Monday, March 15, 2010

Give Me Chocolate or Give Me Death

There is nothing I enjoy more than eating chocolate. Chocolate bars, chocolate covered fruit, chocolate ice cream, chocolate candy, or chocolate cake… I am a true chocoholic.

Since it’s American Chocolate Week, I thought I’d celebrate by looking into the intimate details of how bad my addiction might be for me, how chocolate is made, and how far people will take their love of chocolate.

Hello. My name is Sarah, and I am a chocoholic.
Chocolate consumption has been linked to both positive and negative health effects. The cocoa bean used to make chocolate contains antioxidants which protect our body from damage. Chocolate also contains compounds that are shown to affect our mood by raising serotonin levels. However, these benefits need to be balanced against negative health effects from processing which can introduce high amounts of sugar and saturated fat. The healthiest choice is dark chocolate and is best in moderation.

Where do you come from? Where do you go? Where do you come from cacao?
Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are grown on cacao trees. Did you know that cacao beans (also spelled cocoa beans) only grow within 10-15 degrees of the equator? Or that beans produced by a single tree can only make about 1 kg of chocolate per year? Also, the pods that contain the cocoa beans apparently grow directly from the tree’s trunk.

The cocoa bean is used to produce a variety of types of chocolate. The Food and Drug Association has determined standard percentages for key ingredients in different types of chocolate. One of the main ingredients in chocolate is chocolate liquor, which is made by fermenting, drying, and roasting cocoa beans. The beans are then separated from their shells and ground into a paste that is melted to produce the liquor. The liquor is about half cocoa solids and half cocoa butter and can then be used to make both milk and dark chocolate.

Milk chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor, while dark chocolate needs to be a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor. White chocolate is a bit different; it is made without using the cocoa solids. Instead of using the chocolate liquor, it is expected to contain at least 20% cocoa butter. On the other end of the spectrum is cocoa powder which is made by removing the cocoa butter.

I like it. I love it. I want some more of it.
People love chocolate so much it seems they will try putting it on absolutely ANYTHING. Weird chocolate covered items I stumbled across included chocolate covered bacon, chocolate covered jalapeño peppers, and insects dipped in chocolate including scorpions and giant ants. Bacon and jalapeño peppers I will probably try… bugs… no thank you.

What’s the strangest concoction you’ve eaten that includes chocolate? Since it is American chocolate week, which of the three well-known chocolate companies that got their start in America - Hershey’s, Mars, or Ghirardelli – is your favorite?

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1 comment:

  1. We have better reasons for treating ourselves with these creamy, smooth and mouth watering dark chocolates. Thanks for the facts.