Chocolate

ChocolateChocolate is made from the beans of the cacao tree, which is native to South America. It is an excellent food that keeps for years without preservatives due to its high content of antioxidants. It contains lots of energy rich carbohydrates, fats that are generally of the better types (equal amounts of palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid), iron (more than any other plant product) and caffeine (50g. of dark chocolate contains about half the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee). As a result it is often used as emergency rations and as an energy booster. Other ingredients include phenylethylamine (a mood enhancing endorphin) and theobromine (a stimulant), and very small amounts of cannabinoids (also found in marijuana), magnesium, copper, calcium and chromium.

Chocolate is low in sodium and high in potassium, so is safe in patients with heart and kidney disease. There is no cholesterol in pure chocolate, but some added dairy fats contain cholesterol.

Chocolate has been used as a medication for conditions as varied as premenstrual tension and depression to preventing cancer and heart attacks (not necessarily for any good reason).

Milk chocolate has a glycaemic index of 45 and dark chocolate is 49, so modest amounts may be consumed by diabetics.

There is no health problem in eating excessive amounts of chocolate, but amounts in excess of 50g a day will cause weight gain.

There is no evidence to support the myth that chocolate aggravates acne.

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(Last modified: 17th Oct 2014)

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