Chocolates are made from cacao — a tree that is commonly cultivated today. The fruit is a celebrity in Mesoamerican cities — Mayans celebrate the deity that they believed to have given them the fruit every April and Aztecs once used this as a form of money and business.
What Is Cacao?
The Theobroma cacao is a small tree with a maximum height of 6 meters. This tree thrives in tropical climate, which is one reason why a majority of their numbers are found in South America. There are 20 countries known to cultivate cacao as a means of supplying chocolate-related business with raw materials for their concoctions.
There are three types of cacaos. Criollo cacaos are said to be of the highest quality and quite rare — equating only to 10% of today’s chocolates. The predominant group is the Forastero. Around 80% of the world’s chocolate is made from this type of cacao. A combination of both Criollo and Forastero is the Trinitario.
Cacao and Chocolates
The most common use of the cacao is to serve as primary ingredient for chocolates. Cacaos are harvested when ripe, dried, cleaned and roasted, removed from the shell, ground then liquefied to become a solution known as the chocolate liquor.
The liquor may then be used as ingredient for cocoa butter or cocoa bars which makes up a complete chocolate. Today’s chocolate includes a healthy portion of sugar as an added ingredient to the mix. White chocolate is made wholly out of cocoa butter.
Another variation of the chocolate mixture is the dark chocolate, which is not a popular choice of today’s younger generation. This chocolate is made from pure cocoa beans without any sugar or milk — commonly termed as unsweetened chocolate. This may either come in the form of cocoa powder or chocolate bars. Health experts all agree that dark chocolates retain most of its nutritional compounds even after processing.
Many believe that chocolates are healthy because of the nutritional value common in cacao beans. Well, this is more of a misunderstanding than truth. An average chocolate made with milk and sugar retains only 1% of the nutrients found in cacao beans. Dark chocolates made from pure cocoa contain around 70% of its beneficial compounds so if you’re looking for health benefits from chocolates then you might want to go for those of purer quality.
Cacao is practically one of the healthiest fruit today. There are over 300 compounds in a single cacao bean that is beneficial to the body. Some of them are even used by pharmaceutical companies to developed drugs to combat behavioral and emotional problems or as a stimulant for a more active body.
In most case, magnesium is the predominant compound found to be of most benefit to the human body — especially to Americans who are known to have low magnesium content in their bodies. Magnesium helps strengthen bone structure.
Also, it was found out that chocolates are addictive due to the presence of anandamide and phenylethylamine (PEA). The latter is known to cause an increase in heart rate and boost circulation that often leaves us alert and focused. The former is called chocolate amphetamine that is often used to treat patients that is suffering from depression.