Chocolate. Some people just can't get enough! But while nutritionists warn the sugar in chocolate is bad for us....doctors point to the beneficial qualities of its antioxidants. Raw, organic chocolate may contain the right balance.
The biggest benefit from eating cocoa and dark chocolate may be lowered blood pressure, thanks to the almost decadent feeling of cocoa butter melting in your mouth.
That mood may also contribute to chocolate's anti-depressant qualities.
“It contains phenethylamines, which is a neurotransmitter which is found in the brain and actually acts as a mood elevator," said dietician Kim Hoffman. "It also enhances the blood endorphins, which are the happy opiates, and they are basically around when you are on a high.”
Not all chocolate is equal when it comes to those beneficial chemicals. Some researchers say the high heat required to process commercial chocolate - up to 130 degrees centigrade - can actually lower their effectiveness.
At Honest Chocolate, in Cape Town, South Africa, artisan chocolatier Anthony Grid keeps the temperature of his raw chocolate below 42 degrees.
“There's a movement for minimal cooking or minimal heating of food, just to retain the natural antioxidants or whatever, the minerals or whatever it may be. So cocoa is part of that - you can do it raw, with a very good quality bean,” he said.
In order to reduce cocoa’s natural bitterness, manufacturers of chocolate products remove polyphenols, antioxidants that create the bitter taste, and add sugar.
Food science writer Leonie Joubert notes that sugar is connected to weight-related illnesses, and that chocolate isn't something that should be eaten every day.
“The problem is overexposure to sugar over a long period of time - it causes this repeated inflammatory response in the body, which now is linked to heart disease. Obviously it's linked to obesity and weight problems and the associated diseases,” Joubert explained.
The confections at Honest Chocolate are made with agave nectar, rather than cane sugar, and have a very high percentage of cacao... something customer Jessica Bonin appreciates.
“What I find quite remarkable about their chocolate is that you are not overwhelmed by the sugar so you actually get to taste the chocolate itself, which is really so luxurious and quite decadent,” she said.
Like many other chocolate connoisseurs, Bonin satisfies her craving with just one small piece of really good chocolate.