In this infographic Plyvine Catering share 10 surprising health benefits of eating chocolate.

Here’s what makes their list:

  • It’s good for the heart and circulation
  • It reduces risk of stroke
  • It’s mineral rich
  • It reduces cholesterol
  • It’s good for your skin
  • It can help you lose weight
  • It’s good for mothers and babies
  • It may prevent diabetes
  • Chocolate is good for the brain
  • Chocolate makes you feel better

Check out the infographic for more detail.

You may have heard several weird and wonderful rumours about chocolate.

One of those could be that dark chocolate can, in some cases, provide surprising health benefits in each bite.

And we’re shocked when we hear things like this because, since our days in school, we’ve always been told that chocolate is bad for you: it contains far too much sugar, causes obesity, and ruins our teeth. And whilst obviously these issues do have credibility—there are clear correlations between excess sugar and health risks—chocolate still carries some benefits when enjoyed sensibly and as part of a healthy diet.

So, the question is: is dark chocolate healthy for us? As with most things, it’s not black and white and there isn’t a single yes or no answer.

However, that being said, let’s take a look at how dark chocolate can bring some guilt-free benefits.

Heart and circulation

The various compounds found in dark chocolate can actually provide good protection against the oxidation of LDL.

The compounds in dark chocolate appear to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL. The oxidation of LDL is believed to take place when LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol particles throughout your body react with the free radicals—unstable molecules formed as the natural result of metabolism, various diseases or toxins.

What this means for you and me who love a bit of dark chocolate, is that this could cause less cholesterol to block the arteries, helping reduce the risk of heart disease.

Stroke risk

Dark chocolate is said to lower the risk of stroke. Who’d’ve thunk it?

But just how? One study from Australia tells us all about it.

Researchers here took data on over 2,000 people who suffered from metabolic syndrome—a cluster of medical complications that includes high blood pressure and low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol—and did some maths to see how eating dark chocolate could affect the number of strokes and heart attacks these people would expect to have.

Based on these results, the researchers calculated for every 10,000 people with this metabolic syndrome who consumed 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day for 10 years, then 70 non-fatal cardiovascular events—strokes and heart attacks—could be prevented.

All about the minerals

We bet you thought that dark chocolate would be last on the list of foods that are rich in minerals.

But save your speculation for another day, because dark chocolate does contain rich minerals that are beneficial for the body.

Dark chocolate is abundant in minerals such as magnesium, zinc and iron.

And in fact, the cocoa in dark chocolate also consists of antioxidants called flavonoids, which are said to provide health benefits such as immune strength.

Your average commercial milk chocolate consists of coca butter, milk, sugar and small amounts of cacao.

But in comparison, dark chocolate contains far more levels of cacao and less sugar than its milk chocolate counterparts, helping it to take the lead in health benefits.

Good for your skin

Did you know cocoa is just one of many superfoods that bring a plethora of health benefits? And now that you know that dark chocolate contains more cocoa than white, we’re hoping you’re starting to tie it all together.

Switching your daily consumption of processed, fat-laden milk and white chocolate to high-quality types of dark chocolate can not only bring changes to your waistline but your skin!

From skin moisture to anti-sun-and-wrinkle benefits, dark chocolate (which contains around 70% coca) can do more than you think for beauty and skin.

Weight loss

According to the folks over at Weight Watchers, high-quality dark chocolate can provide a portion of the same health benefits of most green vegetables!

When enjoyed in sensible quantities, dark chocolate can help lower high blood pressure and improve poor circulation as well as arteriosclerosis—significant consequences of obesity.

Those flavonoids we talked about also help to reduce insulin resistance and prevent unexpected spikes in blood-sugar levels, helping you keep on top of overeating.

Mothers and babies

And just when you probably couldn’t be shocked even further, we have another surprise for you.

Dark chocolate has been said to bring benefits to both mum and baby during pregnancy.

The claim comes from scientists from Finland, who claim eating dark chocolate during pregnancy could make for livelier, happier babies.

The scientists conducted a survey of 300 women before and after they gave birth, and found that those who regularly ate dark chocolate ever day were more likely to say they had happy babies.

The report, which was published in the New Scientist magazine, say this could be down to the mood-changing compounds in dark chocolate.

Diabetes

An animal study published in the November 2017 issue of Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that the coca flavonol compounds found in dark chocolate that appear to strengthen particular cells’ ability to release insulin—the hormone which is responsible for managing blood glucose.

While these scientists are adamant that you would need to eat a lot of cocoa and hardly any sugar to get the benefits, other studies available are beginning to point to similar benefits that dark chocolate can have to those with diabetes.

Good for the brain

All these flavanols found in dark chocolate are pretty amazing, aren’t they?

But we’re not done with them yet, especially when it comes to brain function.

These flavanols that get absorbed by the body when you consume dark chocolate travel to the brain regions responsible for learning and memory function—especially the hippocampus, according to scientists.

All these amazing flavanols ramp up blood flow to the brain, promoting the creation of new neurons and strengthening the connections between pre-existing ones. These flavanols even protect neurons from extinction by free radicals.

Feel-good

We’re saving the best for last. It’s no surprise that chocolate—whether dark, white, or milk—makes us feel good.

But dark chocolate makes us feel especially good. But why?

