Yes, there’s the taste … the creamy melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. But when it comes to health, it’s all about the polyphenols. Whoever first thought to smash a yellow, hard-shelled cocoa pod, scoop out the cocoa beans meshed in the pulpy inside, and turn them into one of nature’s most delicious and versatile foods? We can only be grateful. The cocoa beans that yield the chocolate we love come primarily from Africa, Asia, or Latin America. It takes approximately four hundred cocoa beans to make one pound of chocolate. The beans are processed into a sticky paste called chocolate liquor, which is then used to make chocolate products. The humble chocolate bar is the product of cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, and sometimes powdered cocoa, which is combined with sugar, emulsifiers, and sometimes milk. Chocolate is about 30 percent fat, 5 percent protein, 61 percent carbohydrate, and 3 percent moisture and minerals. The magic in the mix as far as health benefits are concerned is the polyphenols, specifically the flavonols.
Flavonols are plant compounds with potent antioxidant properties. Cocoa beans, along with red wine, tea, cranberries, and other fruits, contain large amounts of flavonols. Research is now suggesting that the flavonols in chocolate are responsible for the ability to maintain healthy blood pressure, promote blood flow, and promote heart health.