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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Chocolate Is Nutritious (A Delicious Half-Truth to Justify Your Halloween Indulgence)

a woman taking a big bite out of a chocolate bar
progressman/Shutterstock

Halloween marks the beginning of the two best months of the year filled with Holidays, family reunions, “friendsgivings,” and lots of delicious food. It also marks the beginning of that time of the year when we call chocolate nutritious and tell other half-truths to justify our indulgence.

What Is Chocolate, Exactly?

Let’s start by explaining what chocolate is made from: cocoa beans. Cocoa beans are seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), a delicate plant native to Central America, South America, and Africa. They have a strong and bitter taste and are therefore fermented (with natural yeast and bacteria) post harvesting to develop flavor, after which they’re dried, cleaned, and roasted. Then, the hull is removed, and the cacao nib that remains is ground into a powder, containing cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The cocoa butter, which liquefies during the pulverizing process, also known as cocoa liquor, is then poured into molds and cooled. This is what you’ll encounter as a 100% cacao chocolate bar.

So, here’s what we’ve found out so far. Chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which are actually cocoa tree seeds. Those get harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, and ground. Chocolate is, therefore, a plant—and hey, eating more plants it the cornerstone of a healthy diet, right?

But It’s Nutritious, Right?

Cacao is widely considered to be one of the highest antioxidant foods in the world. Research suggests it can help reduce blood pressure, protect cells against free radicals, lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar levels, keep inflammation on the low, and even boost brain functions.

It’s also rich in iron, magnesium, and fiber, making it a real superfood. Doesn’t this answer the ‘is it nutritious’ question?

It most certainly, without a doubt, is.

So, Where’s the Catch?

You see, the problem occurs when that nutritious 100% cacao gets mixed with other ingredients and processed into something completely different. Sugar, milk, flour, baking powder, corn syrup, cream, and various additives, fillers, colorants, and flavoring agents; they are the ones who make the chocolate less nutritious and stripped from most of its great qualities.

This is where your Halloween indulgence justification falls through—all candy and chocolates you consume on your trick-or-treating journey have little to zero nutrients beyond, well, sugar.

But, Chocolate Makes Us Happy

piles of Halloween candy spilling out of decorative pumpkins
Leena Robinson/Shutterstock

We all know chocolate treats aren’t’ the best food choices and a big Hershey bar definitely isn’t considered to be an essential macro or micronutrient food, but it’s hard to ignore its delicious taste, and how having a day when we completely let go of clean eating boundaries is simply good for our mental health.

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