Chocolates, resistance is futile!

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

I don’t know about you, but have been a chocoholic all my life and it seems that I’ll be till the very last. My passion for chocolates became apparent during my master’s dissertation in which I made low calorie dark chocolate bars using chia seed mucilage as fat replacer. I am sure you must be curious about this delicious treat at some point of your life so let me simplify it for you.

Common types of chocolates:

The 3 most common types of chocolates can be distinguished easily by colour and flavours.

Dark chocolates: Deep brown in colour, this is the purest form of chocolate you can get as it has to contain cocoa content upwards of 50% along with sugar an emulsifier called lecithin which is used to help ingredients to blend together properly (more about food additives here). Flavour is bittersweet while mouthfeel is firm.

Milk chocolates: observably less dark brown in colour due lower percentage of cocoa solids. Although there are numerous varieties of milk chocolates available, a typical milk chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa solids, 25% milk solids while sugar content is higher than 50%, these ingredients are mixed along with Lecithin. Flavor is sweet with a creamy mouthfeel.

White chocolates: Least dark in shade and is actually cream or ivory in colour. It contains no less than 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids and 55% sugar along with vanilla and lecithin. Flavor is dominantly sweet, even sweeter than milk chocolates (a bit too sweet for me) while the mouthfeel is rich, soft and creamy.

How is it made?

Chocolate making is a complicated process mainly due to its abundant varieties therefore I will describe to you a very simple and brief process just to help you get a basic understanding.

  1. Harvesting, fermentation and drying: Cocoa trees produce pods which are plucked manually and broken to recover cocoa beans and pulp surrounding it. These beans and pulp are then fermented to produce flavors in the beans. This is done by natural yeast which produces alcohol which is then further converted to lactic acid and acetic acid. Once the fermentation is complete, the moist beans are dried to about 7% moisture followed by grading, packing and transportation.

  2. Cleaning and roasting: After being received in a factory, the beans are cleaned and roasted for about 30 minutes to further develop flavor.

  3. Cracking and grinding: The roasted beans are “cracked” by passing through mechanical cones after which the shell of beans is separated from rest of kernel by winnowing (blowing air) and what is left is called cocoa nibs.

  4. Grinding: The nibs are now grinded to fine particles. Due to high temperatures, cocoa butter is liquefied and the mixture is now called cocoa liquor. Once the liquor is obtained other ingredients are added such as milk solid, sugar, lecithin and flavorings like vanilla.

  5. Conching: The mixture is then further kneaded in a conching machine which helps in texture and flavor development of chocolate. This process usually takes days and is a very important step in defining the quality of chocolate.

  6. Tampering: Once the mixture is properly conched, the chocolate is “tampered” which takes chocolate through a temperature curve, a process which aligns the chocolate’s crystals to make it smooth, silky, and glossy. Finally the chocolate is given its desired shape (bars or truffles) and packed.

Health benefits of chocolates.

By “chocolates” I don’t mean that sugar loaded bar of milk or white chocolate but instead a bar of atleast 70% cocoa compounds which has been proven to be rich in antioxidants, healthy fats and trace minerals essential for our bodies. But a 100 gm bar also has about 600 calories so keep in mind that moderation is key.

  1. Rich nutrition profile: Dark chocolate is rich in Manganese, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Phosphorous and Zinc. Majorly fats are saturated and monounsaturated while polyunsaturated fat levels are fairly low.

  2. Antioxidant powerhouse: Dark chocolates contain high levels of polyphenols, flavanols and catechins which impart the chocolate with a great oxygen radical absorbance capacity, In simpler words, dark chocolate is a better antioxidant superfood than majority of fruits including berries.

  3. Blood pressure regulation: multiple studies have shown positive correlation of dark chocolate consumption with blood pressure as the flavanols present in the chocolate stimulates Nitric Oxide which further signals relaxation of arteries.

  4. Cholesterol and insulin regulation: the antioxidants in dark chocolates have been proven to reduce oxidized LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol) while simultaneously reducing insulin resistance in blood streams. Hence, consumption of dark chocolates may be good for one’s cardiovascular health.

  5. Sun protection: Dark chocolate’s great flavanol profile has been proven to improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration while simultaneously resisting damage caused by UVB sun rays.

  6. Enhanced brain function: Stimulants like caffeine and theobromine present in dark chocolates have been proven to improve cognitive (brain) function and mitigate risk factors for several mental diseases. The flavanols also improve blood flow to the brain thus improving alertness and mindfulness.

The takeaway box

In conclusion, dark chocolates pose multiple health benefits and are definitely on my top 5 superfood list (although, I may be biased due to my fondness to chocolates). But keep in mind that dark chocolates are rich in calories and some sugars so have a cube or two in a day after meals and select chocolates containing at least 70-85 % cocoa.

References and further reading:

Afoakwa, Emmanuel Ohene. Chocolate science and technology. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Ecole chocolate 2020, Lesson- How Chocolate is Made, viewed 12 July 2020,< >

Katz, David L., Kim Doughty, and Ather Ali. "Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease." Antioxidants & redox signaling 15.10 (2011): 2779-2811

Messerli FH. Chocolate consumption, cognitive function, and Nobel laureates. N Engl J Med. 2012;367(16):1562-1564. doi:10.1056/NEJMon1211064.

Poli, Andrea, Ario Conti, and Francesco Visioli. Chocolate and health. Ed. Rodolfo Paoletti. Milan, Italy:: Springer, 2012.