Browse Author: Douwe

Can chocolate help against anxiety?

Anxiety is a state of mind that we all go through from time to time. Regardless of the fact that we wait for a reply about a big job or we simply feel anxious about going to a party, the feeling is similar: nervousness and uneasiness which make our heart race and our palms sweat.

In acute phases, doctors may recommend medication, but in mild phases these feelings can go away with exercise and natural mood enhancers. According to studies, one of these mood enhancers is the delicious dessert we know as chocolate.

chocolate-anxietyHow can chocolate help?

As mentioned, the effects are not powerful, but, if you don’t usually have problems related to anxiety, a bar of chocolate might be of help.

Keep in mind: whenever we discuss chocolate and its health benefits, we are only referring to dark chocolate. The other types of chocolate (milk or white) have almost no nutritional value due to the low content of cocoa.

Bellow we listed some of the benefits of chocolate in the fight with anxiety:

  • It stimulates the production of serotonin – serotonin is a neurotransmitter which regulates our mood and when the level is low we can experience anxiety. Dark chocolate is rich in an amino acid called tryptophan which helps stimulate the production of serotonin. This is why, when you eat a bar of chocolate when you’re down, you’ll feel better in no time.
  • Mood enhancement – another element in dark chocolate is called theobromine. This one is actually toxic for dogs, but for humans it’s a mood reliever and booster.
  • Magnesium – according to recent studies, magnesium is quite effective when it comes to anxiety and the associated states. Of course, you can always get a supplement, but the magnesium we find in food is a lot healthier. Dark chocolate is quite rich in this mineral and this is one of the reasons why it is believed to have a calming effect.
  • Caffeine – chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine and while most people believe it will aggravate an anxious state, it is actually soothing. The trick is to consume it in small amounts.

How to use chocolate when you’re anxious?

First of all, you have to know that the effects won’t be immediate. All these ingredients need to be broken down by your digestive system and then transported through the bloodstream. So it usually takes a while to feel the effects. However, the taste is immediate and when we’re anxious it’s a bit more difficult to control our cravings.

So how can we make sure we use chocolate for the best? Well, the trick is to select only the finest dark chocolate, with the highest amount of cocoa. This type of chocolate is so rich in ingredients that you won’t be able to eat too much. After a few bites, you’ll feel full and the cravings will go away. With any other type of chocolate, the more you eat, the more you’re going to want to eat.

The Connection between Chocolate and FIFA 17

Did you ever wonder about the connection between chocolate and your favorite video game? If we take these two separately, we see that both are popular worldwide and that both teenagers and adults love them. So what you get when you combine the two?

Chocolate bars and figurines

Well, first of all, since both chocolate and FIFA 17 are so popular, a few ingenious marketers decided to combine the two and create the product we know to be Chocolate Players. This is a bar of chocolate with stickers with FIFA players inside. So, if you want to update your FIFA collection, these chocolate bars are the best way (not to mention that you get something sweet too).

Even more, some football fans who also know a thing or two about chocolate got really creative and poured their favorite players into this delicious mixture. The result is amazing and, you can see it online.

dark-chocolate-game-fifa-17Chocolate can make you a better player

Even though it may seem weird, chocolate is actually good for your health and brain function. However, you must choose a variety with high cocoa content and not the ones that are light or white in color. It’s also best to choose a bittersweet variety that doesn’t pack that much sugar and fats. The only good fat that should be in your chocolate is the cocoa butter.

So, how can chocolate help you improve your FIFA 17 game? Well, first of all, chocolate is known to reduce blood pressure and boost your energy level. So, you will be a better player by reducing the level of anxiety and keeping calm while playing against more powerful opponents. If you keep your head in the game you may actually have a pretty good chance at winning.

Even more, chocolate is known to improve the brain functions and this may help you see the game from a different perspective.

Buying chocolate players

Even though it has nothing to do with the actual chocolate, in FIFA 17, there are vanilla and chocolate players and you can only get them at a good price on certain moments in the game. So, if it happens and you want to buy yours but you’re out of coins, don’t despair. There is another way you can get enough coins to buy any player you want.

First, if you’re new to the game, you should know that FIFA coins represent the currency of the game. With coins you can buy players and improve your team. However, you have to work really hard to earn enough coins for valuable players so, if you’re in a hurry, you have the possibility to buy coins. If you don’t know from where, you can learn more about world’s favorite coin seller at buycheapcoinsfifa.

Sites like fifacoinszone.com offer a wide range of coins for all the devices compatible with the game. They also offer coins for FIFA 17 and several buying modes. The site is trustworthy and practices some of the best prices in the market which makes it one of the best.

In the end, you can see that there is a powerful connection between games like FIFA 17 and chocolate so don’t be afraid to try it from time to time.

Does Dark Chocolate Enhance Sports Performance?

