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The Lowdown on Chocolate

Note:  Sources are cited in boldface.

1.  U. S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA Consumer , July-August 1994, Candy: How Sweet It Is!, by Dodi Schultz

What makes milk chocolate different from dark chocolate? All chocolate (as well as cocoa) is derived from the seeds (beans) of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, native to the American tropics. The heart of the beans, called "nibs," are contained in foot-long pods and are additionally protected by individual outer shells. When finely ground, nibs become "chocolate liquor," consisting of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter, which are separable. Proportions of these constituents used in chocolate products can be important to the consumer (one chocolate form or variety may, for example, contain more fat than another), as well as to the manufacturer (one may be more or less costly than another). These proportions also affect flavor.

. . . .

Most popular, as examination of any candy counter will attest, is milk chocolate, with the semisweet, darker variety a distant second. Milk chocolate's main ingredients, besides the chocolate, are sugar, cocoa butter, and milk; all three may be present in greater quantity than chocolate itself. Semisweet chocolate has a relatively higher proportion of chocolate (a minimum 35 percent chocolate liquor is specified). Both may also contain such optional ingredients as emulsifiers (stabilizers) and flavorings.

. . . .

White chocolate, as defined by the permits, contains only the fat (cocoa butter), not the nonfat components (which also contain the color), from the ground cacao nibs; sugar, milk fats, and milk solids are also present in prescribed proportions.


2.  Excerpt from  National Institute of Health web site

9. Three Cheers for Chocolate.
Subfile: Weight Control
Format (FM): JOURNAL ARTICLE (24).
Language(s) (LG): English.
Year Published (YR): 1997.
Audience code (AC): GENERAL PUBLIC (300).
Author (AU): Jaret, P.
Source (SO): Health. 11(2):30,32,34; March 1997.
Abstract (AB): This article discusses recent research into the components of
chocolate. Studies have found that the fat in chocolate is stearic acid and
oleic acid, neither of which raises cholesterol levels. However, the author
says, most chocolate candy contains little cocoa butter, the source of the
"good" fats. In general, the darker the chocolate, the healthier it is. It is
also important to remember, though, that candy bars contain ingredients other
than chocolate, and chocolate itself is high in calories.

. . . .

Year Published (YR): 1996.
Audience code (AC): GENERAL PUBLIC (300).
Author (AU): Patty Neeley.
Source (SO): Prima Publishing, 1996.
Abstract (AB): Patty Neeley loves dessert and is unwilling to compromise on
taste. Her recipes use no substitutes and yet are low in fat. They include
custards, pies, tarts, cookies, and more, including lots of chocolate. Special
sections discuss baking tips and equipment; special hints are scattered
throughout the book. Nutritional data are included.

 3. Good News for Chocolate Lovers home, National Food Coop magazine, Nutrition

Good News for Chocolate Lovers
By Mary S. Choate, M.S., R.D.
We are a society of chocolate lovers. Americans consume, on average, 10 pounds of chocolate per year. We are not the biggest fans however. The British eat 16 pounds and the Swiss, who invented milk chocolate, consume the most at 22 pounds per person.   Smooth, dark, and so satisfying. Chocolate fits the bill perfectly. Too bad it's so bad for you. Isn't it?

A Dark Delight
Although milk chocolate contains some cholesterol-raising milkfat, this is not the case with the cocoa butter in dark chocolate. Unlike other saturated fats, which raise blood cholesterol levels, the saturated fat in cocoa butter is mainly stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on cholesterol levels. In fact, the majority (76%) of the fat in cocoa butter is made of heart healthy unsaturated fats or neutral fats. In addition, the cocoa butter is vegetable fat, so it has no cholesterol.

To add to the pleasure of this treat, a Dutch study reported recently that dark chocolate contains large amounts of beneficial flavonoids. Flavonoids are compounds commonly found in tea that may have protective effects against cancer and heart disease. A one-ounce piece of dark chocolate has about as much of these compounds as cup of brewed black tea. In fact, in a USDA study at Tufts University, researchers measuring the anti-oxidant power of foods found that cocoa powder beat green tea and blueberries!

Chocolate can boost your mood. But it's more likely to be because of how good it tastes, and not because of any compounds in the sweet itself. It contains small amounts of cannaboids (chemicals that are in the same family as marijuana) and stimulants like theobromine, phenylethylamine, and caffeine; but you would have to eat an enormous amount, about 27 pounds, to have a noticeable effect.

Watching your caffeine intake? An ounce of semi-sweet dark chocolate has only 20 milligrams on average, about the same amount as three ounces of brewed regular tea.

A Surefire Valentine Idea?
Some people may be dismayed to learn that chocolate is not an aphrodisiac. While there is no scientific evidence which supports the notion, who doesn't feel kindly towards the bearer of a box of chocolates?

Heartburn Sufferers, Beware
There are compounds in chocolate -the methylxanthines and fat - which can trigger heartburn. Chocolate can relax the opening between the stomach and the esophagus, allowing stomach acid to back up.

Choose Organic for a Rich Dark Chocolate Future
Chocolate is harvested from the cacao tree that's native to the tropics of South America, and is now cultivated in a zone around the equator including Brazil, the West Indies, Venezuela, West Africa, Malaysia, and even Hawaii. A cacao tree takes seven years to mature, then produces for about 20 years. Large plantation methods of growing include heavy doses of pesticides and fertilizers, and have resulted in losses of huge expanses of cacao trees from disease and pests. Small farms, which grow cacao under the shade of taller rain forest trees, are better able to grow the trees organically. They use fewer pesticides and produce trees better able to resist the spread of disease and pests.

How Does Chocolate Fit Into a Healthy Lifestyle?
A one and one-half ounce bar of dark chocolate contains about 210 calories, between four and six percent of the daily value for iron, one to two grams of fiber, and 14 to 17 grams of fat; only three to four grams are of the cholesterol-raising kind. For most people, a healthy range is
between 50 and 65 grams of total fat per day, and between 15 to 20 grams of saturated fat. A chocolate bar, as an occasional treat, can be part of a healthy eating plan. Enjoy!