noun - Chocolate is a processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree that is one of the most popular foods and flavors in the world. A favorite snack or candy of many open water swimmers, cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central America and Northern South America and is currently sold in every region of the world.
The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried, then cleaned, and then roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because this cocoa mass usually is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids.
Even though chocolate is regularly eaten for pleasure, there are potentially many health effects:
- Cocoa or dark chocolate may positively affect the circulatory system.
- Other possible effects under basic research include anticancer, brain stimulator, cough preventor and antidiarrhoeal activities.
- According to research, limited amounts of dark chocolate appear to help prevent heart disease.
- Unconstrained consumption of large quantities of chocolate, without a corresponding increase in activity, can lead to obesity.
- A BBC report indicated that melting chocolate in one's mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate that was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing, and also lasted four times as long after the activity had ended.
- Research on elderly people showed chocolate might cause osteoporosis.
- Several studies have suggested that eating chocolate can help reduce blood pressure in both overweight and normal adults.
- Studies have shown dark chocolate as part of a low-fat diet can lower cholesterol levels in adults.