We all know dark chocolate is good for our health. This happens because this type of chocolate is rich in flavonoids, good fats, antioxidants, and nutrients that keep our heart and skin healthy and happy. But what if we told you that even athletes could benefit from it?

The diet of an athlete is quite strict and things like sweets packed with sugar are banned from the start. Still, studies show that a bit of dark chocolate every day could improve the level of fitness and the athletic performance. The most recent study of this type was performed by Rishikesh Kankesh Patel, a postgraduate research student at London’s Kingston University. According to the study, dark chocolate offers the same benefits as the beetroot juice (athletes will know about it).

If you’re not familiar with the effects of beetroot juice, you should know that it is rich in nitrates which stimulate the body to produce nitric oxide. This helps dilate the blood vessels and reduce the consumption of oxygen. All these lead to an improved performance as the athlete will be able to resist better to effort. Now, dark chocolate contains epicatechin which is a substance borrowed from the cacao bean. This is a type of flavonoid that helps increases nitric oxide in the body so you can see why scientists were curious about its effects on performance.

The study

The tests for this study were performed on cyclists since this sport requires endurance and involves lots of oxygen and water consumption. The test group was divided in two: the first group was asked to replace on of their daily snacks with 40g of dark chocolate, while the other group had to swap their snack with 40g of white chocolate. The study took several weeks and cyclists consumed 40g of chocolate (dark or white) every day during this time.

Cyclists were asked to perform regularly and the heart rate and other vital functions were monitored to extract data for the study. After the first round of trials, groups were asked to switch the type of chocolate and new tests were performed.

cyclingThe results

At the end of the study, the data showed that dark chocolate helped our cyclists to resist longer when it came to moderate to highly intense effort. After comparing the results, cyclists who consumed white chocolate covered less distance in a two-minute flat-out race than the cyclists who ate dark chocolate. This happens because dark chocolate helped athletes to consume less oxygen which altered their response to aerobic activity making them more effective.

Does this mean athletes have a green light when it comes to dark chocolate? Well, if kept in moderation, then yes, dark chocolate if a great replacer for beetroot juice. Even more it brings an entire cocktail of nutrients and good fats to the table keeping your mood lifted and your energy levels high.

However, you should take all these with a grain of salt as the study only shows dark chocolate is effective at enhancing performance. Still, scientists don’t know if this is a temporary effect or it will last for a longer time period.

Chocolate and depression: a two-way street

donutsWhat do you do when you feel down and depressed? I know what I do: I go to the closest store and stock up on chocolate and ice cream! It’s something in the creamy texture and nutty flavor that makes me feel comforted and a bit better about my current situation. Actually, chocolate is known as one of the most popular comfort foods out there. You can even say it goes hand in hand with fried foods and glazed .

And we don’t just crave chocolate when we’re down. Women use it to feel better about themselves during days with PMS, and couples use it as a mood enhancer during intimate times. As you can see, chocolate is by our side regardless of the situation.

Why do we eat chocolate when we’re depressed?

According to studies, it has something to do with the sweet taste (this means sugar) but it also has something to do with the cocoa content. The flavonoids contained in the cocoa bean and the available nutrients and vitamins in dark chocolate (this is the most recommended type) will enhance your mood. This leads to increased self-esteem and a general feeling of well-being.

Even more, recent studies have shown that a daily consumption of chocolate regulates blood pressure and brings in a healthy dose of antioxidants. The trick however, is to eat a bit every day, and try to avoid consuming large amounts at once.

The two-way street

Yes, chocolate is healthy, but we also need to keep in mind that it’s still high in calories. Even dark chocolate has sugar and cocoa butter in its recipe, which make it a bit of a caloric bomb. That’s why scientists can’t emphasize enough on the word ‘moderation’. Considering the delicious flavor and the fact that we love chocolate, it’s extremely easy to overeat it. This leads to weight gain which leads to depression and frustration. Now you see why I say it’s a two-way street?

When we try to lift our mood and forget that chocolate shouldn’t be eaten all at once, we set ourselves up for a new road to depression. For some people, the new down state may start when they notice the extra weight while for others it may start a few minutes after eating the chocolate when they realize how many calories they added to their daily diet. Regardless of the moment in time, binge eating chocolate is never a good thing (even though you feel good for the moment).

Top 7 benefits that show dark chocolate is healthy

dark-chocolateWho would give up chocolate on his/her own will? It’s so delicious and creamy that you can’t imagine leaving your life without it! Even more, chocolate is one of the most popular comfort foods in the whole world and we use it for everything! We use it when things are dark to boost our mood, we use it as a romance enhancer, as a gift, and we even use it when we’re bored and we lack creativity. Chocolate is the best solution to every problem, but is it healthy?

