As a child, sinking my teeth into a Mars bar gave me the ultimate chocolate euphoria. As my taste buds awaken to the burst of sweetness and chewy texture uninterrupted by hard peanuts. And before you know it, it’s gone. After 20 years, although Mars bar doesn’t bring back the same explosion of chocoragasm,I still enjoy it once in a while. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, do you find yourself craving for chocolate?
Most of the time I don’t have much cravings for sweet things, but when I do, I would always choose chocolate or marron glacé/ brandy & rum soaked type of sweets. Imagine if they coat marron glacé with dark chocolate #heaven #drool.
Life is like a box of chocolate. I always know what I want to get.
Today, I’m going to talk about:
- What’s the deal with the Fabulous Flavonoids?
- How much flavonoids do you need?
- What’s chocolate from a TCM perspective?
- Is chocolate good or bad?
- How to choose your chocolate?
- My top 3 favourite chocolates
The history of chocolate begins in Mesoamerica around 1900 BC, that’s almost 4000 years ago.The Aztecs believed that cacao seeds were the gift of the god of wisdom. Originally prepared only as a drink, chocolate was served as a bitter, from a liquid, mixed with spices or corn puree with thick foam on top.Perhaps like a modern cappuccino?
The Emperor Montezuma was a great believer of the restorative effects and referred chocolate as “The divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.”
What’s the deal with the Fabulous Flavonoids?
Flavonoids are antioxidants. They protect cells by fighting off reactive oxygen species which can damage our cells.
Research shows that flavonoid have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot to stop bleeding. You know you’re not taking enough flavonoids if you bruise easily, frequent nose bleed, easily bruised and excess swelling after injuries.
How much flavonoids do you need?
The type of flavonoids found in chocolate are flavanols. You won’t find flavonoid content on nutrition labels, but the label should indicate the percentage of cocoa solids. The darker the chocolate, the higher the flavonoid levels, that’s why dark ones ae the healthier choice.
Here’s an interesting list of food containing flavonoids that I found from United States Department of Agriculture.
- Baking chocolate, unsweetened: Minimum 92mg/100g
- Dark chocolate: Minimum 63mg/100g
- Dark chocolate (from Netherlands): Minimum 43mg/100g
- Milk chocolate: Minimum 3mg/100g
Not all chocolates are created that same! The processing methods, sugar and fat contents do affect the flavonoids levels. It’s a huge difference!
You can see the whole database here if you’re interested.
It is estimated that the average daily flavonoid intake in the US is about 150-200 mg which is certainly not enough. But you can boost your daily intake of flavonoids very easily by eating dark coloured and purplish coloured fruits and vegetables.
Try eating a cup of blueberries or blackberries (400 mg of flavonoids), 1 cup of green tea ( 1000 mg), onions, apples and some high quality 75 to 99% chocolate and you’re good to go!
What’s chocolate from a TCM perspective?
Remember I wrote about how different organs are related to different taste in Chinese Medicine? Here I wrote about Liver is related to Sour. For chocolates too, it’s divine properties lies in the flavours. They did not exist in eastern medicine so you won’t be able to find it in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing Herbalist textbook. However we know chocolate is bitter, sweet, has a heaty property and is “heavy” (as in can be high in fats and calories).
So, in TCM terms,
- Bitter relates to the fire element and thus related to the Heart.
- Sweetness is related to the Spleen.
- Chocolate’s heaty property will help to boost the physical energy.
- Move the Qi and blood and give a quick boost to the Yang in our body.
In this case, the Yang refers to the “lifegate fire” which is the Kidney Yang. It’s a poetic way of referring to the sexual energy (no wonder chocolate is known for its aphrodisiac effects because it makes your brain produces a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA), but some studies shows that this happy euphoric feeling may just a placebo. Hmmm).
This warming effect is good for treating water retention, menstrual cramps or pain caused by invasion of cold. Cold pain is usually a dull heavy sensation which is alleviated by heat (hot packs, hot towel placed on the area of pain). Many will tend to have loose stools, cold limbs and pale white tongue.
Of course you should consult a doctor before asking your grandma to eat tons of chocolate when she has knee pain. But she’ll probably be a happy lady though.
Is chocolate good or bad?
Well, first of all food has no morality and it all depends on who is eating it and how much they are eating. There are appropriate foods for each individual and inappropriate food for a specific individual, just like there are different TCM herbs for each person depending on what their health needs are.
From a TCM perspective, chocolate is heaty so it is not suitable for you if you show heaty symptoms such as often having bad breath & bitter taste in mouth, susceptibility to acne, get sore throat easily, always have hot flushed complexion. On the other hand, if you have the Yang deficiency body type like me- easily cold, unable to tolerate cold weather, discomfort after eating cold food, then chocolate is more suitable for you.
If you do choose to eat chocolate, get one with a high percentage of cocoa. Eat it as you should with any food,slowly, savour it with joy and gratitude. I think that when you eat something with guilt or lack of consciousness, the body will be in stress mode and have serious “bad vibes” to it, causing Liver Qi to stagnate subconsciously.
A study involving nearly 158,000 men and women suggests that eating dark and milk chocolate on a regular basis can significantly lower risk of heart attack and stroke. People who ate the highest levels of chocolate had a 25% lowered risk of any cardiovascular disease episode – including heart attacks – and a 23% lowered risk of stroke.
How to choose your chocolate?
With so many choices , dark, white, milk, raw, low fat, low sugar and many more, we’re spoilt for choice.
If you’re health conscious and want to get the most out of it, you’ll need to watch out for:
Dutching – The Flavonoid Leech
Dutching is a processing method the chocolate is processed with alkali. The problem with this process is that it impacts the flavanols in the dark chocolate. Meaning that there will be fewer healthy compounds and fewer health benefit. Next time you buy a chocolate, remember to take a look at the ingredients list.
So when choosing a chocolate, I personally look at:
CHOCO CHOICE: High cocoa, Low sugar, No alkaline. Click To Tweet
1) Percentage of cocoa (at least 80% for me)
2) Make sure it is not processed with alkali
3) Make sure sugar or other additives are not the first ingredient
4) A brand that is certified on ConsumerLab would be a bonus.
My Top 3 favourite chocolate
LINDT Excellence Cocoa 90%
This is the brand that I always reach out for in the supermarkets. For the straight dark chocolate, they offer 70%, 85%, 90% and 99%, although I think some stores may vary in which versions they offer.
Lindt 90% chocolate is full bodied velvety euphoria comes in thin square grids like instagram. I tried 99% and 99% got stuck on the roof of my mouth and was difficult to swallow! Although it may have the highest benefit but I don’t’ really like eating it on its own. Lindt also has an appealing short ingredients list and sugar is quite low down the list, which is great!
MEIJI 95% Cacao
Perhaps being a little bias on this one, because being a Japanese, you gotta love Japanese products right? Strong and luxurious taste with a pinch of sweetness. Meiji is also available in 72% and 85%. They also come in individual wrapping so if you’re the type who like to have an occasional indulgence without opening the whole bar, then this is for you.
HERSHEY’S Natural Unsweetened 100% Cocoa
– Perfect for baking and beverage making.
– 100% cacao, non-alkalized and unsweetened.
– A gluten-free and kosher cocoa powder.
This is THE one I love using for baking. You can add into your plain yogurt and it’ll come out like mousse, mix into energy balls, sometimes I mix it with water, milk, honey and Vital collagen powder to make hot cocoa on a rainy day. Ummmm yum yum.
What’s your favourite of chocolate of late?
Share in the comment below, thank you!