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Dark Secrets: The Truth about Dark Chocolate

12 Apr , 2015  

To tell the truth, when we were children growing up in newly independent India, the only chocolates we knew of were Cadbury’s chocolate eclairs and Five Star. Everything else came later. We had to depend upon “phoren”-returned relatives or friends for Mars or Snickers or Milk Chocolate. It came to be called Dairy Milk much, much later. In our naivete, we called all sweets chocolates, including Nutrine, Poppins, rosemint and peppermint and other locally manufactured sweets, such as sugar-coated cumin seeds, jujubes, and even the coloured hard-boiled ones. It was Enid Blyton who taught us the difference between our kind of sweets and real chocolate. And it took even longer for us to realise that there was such a thing as dark chocolate, and that it was good for us.

Dark Chocolate. Some love it, some love to hate it. But love or hate, you just cannot ignore the solid medical evidence that goes in support of dark chocolate as a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and anti-carcinogenic properties, to name only a few. Read on to find out why you should be saying no to Silk, Milka, Crackle and their like and yes to anything that has more than 70% cocoa———-

Dark chocolate is rich in phenylethylamine, (PEA) the same chemical that is released in your body when you fall in love. It contains serotonin, a known anti-depressant. It releases endorphins which make you feel happier, so that you generally float around and feel all balmy and good about yourself. Another reason for this is a rather more prosaic one. It’s connected to your gut. You know what people say about a gut feeling? Well, it may be truer than you think, not imaginary. Recent scientific findings suggest that the good microbes present in the gut gobble up the chocolate, ( so it’s not really you that’s greedy) and instead release anti-inflammatory compounds that give you a healthy feeling. The bad microbes, on the other hand, release chemicals that give you a bloated and sluggish feeling. The “good ” feeling in the gut may prompt you to make informed and well-thought out decisions, the bad feeling may goad you into making mistakes. So the next time you’re guilty of an error in judgement, blame your gut.
We wouldn’t be surprised if our cardiologist or our diabetologist told us to take dark chocolate, because it’s been found to lower blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. But our dentist??!! Too used are we to those torture sessions in the dentist’s chair, when he waves an admonitory instrument and blames the rotten condition of our teeth on the chocolates we mindlessly consume, tapping on the offending tooth for better effect. Not anymore. Dark chocolate also contains theobromine, which has actually been found to harden tooth enamel.

Now the smart ones may ask why milk chocolate and other categories of chocolate don’t have the same effect as dark, since they all obviously contain cocoa, and it’s cocoa that’s causing all these good things to happen. That’s because the nougat, caramel and extra sugars present in these chocolates far outweigh the benefits they deliver to your body. Also, Dr Mercola, the renowned doctor-author-nutritionist, suggests that washing down chocolate with a glass of milk is downright bad because it prevents the antioxidants in chocolate from taking effect.
Further, he advises that, for greater effect, you consume chocolate along with antioxidant rich fruits, such as pomegranate or acai berry. Pomegranate dipped in chocolate, anyone?
Or even, he suggests, revoltingly, with prebiotics such as onion or garlic. ——- well, we’re speechless.

Another myth about chocolate, dark or otherwise, that deserves to be busted is that it’s bad for the skin. When we were teenagers, the smallest pimple was guaranteed to put us off chocolate for several months. Now we’re told that the bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be great for the skin. In India, we don’t believe in sunbathing because we get enough of the sun even without it, but, in the West, people planning on a beach vacation are advised to load up on dark chocolate weeks or months ahead, as the flavonols present in it can protect against sun-induced damage.
A word of caution here. No matter how great the benefits, gobbling up a whole bar of dark chocolate is only going to pile on the calories. Moderation is the keyword here, as in all else. Three ounces per day is good enough to keep you happier, healthier and fitter than you’ve ever felt before. In square terms, that would mean about three squares a day.  If you want to eat more, ( we’re not saying it tastes great) cut out any other desserts you were planning to eat, also any other carbs, and you’ll maintain that svelte figure and be ready to go bikini sunbathing, all primed with dark chocolate, smug in the knowledge that the doctor ordered it.

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Joan Rajadas

Joan has enjoyed every moment that she's spent in the kitchen up to now. She has a deep sense of nostalgia for the food of her childhood and she loves recreating some of that for friends and family. When she eats something, she finds herself wondering at the origins of the fruits and vegetables that went into it. When she travels, she thinks about the influences that have shaped that land and its cuisine. She often thinks that, if every one of us could have been blessed with two or three parallel lives instead of one, she would have chosen to be a food anthropologist in one life - travelling the world, looking up forgotten tribes and documenting their recipes and customs. In the other, she would have been a zoo vet. In this life, however, she has a wonderful husband and two lovely children who have been her biggest support, her bulwark, her everything.
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