Specialists say that dark chocolate is the best type when it comes to our health. It’s actually recommended to have a small piece every day but you must stick to the dark version. The magic ingredient in this sweet is the cocoa and the lighter in color the chocolate, the less cocoa it has. But let’s see some of the main benefits dark chocolate brings to the table.

#1: It is rich in nutrients

As we already mentioned, dark chocolate has a high content of cocoa. This also means that it is rich in nutrients that help your body and inner systems function properly. Thus, a bar of dark chocolate contains iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and more. It is also rich in fibers which help digestion and doesn’t allow you to overeat.

#2: A wonderful source of antioxidants

Antioxidants fight free radicals in our blood and help us stay younger and healthy for longer. Free radicals are the ones that lead to cellular decay and make us grow old and get wrinkles on our skin. So, just like wine, dark chocolate consumed in moderation is great for a younger-looking skin and body.

#3: Helps reduce blood pressure

This type of chocolate contains flavonoids which are extremely efficient in regulating the blood flow and reducing blood pressure which usually shows up after a certain age. This was proven by several studies, but the effect is not enough to replace medication. It’s more a preventive measure.

#4: It reduces cholesterol and the risk of stroke

Connected to the point above, cocoa is known to reduce the level of bad cholesterol in the blood stream (LDL). Also, it reduces the risk of stroke as a direct effect of the cholesterol reduction. The blood flow is smooth and your arteries will be clean of clogs which are the main cause of a stroke.

#5: Increased brain functionality

Because it helps improve the blood flow, the brain will be oxygenated better and this leads to better functioning. Studies showed that a daily consumption of dark chocolate can actually make you sharper.

However, you should also keep in mind that dark chocolate also contains sugar and cocoa butter so you should limit to a small piece every day.

Types of chocolate: a delicious and creamy journey

We all know that chocolate comes in a plethora of shapes, combinations, and tastes, but did you know that there are actually several different types of chocolate? Yes, you may already know a few, but the list is quite long. So, if you’re interested in broadening your knowledge about chocolate, take a look at the list below.

Chocolate liqueur

No, it’s not in a bottle and it’s not as sweet as the beverage you have in mind. This is actually chocolate in liquid form, before it gets mixed with other ingredients. This is a paste that contains grinded cocoa beans and cocoa butter (about 53%).

Unsweetened chocolate

This is nothing more than chocolate liqueur that was allowed to cool down and harden. It’s very similar to dark chocolate and bakers prefer it for baking as it’s a lot easier to control the flavor and sweetness.

chocolate_typesBittersweet chocolate

With a high content of chocolate liqueur (about 35%), the bittersweet chocolate is the taste you get when you eat the dark variation. It has high cocoa content, but it also contains sugar and cocoa butter and it feels heavy and creamy in the mouth. This chocolate doesn’t have any other fillings and is quite hard in texture.

Because there is no milk added to the mixture, the color is a dark brown, hence the name of ‘dark chocolate’. This is the variety most recommended by health experts because of the high cocoa content and lower sugar level.

There is also a variation of dark chocolate that is sweeter, but this only has 15% chocolate liqueur content. This is great for people who don’t like the taste and texture of the first variant.

Milk Chocolate

This is the variety we know and love ever since we were kids. The extra-creamy texture, the sweet, flavored taste and the brown color make it one of the most popular chocolate types. This type of chocolate has only 10% of chocolate liqueur and, besides sugar and flavors it has 12% milk content. Of course, milk usually means cream or milk powder.

Fun fact: before the invention of milk powder, this type of chocolate was only available in liquid form. Chocolatiers couldn’t find a way to properly solidify the mixture when using plain milk.

White Chocolate

Did you know that white chocolate doesn’t contain chocolate liqueur? It’s called chocolate because it contains cocoa butter and milk, but technically, white chocolate is not chocolate. However, the taste is quite interesting and sweet which makes it one of the favorite varieties for children.

The white color is obtained due to the lack of chocolate liqueur (the only way this color could be obtained). As a result of this characteristic, this type of chocolate has a higher melting point (the cocoa butter resists to higher temperatures).

And finally, this variety is not recommended by nutritionists because it doesn’t have any antioxidants or useful nutrients. It is purely a sweet desert and it doesn’t bring any of the cocoa properties with it. So, if you’re on a diet or want to eat healthy, white chocolate shouldn’t be on the menu.

These are the main types of chocolate but, did you know that chocolate liqueur is also used to obtain cocoa powder? The powder we used for cookies or to make chocolate milk is obtained by slamming hardened chocolate liqueur with a hydraulic press to remove the cocoa butter. The result still tastes like chocolate but has a lower fat content and is a bit more versatile.

Of course, chocolate can be combined in a wide range of ways leading to creative desserts that amaze both our visual senses and our taste buds. However, at the base of every masterpiece, you will always find one of the types described above.

