What's not to love about chocolate? In addition to tasting creamy,
sweet, and rich, new studies suggest that chocolate has mood-enhancing
effects upon those who indulge. In addition, dark chocolate is said
to contain antioxidants that promote good health and prevent certain
diseases. No need to feel guilty for enjoying this confection!
Chocolate is a food made from the cocoa beans that grow on tropical
cacao trees. It has an intense flavor, contains a small amount
of caffeine, and is often used in baking, sweetened and eaten as candy,
or used to flavor beverages and desserts. The two most popular forms
of processed chocolate are dark chocolate and milk chocolate (which is
dark chocolate with added condensed milk or milk powder). White
chocolate contains cocoa butter but no cocoa solids. A mark of
high quality gourmet chocolate is the use of real vanilla beans rather
than vanillin as a flavoring agent.
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Chocolate candy is available in the form of fudge, bars, molded shapes,
and dipped confections. It ranges from popular-priced chocolate you
can find on the grocery store shelves to gourmet chocolates you can find
at chocolate shops and other specialty retailers. Some specialty
chocolate is combined with other flavors and candy such as toffee, coffee,
caramel, fruit, and nuts. Other chocolate confections, made for
people with special dietary needs, are nut-free or don't contain sugar.
In recent years, researchers have discovered important health benefits
associated with dark chocolate. At a 2002 meeting of the AAAS,
scientists reported that the flavonoids present in dark chocolate can
help improve circulatory system health. Later, in 2004, a UCSF
clinical trial confirmed these results, demonstrating the heart-healthy
benefits of eating 1.6 ounces of dark chocolate per day. As a matter
of fact, some experts believe that chocolate can reduce low-density
lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) levels and raise high-density
lipoprotein (HDL, or "good cholesterol) levels, as well as lower blood
pressure and diminish the risk of blood clots. Those are some
amazing benefits for something that tastes so great! However, these
benefits are present only in dark chocolate. Milk chocolate does not
have the same heart-healthy benefits. So how do you know that the
chocolate you are eating is good for you? Choose chocolate that is
70 percent or more cocoa solids. While most chocolates do contain
sugar, try to avoid ingredients like palm-kernel oil, hydrogenated oil,
and milk fats. Because chocolate is so "addicting," be sure to limit
your portions, and be aware of how much you eat. Avoid eating large
amounts of chocolate, because it is high in calories and fat, and too much
chocolate is not good for your waistline.
Chocolates are a popular gift, especially at holiday time, because gourmet
chocolate makers design special shapes and confections for holidays.
Here on ChocolateShop.us you can shop for a great selection of chocolate
confections, creations, and gifts from leading chocolatiers.