Dark chocolate contains PEA (Phenylethylamine), the same chemical released when you’re in love!

How is chocolate made?

Like with most of our food that ends up on our plates, the chocolate story starts with a tree. A coca tree, to be exact.

On coca trees, cocoa pods hold cocoa beans in a wool-like pulp, and are harvested between the months of October and December.

These cocoa beans are then positioned in between banana leaves for around six or seven days until the pulp has drained away.

This method is more commonly known as ‘heap’.

Next, the cocoa beans are dried in the sun before being packaged up and sent to a factory for chocolate production.

At the chocolate factory, these sun-dried beans are heated along a continuous conveyor belt, the timing of which depending on each specific flavour required by the factory.

Once the beans have been roasted to the desired texture, they are later broken into smaller fragments and their shells removed.

The actual centre of the bean, called the nib, is left. These contain the all-essential cocoa butter for chocolate production.

With a processing mill, the nibs are further broken down into a thick chocolaty liquid known as cocoa liquor.

Hungry yet?

This cocoa liquor is basically the foundation of all chocolate products around the world. Whether coatings for ice cream or a hazelnut treat from a box of chocolates, chocolate liquor makes it all happen.

Chocolate liquor is then mixed with sugar and milk (for milk chocolate, or for any other type of chocolate required).

This sweet and chocolaty mixture is later dried through vacuum ovens, turning the mixture into a chocolate ‘crumb’, before being squashed by huge rollers.

This flattened chocolate is then grinded further to improve the overall chocolate consistency into a more silky texture, before again being smoothened through a procedure known as ‘conching’.

Conching is all about kneading the mixture. This takes place in huge tanks at around 45-48 degrees Celsius. The more luxurious the chocolate, the longer it is conched.

Onto the final process, called tempering. Tempering is what happens when this liquid is cooled and heated in a cycle until it reaches a more stable consistency.

After tempering has been completed, the chocolate liquid can then be poured into set moulds of varying shapes, cooled, and later wrapped.

For chocolates with particular fillings – such as orange or caramel – the insides of chocolate bars are enrobed by the liquid chocolate before later being cooled and wrapped to enjoy.

Where does chocolate come from?

Making great-tasting chocolate is all about the manufacturing process completed in factories. Thanks to these technical processes, we’re able to enjoy great-tasting chocolate.

Through years of fine-tuning chocolate production, chocolate factories are able to mass produce chocolate goodies the world over.

But it’s easy to forget the start of chocolate production – the cultivation process.

So, where exactly does chocolate come from?

Chocolate all starts with a tropical tree, called the Theobroma cacao – sometimes simply called the cacao tree (pronounced Ka-Cow)

In case you were wondering, Theobroma is actually Greek for food of the Gods!

You won’t find the cacao tree just anywhere around the world. The cacao tree is actually native to Central and South America, though it is grown commercially across the central and southern tropical regions.

Though chocolate is exported to pretty much anywhere around the world, around 70% of the global supply of cacao is grown throughout the African continent.

Each cacao tree can produce around two thousand cacao pods each year.

Why do we like chocolate so much?

Chocolate is one of life’s simplest delights. Whether you enjoy yours on-the-go, or prefer to tuck in while watching your favourite film – chocolate has been a sweet treat for generations.

But what is it about chocolate that draws us – and our taste buds – to it?

From basic food ingredients to functionality, here’s why we love it so much

When we eat chocolate – white, milk or dark – a chemical is produced in our brains. This chemical is called dopamine, and when it is released, we feel good. Scientists think this is the same chemical produced when we cuddle someone or when we are in love.

But it’s not just the taste of chocolate that lures us in. As any other amateur chef will tell you – chocolate is basically the all-in-one when it comes to cooking.

You can bake chocolate, cook it, warm it up and drink it, and have it as a sauce for your churros.

You can make fountains with it and decorate cookies and biscuits. You can pour it over your pancakes and make chocolate eggs with it.

The possibilities are endless to chocolate thanks to its innate taste, consistency, and capabilities.

Chocolate myth busters

It’s no secret that chocolate—ever since the Mayans and Aztecs at least—has been a crucial ritualistic ingredient in our lives. From ancient Mayan birthing ceremonies to 17th century beliefs that chocolate was both good for the body as well as the mind, to modern day love affairs—chocolate’s cult status is unwavering.

With such a reputation, however, always comes speculation. Here are the top myths about chocolate you need to read today:

It raises bad cholesterol

Chocolate does contain cocoa butter, which isn’t the best thing for your body. But much of its saturated fat derives from stearic acid, which actually doesn’t behave like saturated fat. Studies show that chocolate does not raise bad cholesterol as you might expect. For some, it can actually lower the levels.

Sugar in chocolate causes hyperactivity

It’s common knowledge that sugar can make kids go crazy. However, when it comes to sugar in chocolate, studies have shown limited links between sugar in chocolate and children’s behaviour.

Chocolate is addictive

According to the British Heart Foundation, there is limited to no evidence that chocolate causes physical addiction and dependency. On the contrary, our emotional attachments to chocolate influence our behaviour, as our brains associate it with reward and comfort.

Did You Know?

A farmer must wait four to five years for a cacao tree to produce its first beans. Talk about good things coming to those who wait!