How is chocolate made: A delicious, step-by-step guide

We all love chocolate and that’s a fact! Regardless of the fact that it’s white, brown, or black, with fruity filling or just milk, with nuts, raisins or mint, chocolate is the most appreciated desert all over the world. The creamy texture and sweet, delicious taste make us crazy about a piece and we crave it like crazy when we don’t have it.

But, did you ever wonder how this amazing treat is made? What does it take to transform the cocoa bean that grows in a tree in Africa into this delicate and wonderful food? If you’re curious, we put together a step-by-step guide that will take you through the process of chocolate making.

cocoa-beanThe beginnings

As we already mentioned, to make chocolate, you need cocoa. This grows in a very specific region of the world, in trees, and is harvested manually. The cocoa beans are surrounded by a fibrous pulp and encased in pods. So, to take them out, workers break open the pods and remove the beans and the pulp together. However, at this stage, the beans are extremely bitter which makes them useless.

To prepare them for the nutty goodness that is chocolate, workers pile the beans and the pulp in underground containers and cover them with banana leaves. The beans remain covered, in the sun, until the pulp is transformed into alcohol through fermentation. To make the beans ready for use, the mixture is stirred from time to time – this transforms the alcohol on acetic acid. At the end of the fermentation, in the container there will only be beans (the pulp is leaked through holes). This process changes the bitter flavor and gives the beans the taste that we love in chocolate. Actually this period is crucial and, if not done correctly, the final taste can suffer.

Once the fermentation is over, the beans need to be dried up and then they are bagged and shipped to factories all over the world.

The how to

We can’t give you a step-by-step chocolate recipe because these are heavily-guarded secrets. Each manufacturer has their own special blend that gives a specific flavor, texture, and taste. The secret starts with the type of beans used and continues with the percentage of cocoa in the recipe.

The general process starts with selecting the right beans and then roasting them. Once this step is completed, the beans are grinded into cocoa dust and go through several grinders that reduce the size of each particle to the desired level of fineness. In this stage, the particles are mixed with cocoa butter and the grinder’s job is to make sure each particle is evenly covered. The size of these particles will decide the taste and texture of the resulted chocolate.

The next step consists in mixing the particles covered in cocoa butter with other ingredients (which are decided by the recipe). Usual ingredients are sugar, milk, lecithin, vanilla, and more.

The next step is called conching – there is a conch machine that kneads the resulted mixture for hours or days (again, big secret) until the desired texture and taste is achieved. The same machine will also form chocolate bars that are passed along to a forming machine where they will get the final form.

 

Where Does Chocolate Come From?

Have you ever wondered this when you were just a child? Chocolate is one of the most popular desserts in the whole world and you can find it in so many forms and tastes that it’s easy to lose count. But still, do you know where it comes from? Well, the answer is simple: chocolate is produced from cocoa beans.

cocoa

Cocoa beans grow in trees (cocoa trees or the Theobroma cacao – the scientific name). This tree only grows and bears fruits in the tropical region. This means that you will only find cocoa beans in the band of 20 degrees North and South of the equator line. Even more, it won’t develop properly if the temperature drops under 16 degrees Celsius. This means that only certain countries have the honor of being host to this amazing tree.

Cocoa was first discovered in the region between Central and South America but right now, 70% of the world production is sustained by Africa.

The road from cocoa trees to chocolate

Now that we know chocolate grows in trees (so to speak), let’s discuss a bit about the cocoa pod. First, you should know that one tree can produce up to 2000 pods per year if the conditions are right. The pod looks like a football (American football) and grows directly on the trunk or the thicker branches. It takes several months for the pods to mature and they contain a white pulp and the cocoa seeds which later will become chocolate.

cocoa-podsHowever, the process doesn’t stop with the harvesting as the seeds or the beans are extremely bitter. To remove some of the bitterness and give them a flavor that somehow resembles chocolate, workers put the seeds in wooden bins which are placed in earthen pits. They cover everything with banana leaves and leave the beans to ferment. Through this process the beans become dark brown.

After the fermentation process ends, workers will dry the beans in the sun for a few days which helps the flavor grow. Once this process is completed, cocoa beans are shipped to chocolate factories all over the world where they are transformed into the delicious dessert we all know and love.

How did we invent chocolate?

We already mentioned that the cocoa seeds are bitter and animals that eat the fruit spit them away. So how did humans think to use them as food?

Well, the idea of fermenting the beans was first tested by the Aztecs who considered the drink obtained from fermented cocoa beans a gift from the gods. They also mixed the drink with various spices and considered it to have aphrodisiac qualities. When the Spanish arrived in the area we now call Mexico and conquered the native population, they took the cocoa beans with them in Europe. While it took a while for chocolate to become what we know today, this was the moment when we were hooked.