Did you ever wonder where chocolate comes from? I’m sharing the story – from cocoa tree to sweet treat, and some tips to for it into a healthy meal plan.
I love Chocolate. That’s why I was thrilled to learn first-hand where this sweet treat comes from during the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference.
It all starts with the cocoa tree. Don’t you wish you had one of these growing in your back yard?
The cocoa pod (fruit) hang from the tree and hold the cocoa seeds. These seeds are the heart of all things chocolate. I had the opportunity to remove one of the seeds, but I was warned not to taste it.
How Chocolate Is Made?
To make chocolate, the seeds are removed, fermented, roasted and ground, and then pressed into cocoa powder and cocoa butter. From there, they are made into any number of different varieties – from milk and dark varieties to white. The finished product is delicious, but there’s some health benefits to enjoying this sweet treat, too.
The Health And Nutritional Benefits of Dark Chocolate
When talking health benefits, research has shown that dark chocolate, but not the milk or white varieties, may help manage blood pressure and provide other cardiovascular health benefits. Dark chocolate is also a good source of antioxidants.
The focus on dark varieties is due to its higher percentage of cocoa solids. It’s those solids that deliver more flavanol antioxidants. While other types contains cocoa solids, the addition of sweeteners, cocoa butter and liquor, milk (or cream), and flavors dilute the percentage, therefore leaving it less healthful as compared to dark.
Tips To Enjoy Chocolate In Moderation
Like most things, more is not better. That goes for dark varieties, too. To enjoy the health benefits of dark chocolate or the yummy taste of milk chocolate, while still staying calorie controlled, be sure to incorporate these healthful tips:
Keep the Portion Size To One Ounce
Limit your portion size to no more than an ounce. When you keep the portion size in check, you get the health benefits without tons of added calories, fat and sugar. That should be more than enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. Read more about that in my post about dark chocolate and your health.
Savor the Flavor
If it’s the creamy milk variety that you crave, enjoy a small piece of the real thing. While milk chocolate doesn’t deliver the same benefits of the dark varieties, it’s ok to incorporate a small piece into your healthy lifestyle plan. Just be sure to savor the taste and enjoy it!
Combine It With Nutrient-Rich Foods
If you ask me, chocolate makes everything better. Try drizzling some over other healthy foods – such as strawberries, blueberries, seeds and nuts.
Do you have a favorite way to enjoy this sweet treat? Share in the comments below or on social media with the hashtag #HeatherMangieriNutrition.