Chocolate Shop > Chocolate Varieties
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.
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.
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