By Temitope Akin
This is a preparation made from the fruit of the cacao tree and used as a flavoring and as an ingredient in beverages and various kinds of confectionery. The cacao tree is native to Central and South America. The seeds produced by the tree are known as cocoa beans. When Native Americans first began cultivating cocoa beans is unknown, but residues of cocoa have been discovered on pots dating back to about 600 BC.
Nutritionally, chocolate is mainly an energy source, with only small amounts of nutrients. According to the National Nutrient Database of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 100 g (3.5 oz) bar of dark chocolate contains 32 g (1.1 oz) of fat and 48 g (1.7 oz) of sugars. The fat in chocolate consists of approximately equal amounts of oleic acid – a monounsaturated fat like that found in olive oil – and two saturated fats, stearic and palmitic acid.
Despite the lack of nutrients in chocolate, a number of recent medical studies indicate that dark chocolate may confer certain health benefits. Dark chocolate is rich in naturally occurring compounds known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are thought to have protective benefits because they contain antioxidants, molecules that help cells resist damage caused by free radicals (reactive atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron). In addition to chocolate, flavonoids occur in a variety of food and drinks, including apples, peanuts, tea, red wine, cranberries, and onions. Flavonoids are part of a larger class of compounds known as polyphenols. The flavonoids in chocolate are sometimes called flavonols.
Health Benefits 
It must be noted that two significant studies on the possible health benefits of chocolate were published in 2003 in prestigious scientific journals. One study, published in Nature magazine, found that only dark chocolate was a potent antioxidant. This study established that adding milk to chocolate or drinking milk with dark chocolate prevents the body from absorbing the antioxidants in chocolate. The second study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that dark chocolate appeared to lower high blood pressure among middle-aged people with mild cases of hypertension. A later study by Italian researchers at the University of L’Aquila corroborated the finding that dark chocolate could help lower blood pressure. This study also found that dark chocolate helped boost the body’s ability to metabolize sugar from food, a finding that could have implications for the treatment of diabetes. Other studies have found that dark chocolate can improve cardiovascular health, as well as thin the blood, in much the same way that aspirin does, thus cutting the risk of clots.
There are many myths attached to drinking hot chocolate drinks which are completely false. A hot dark chocolate (not mixed with milk) contains antioxidants (substances that prevent oxidation), which help inhibit cancer, heart diseases, age-related muscular degeneration and aging in general. Let’s consider the following;
It’s concentration of antioxidants is almost twice as strong as red wine, about two to three times stronger than that of green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea.
A cup of hot cocoa tea contains 611mg of the phenolic compound, gallic acid equivalents and 564mg of the flavonoids epicatechin equivalents. The antioxidant gallic acid is used to treat internal hemorrhages, albuminuria (the presence of albumin in the urine, which can indicate kidney disease) and diabetes.
The flavonols help your body process nitric oxide, which is why hot cocoa can improve blood flow, help lower your blood pressure and improve heart health.
The flavonols in hot chocolate drink help prevent platelets in your blood from mingling together and forming clots.
Drinking hot chocolate can help in reducing the levels of stress hormones in the blood, it aids the increase of blood flow and oxygen to the brain thereby making one to think well!
Note: A cup of hot chocolate drink every morning with little or no milk can just be the need of the hour in your daily food. Please avoid the fake ones as these can give negative results in your health status on the long run. Stay healthy!


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