Hi, My Name is ____________ and I’m a Chocoholic

Do you Love chocolate?  Could you live without it? Do you find your cravings for chocolate hard to resist?  Does chocolate rule your life?

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Technically chocolate has less potentially mood-altering substances than broccoli, but many jokingly refer to themselves as chocoholics.  What is it then about chocolate that makes it so addicting?  As I have been spending some time in a candy factory, I have had plenty of time to dwell on this.  I believe that first we must look at what chocolate is and how it’s made.

1. Cocoa, Chocolate, and Cacao

In order to make chocolate, cacao beans are fermented, roasted, and crushed.  They are then sent through a press that separates the cocoa butter from the cocoa powder.  Chocolate is then made by emulsifying the cocoa butter with varying quantities of the cocoa powder and sometimes milk and sugar.  The process of conching or rolling out the cocoa butter mix is what tends to give chocolate its smooth texture.

2. Dark, Milk, and White Chocolate

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Dark Chocolate refers to chocolate with a higher percentage of the cacao bean in it.  This tends to mean less sugar and no dairy.  In Europe, chocolate must have at least 35% cacao to be considered semi-sweet.

Milk Chocolate differs in that the cacao is combined with milk either in liquid, solid, or condensed form.  It was developed in the 1870s by Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter.

White chocolate is solely cocoa butter and milk.  Technically it is not really chocolate, even if it does take its origins from the cacao bean.

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3.  What’s in Cacao

The bad news is that chocolate tends to have a lot of sugar and fat, and particularly milk chocolate.  The good news is that the key ingredient cacao has some helpful properties.  Theobromine is a mild stimulant found in cacao.  It may cause the euphoric sensation that some experience when eating chocolate.  Cacao is also very high in antioxidant flavanoids, sulfur, and magnesium, which could possibly help reduce the risk of cancer and even lower levels of bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.  Again, this is all part of the current trend.  In my opinion, chocolate is good in limited amounts and as always buy organic, fair trade, and make sure to search the labels for sneaky additives.

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