Healthy Chocolate: Some Brand-new, Old Information

picture from movie "chocolate"By Newsbyrd Staff-

For decades medical science has understood the importance of diet and exercise as the two main ingredients for good health and longevity. The general public has also long understood this concept. But as is it with a lot of seemingly simple solutions, there does require some effort!

But here’s a no-brainer for those who love sweets: Eat dark chocolate… not milk chocolate, not white chocolate, but only dark chocolate.

This pleasant discover was made nearly 10 years ago and posted in the August 27 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

‘So what’s the new news,’ you may be asking?

Newsbyrd did an informal, mini-survey in front of the local Walgreens of 42 people to find out if they were aware of this 9-year old piece of information.  We targeted equal numbers of male and female with the apparent age of between 30 and 50 years old.  Here’s what we found out:

All but two people were aware that chocolate had some health benefits, but only 11 knew (or could remember), that the lowering of blood pressure was the specific benefit. And, only two of those eleven identified dark chocolate as the variety that did the job.  One of those two, went on to explain in detail the specifics covered in this article. Turns out she worked as a dietician.

Yes, it is dark chocolate – not milk chocolate or white chocolate – that lowers high blood pressure, say Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD at the University of Cologne, Germany.

But that shouldn’t give anyone license to go on a chocolate binge. Eating more dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure — if you’ve reached a certain age and have mild high blood pressure, say the researchers. But you have to balance the extra calories by eating less of other things, according to the JAMA article.

Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate — but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk — is a potent antioxidant, reports  Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.

“Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate … and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate.”

Better Eat it Now

Imagine a world with chocolate prices so high that not everyone could afford to indulge.  Not a bright future.

Though the world’s demand for chocolate almost exceeds the ability of worn-out plants to produce it, experts say it’s not time to panic yet.  But something needs to be done.

“An improvement needs to be made to extend this supply chain,” Robert Peck, senior director of operations for the World Cocoa Foundation, told “We have to start thinking, where is that increase in supply going to happen and how are we are going to get it?”

The demand for chocolate increases by about 2.5 to 3 percent each year, which means about four million more tons of cocoa are needed every year.

Experts predict that by 2020, the demand for chocolate will increase by 25 percent. That’s about five million metric tons of chocolate.

“Cocoa has been almost completely static,” said Andrew Pederson, global chocolate manager for Mars, Inc., the makers of M&Ms, Milky Way bars, Snickers and other confections.  “The crops don’t perform well. They’re aging pretty badly. Farmers don’t have a lot of tools and training.”

Existing cocoa plants, mostly in tropical countries, are old and worn out, and it is difficult to find space to plant more. Expansion of cropland could mean deforestation.

“Cocoa is a crop that is fragile. Cocoa is a crop that is very picky where it likes to grow,” Peck said. “It needs tropical, humid conditions with rich soil. There’s not a lot of land availability with those conditions around the world.”

Chocolate Manufacturing and Cocoa Processing

Before cocoa can be made into chocolate, it goes through several steps of processing. Cocoa processing includes converting the beans into nibs, liquor, butter, cake and powder. Chocolate manufacturing includes the blending and refining of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and various ingredients, such as milk and sugar.

First, the beans are inspected and thoroughly cleaned of any debris that may have fallen into the sacks, such as sticks, stones, or broken beans. Once the beans are cleaned, the processor has the option of roasting them before or after the shell is removed.

The inside of the cocoa bean is called the nib. Generally speaking, chocolate manufacturers prefer to roast the beans before shelling them, while cocoa processors favor the nib-roasting process.

Roasting, Shelling, and Grinding

Roasting the whole bean allows for more variety in the degree of roast and development of flavor, but requires beans of a uniform size, while nib roasting is more even and does not require uniform bean size. Roasting the nib directly also prevents migration of cocoa butter from the bean into the shell, which is discarded.

Once the beans have been shelled and roasted (or roasted and shelled, as the case may be), the nib is ground into a paste. The heat generated by this process causes the cocoa butter in the nib to melt, earning it the name “cocoa liquor.” The paste, further refined, may be sold as unsweetened baking chocolate.

All cocoa products start with cocoa liquor, although the liquor required in the manufacture of chocolate has a different texture from the liquor required to make cocoa butter, cake and powder. Chocolate liquor destined for processing into cocoa butter and cake is refined to a very small particle size, while chocolate liquor for chocolate production need not be as finely ground.

Cocoa Butter and Cocoa Cakes

The liquor is then fed into hydraulic presses that remove a certain percentage of the cocoa butter, leaving behind a cake containing from 6 to 24 percent of the cocoa’s initial butter. The extracted butter can be kept either in liquid or moulded form.

The cocoa cake is either broken into smaller pieces (kibbled) and sold into the generic cocoa cake market, or ground into a fine powder.

Dutch Process

The cocoa processor has the option of treating the nib or the liquor with an alkali solution (alkalizing), which reduces the acidity by increasing the normal pH factor from about 5.0 up to 8.0. This treatment is also known as “dutching”, honoring the homeland of its inventor, C. J. Van Houten, who also developed the cocoa butter pressing method.

Alkalizing cocoa nib or cocoa liquor renders the powder darker; gives it a milder, but more chocolaty flavor, and allows it to stay in suspension longer in liquids such as milk.

Cocoa butter extracted from alkalized liquor is more pungent, with a less desirable odor and flavor, and must be deodorized and refined. It is then carefully blended with other cocoa butters, so that the final butter for sale has a consistent flavor, color and viscosity.

Chocolate Manufacturing

To manufacture chocolate, cocoa liquor is mixed with cocoa butter and sugar.

For milk chocolate, producers can add fresh, sweetened condensed or powdered milk, depending on the desired taste.

In the crumb or flake process, liquor is blended with sugar and pre-condensed milk, or sweetened condensed milk. It is then dried on heated rollers to produce the flavor more typical of European chocolate or mixed with slightly acidified milk to produce the flavor customary in the United States.

After the mixing process, the blend is further refined to reduce the size of the milk and sugar particles. The mixture is then placed into conches—large agitators that stir the mixture under heat. Normally, cocoa butter is added to the mix at this stage, although some manufacturers add it during the original blending process.

“Conching” further smoothes the mixture. As a rule, the longer chocolate is conched, the smoother it will be. The process may last for a few hours to three full days, or even longer.

After conching, the liquid chocolate may be shipped in tanks or tempered and poured into molds for sale in blocks to confectioners, dairies, or bakers. It may also be converted into proprietary bars for sale direct to the consumer market. (Production information provided by World Cocoa Foundation)



Posted by at April 1, 2012
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