Pacemakers and vitamin pills are just among a few of millions of health products that are sold daily around the world. But one of the most easily accessible of all is right beneath our noses: chocolate. Cocoa, the plant from which chocolate is derived, has had a positive effect on today's society because of its active role in daily health. The development and distribution of cocoa has had a positive effect on today's society because of its active role in daily health.
Many people believe that chocolate is bad for you -- that it's calories outweigh its positive health benefits. Urban legends and common misconceptions concerning the use of chocolate have been rampant for hundreds of years -- that it causes acne, retardation or even blindness. All of these accusations are baseless, to say the least, and, as I will go on to show, are, in fact, the opposite of the truth.
As chocolate is a prominent player in modern diet it is important to know the health aspects of it. Diet is what we take into our bodies, what we run off of. We would starve to death without food. When we eat healthy food we perform better, we are more productive members of society. When we eat unhealthy foods we are slow, sick and unproductive. Every aspect of your diet should be analyzed for you to live up to your potential. Food defines our actions, for without food no actions would be possible.
Cocoa takes it a step further though. Not only does it provide energy for our actions. It supplies chemicals for our personalities and moods. Modern psychology leads us to believe that every thought, every idea that pops into our head is simultaneously a biological reaction. This biological reaction takes the form of chemical processes within our brains. Our mind then interprets these chemical compounds as thoughts, ideas, smells, tastes, touch, etc. Our thoughts, or chemicals compounds within our brain can determine how we feel, our motivation, our goals, our entire lives hinge upon our thoughts, for what are we but what we do. And before we do anything, we must think it. We must have considered it at some point or been subconsciously predisposed to an action or idea.
If indeed we are our actions and our thoughts than what we take into our bodies is of the utmost importance, for our diets will help to shape our thought process. Our thought process shapes our mood and our actions simultaneously. Chocolate is a prominent figure in today's diet and must be examined from all angles as has been done in this paper.
Getting back to the urban legends touched upon earlier, it is a commonly held that chocolate is a sweet and therefore you would be better off without it (Feldman, 1998).
Further in this paper I will prove that chocolate, in moderate doses, can actually improve the quality of you life in several different aspects, via the chemicals it can release to the brain.
A Brief Review of Cocoa
THE COCAO TREE (THEOBROMA CACAO)
Rampant throughtout our very existence the cocoa tree's presence has been felt for four thousand years -- cultivated, even, for the past ten centuries. It is indigenous to tropical Central and South America. Originating in the tropical rain forests of the Amazon or Orinoco basin in South America it later found its way to Mexico and Costa Rica. Currently, cocoa production and raising has spread to every corner of the globe, cultivated in the West Indies, Brazil, Venezuela, West Africa (Ghana, the Ivory Coast, and Nigeria), Madagascar, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Malaysia, and even in the United States.
Originally, the Aztecs called cocoa "xocoatl," which, to them and to many afterwards who tasted their concoction meant both physically and literally "bitter drink." Later, the term xocoatl was intergrated into the modern term "chocolate." Around this time, 100 beans held within its shells the value of an entire slave, the value of an entire human being. So powerful the natives believed this cocoa was they used it in multitudes of services and applications, from religious events to calculations and back again.
When Cortes delivered the beans to the Emperor between 1502 and 1528 cocoa was spilled unto a new shape, a new form -- that of a beverage. Sugar and cinnamon interacted with cocoa to provide for exciting new venues. The secret recipe was then heated to improve the taste of the otherwise bitter Aztec drink. This mixture, this recipe, was held secret in deep depths of human contol for many a century until Spain introduced said ideas to their neighbors, the French in 1657. Shortly after England and its colonies became aware of the magic drink, no longer bitter in taste or in public. Baker founded his Massachusetts chocolate factory in 1765, which was to mark the beginning of chocolates influence on American culture.
WHAT IS IN THE COCOA BEAN?
They say that fine foods ripen with old age and the same holds true for the cocoa plant, taking it a full seven years to ripen and then continuing to produce for twenty years after that. The seeds, or the beans, are bitter because of their alkaloid (methylxanthines) content, and fermentation is necessary to acquire the chocolate flavor. The cocoa bean is approximately 31% fat, 14% carbohydrate and 9% protein. It is rich in the amino acids tryptophan, phenylatanine, and tyrosine that are norepinephrine and dopamine precursors.
The 400 chemicals that have been identified in the cocoa bean include, but are by no means limited to: polyphenols (6%) including pyrazines, quinoxolines, oxazolines, pyrroles (tannins), pyridines, and the fiavonol proanthocyanidin; the amphetamine-like phenylethylamine; the methylxanthines theobromine (2%) and caffeine (1%); and 2% salts and 1% acids. Similar chemicals are found in red wine, grapes, tea, onions, apples, and citrus fruits. The consumption of these chemicals has been related to a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer.
MAKING AND EATING CHOCOLATE
The production of chocolate manifests itself in tangents yet unriveled in originality and independence, for a cocoa tree yields 50 to 60 pods. Cut by hand, the ripe, melon-like cocoa pods are contain 20 to 40 seeds each -- which are all removed by hand. The beans ferment under the sun for 4 to 6 days. They are then dried by the sun for 5 to 7 days. The dried beans are then roasted for 40 minutes at 100 [degrees] C. To 220 [degrees] C. To enhance the flavor. The shell is removed to yield the cocoa nib, which is milled by a mechanized process that was introduced during the Industrial Revolution. This is what made widespread distribution of chocolate possible, making it go from a noble delicacy to a common treat for the masses. The end product is solid and bitter. "Pressing," a process invented by the Dutch Van Houten in 1828, separates the 45% cocoa solids or flaky cocoa powder (17% fat, 2.6% theobromine, 0.2% caffeine) from the remaining 55% golden stable cocoa butter. This separation allowed added ingredients such as fruits and nuts. In 1831, the chocolate came to be in the United States. Hershey started business circa 1900. Sugar and dry milk solids were added to the cocoa solids, producing milk chocolate, in the Swiss process introduced by Nestle in 1875. "Roller refining" of the chocolate for 72 hours reduced the particle size to a premium 10 [micro]m to 12 [micro]m. Tempering controls crystal formation. Extra cocoa butter can be added using a stirring or conching process introduced by Lindt. This improves smoothness and melting. Alkali is generally added next to cocoa to increase solubility and neutralize acids, making the flavor milder.
The FDA regulates the types of chocolate within U.S. bordes. Current types include: bitter, the chocolate liquor to which vanilla may be added; bittersweet, 35% (by weight) chocolate liquor with cocoa butter and sugar added and semisweet (chips) also containing 35% chocolate liquor and 27% cocoa butter; sweet chocolate, 15% chocolate liquor; milk chocolate (Swiss) with 10% chocolate liquor, 12% milk solids, condensed or whole milk, and 3% milk fat. White chocolate does not contain cocoa powder or its chemicals. Substitution of other fats for cocoa butter and the changing of proportions of ingredients has led to arguments among producers and countries that are currently unresolved. To be defined as chocolate the product must contain materials from the cocoa bean to which sugar and milk can be added. Chocolate must have only cocoa butter and a small amount of dairy butter. If…