obtained from cocoa mass, as well as the drink prepared with this powder.
The term “chocolate” appeared in its current form in 1634. It comes from the Spanish chocolate which would have borrowed it from the nahuatl tchocoatl or from the maya chokola’j , verb which means “to drink together cocoa”. It designates cocoa mass or powder with added sugar, vanilla and other flavorings.
The cocoa tree probably comes from the upper Amazon. The species has given birth to two subgroups, the Criollo and the Forastero, for which there are many varieties. The first would have been brought to Central America where it would have been domesticated by the Mayans more than 2,000 years ago (or possibly by their predecessors, the Olmecs, 2,600 years ago), while the second would have rather spread to the south. Not very productive and fragile, the Criollo produces excellent quality cocoa which, however, represents only one percent of world production and which is used for the manufacture of high-end chocolates. More rustic and easier to grow, Forastero accounts for around 80% of the total supply. The rest of the production comes from hybrids obtained by crossing between these two sub-groups.
The Olmecs, the Mayans and, after them, the Aztecs revered the cocoa tree which they qualified as “food of the gods”, an expression which is reflected in the Latin name (borrowed from the Greek) Theobroma , which the botanist Linnaeus gave him later. They cultivated it in their gardens and drew from its seeds a drink which they seasoned with honey, hot pepper and other condiments. When they needed more solid food, they would add cornmeal to it.
Cabosse comes from “caboche”
The fruit of the cocoa tree is called “cabosse”, by allusion to its shape which vaguely recalls a head. This fruit measures 15 cm to 20 cm long and 10 cm to 15 cm wide, and contains 30 to 40 seeds, which are used to prepare cocoa.
The Spanish will hardly appreciate this bitter drink, but will be impressed by its alleged aphrodisiac properties and will modify the Amerindian recipe by replacing the spices with sugar. They will introduce cocoa in Europe where it will arouse the craze of the nobility and, later, of the big bourgeoisie, the people not having access to it because of its exorbitant price. To meet the growing demand, they will cultivate it in their colonies of Latin America while the English, the French and the Dutch will establish it in the Caribbean, and the Portuguese in West Africa. However, it was not until the beginning of the 19th century that the procedures for transforming it into a solid confectionery were developed. In other words, the chocolate bar we taste today is only around 200 years old.
Plant of hot and humid lands, the cocoa tree is mainly cultivated in the regions located between the two tropics, especially in West Africa and South America, as well as in Southeast Asia. With 43% of world production, Côte d’Ivoire is the most important producing country.
The transformation of the seeds into cocoa powder is a complex process which includes various stages: fermentation, drying, roasting, husking, degerming and grinding make it possible to obtain the cocoa mass. We then proceed to the extraction of a part of the fat (or cocoa butter), which represents 45% to 60% of the bean. This butter is used to make white chocolate, in addition to having many uses in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. The residual product, which is more or less fatty depending on the intensity of the extraction, is used directly for the preparation of various chocolate products, or is crushed and pulverized so as to obtain cocoa powder.
The flavor of chocolate varies according to the regions and types of soil where the cocoa tree grows. As with wine, there are great vintages, especially fine chocolates from Venezuela, Ecuador or Madagascar, which have an excellent reputation.
In addition to the seeds, which only account for 10% of the pod, juice is obtained from the pulp of the latter, which is offered as is or which is used in the manufacture of jams, jellies, liqueurs, wines and vinegar.
Fair trade chocolate
Almost always from organic farming (read the label to be sure), fair trade chocolate is an ethical alternative to the questionable commercial practices surrounding the supply of cocoa on the world market. In addition, the purchase of this chocolate ensures the subsistence of small producers and prevents the hiring, on large farms, of children who often work in conditions deemed unacceptable by many non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Traditionally, the cocoa tree was cultivated under forest cover, but since the 1970s, the trend has been towards field cultivation, which contributes to deforestation since it is necessary to deforest to plant orchards (for example, in 2000 , 14% of Côte d’Ivoire’s tropical forests had been deforested for cocoa production and, in Indonesia, 170,000 hectares of virgin forest will soon be devoted to it).
Conversely, a reforestation and recovery program for land degraded by intensive agriculture has been set up by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in cooperation with cocoa producers and various other stakeholders from Africa. ‘Where is. It is based on the concept of polyculture and storied culture. It is ultimately a question of reproducing in agriculture the type of ecosystem of natural forests. There is a diversity of plant species of different sizes: large trees, shrubs, climbing plants and low plants. Each category occupies a particular ecological niche and welcomes, moreover, a different fauna (birds, mammals). Among the large trees are native fruit trees, avocado trees, and a species of lumber. This permanent cover, all in height, provides the cocoa tree with the microclimatic conditions it will need throughout its existence. Upstairs just below, there are banana trees and a kind of legume. These plants, which are smaller than the large trees and which are temporary, protect the young cocoa plants during their first years against the violence of the wind and the heat of the sun. Finally, on the lower floor, there are cocoa trees. protect the young cocoa plants during their first years against the violence of the wind and the heat of the sun. Finally, on the lower floor, there are cocoa trees. protect the young cocoa plants during their first years against the violence of the wind and the heat of the sun. Finally, on the lower floor, there are cocoa trees.
This type of cultivation offers many ecological advantages: protection of the soil against erosion, water conservation, increase in the longevity of plantations, carbon sequestration (i.e. capture and storage of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases), reduced incidence of disease and insect infestations, including through the presence of birds, weed control and fertilizer (in the form of decomposing organic matter ). It also makes it possible to diversify production and producers’ incomes, which are therefore better protected against the vagaries of trade.