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The whole truth about chocolate

Delicate enamel, crackling staniol paper: chocolate is both sweet temptation and myth. Chocolate is supposed to make you happy, help keep awake, promote blood circulation, and even sexually stimulate it. But it is also considered the number one thicker. EAT SMARTER has examined the most common chocolate myths.

The whole truth about chocolate

Who invented the chocolate?

At least not the Swiss. The original chocolate was first used by the Aztecs in Mexico and the Maya in Central America. They found out how cocoa can be produced and processed from cocoa beans. This unsweetened cocoa mass, which was mainly prepared as a trunk, has little in common with today's industrial chocolate.

In 1544, drinking chocolate was introduced for the first time in Europe. Spaniards brought them from their colonies in South America. However, chocolate only became a popular luxury commodity in Europe when honey and cane sugar were added to the bitter cocoa. In 1773, the first drinking chocolate was sold in Bremen. The Dutchman Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented the cocoa press around 1828, with which cocoa powder could be produced for the first time. This powder later enabled industrial production.

What is chocolate made of?

Today's chocolate consists of cocoa mass in powder form, cocoa butter, milk powder, and sugar. In addition, water and mostly vanilla or vanillin are added during production. In very small amounts, soy lecithin and other vegetable fat are often added. The white chocolate dispenses with the cocoa mass and in the case of dark bitter chocolate the milk powder. The higher the cocoa content of dark chocolate, the less sugar it contains, and the more bitter it tastes.

Does chocolate make you cheerful?

Dark chocolate can actually help people suffering from so-called chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers in England found this in a recent study: Ten patients suffering from a severe form of fatigue syndrome were given 15 grams of dark chocolate with a high cocoa content every day for eight weeks. Despite the very small amount, all patients subsequently reported a significant improvement in exhaustion symptoms, according to the journal Nutrition Journal. Whether chocolate can also help normally tired people on the jumps is not scientifically investigated.

Does chocolate make you happy? 

That chocolate can influence mood and make people happy is one of the most common chocolate myths. Phenylethylamine, which is found in small amounts in chocolate, is said to be responsible for the sweet feelings of happiness. The substance acts on the neurotransmitters in the brain and causes them to release the happiness hormone serotonin. Now, unfortunately, there are two problems: firstly, the concentration of the "lucky messenger" phenylethylamine in chocolate is very low, about the same as in cheese. Phenylethylamine is even suspected of triggering migraine attacks, but this has not been proven.

And secondly, even the luck-promoting effect of the hormone serotonin possibly released by phenylethylamine is now controversial. Strictly scientifically, therefore, there is little point in claiming that chocolate makes you happy. But science is not everything. From a young age, chocolate is associated with positive feelings and happiness. The sweet taste and the delicate melting feeling of the chocolate on the tongue alone can provide well-being – even without neurotransmitters. So: If you want to be made happy by chocolate, it can work out. But chocolate is not a lucky medicine that works in any case.

Is dark chocolate healthier?

Dark chocolate is healthier because it contains more cocoa and less sugar, one often reads. There is indeed something about it. Medical studies have shown that chocolate with a cocoa content dilates more than 70 percent coronary arteries, improving overall blood flow. This was revealed, among other things, by a study by the University Hospital in Zurich. Italian researchers from the University of Aquila came to a similar conclusion. They also found that dark chocolate has an anti-aging effect and improves sensitivity to insulin in diabetes sufferers.

The reason for the beneficial effects of bitter chocolate is antioxidants contained in cocoa, which improve the resistance of the body cells. However, if milk products are added to the chocolate, the effect of these antioxidants is largely reduced to zero. The same applies, by the way, if you eat bitter chocolate and drink milk. By the way, the valuable antioxidants in the dark chocolate are exactly the same substances that make even moderate tea, coffee, and red wine enjoyment so healthy.

Is chocolate good for the heart?

Yes and no. Dark chocolate, as described, can widen the coronary vessels and improve blood circulation. Even if you eat only small amounts of dark chocolate every day, the risk of a heart or stroke decreases. This is the result of a study published in the European Heart Journal in 2010. The flavonols (antioxidants) contained in bitter chocolate also improve the elasticity of the blood vessels and are therefore also good for balanced blood pressure. A recent study by Potsdam researchers has shown that regular consumption of chocolate can reduce the risk of heart or stroke by up to 40 percent. These positive effects, in turn, apply only to dark chocolate with a high cocoa content.

Does chocolate make you fat?

The downside of chocolate consumption is its fat and sugar content. A 100-gram bar of milk chocolate brings it to 56 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to 22.5 sugar cubes! And contains 526 calories. A 100-gram bar of white chocolate even about 540 calories and a 100-gram bar of nut chocolate 556 calories. The bitter chocolate has the fewest calories, with around 480 calories per 100-gram table.

By comparison, the calorie content of a single bar of chocolate is roughly equivalent to that of a normal lunch, i.e. about a quarter of an adult woman's daily calorie requirement. A study by the University of Copenhagen has also shown that dark chocolate makes it richer than milk chocolate. Conclusion: Chocolate makes you fat. And: Milk chocolate makes once again much thicker than bitter chocolate.

Does chocolate provide energy? 

Chocolate contains a lot of calories, so it can provide the body with a lot of power – but only in the short term. Your sugar gets into the blood very quickly and provides an energy boost that evaporates just as quickly. If you want to supply the organism with energy sustainably, you should, therefore, rely better on fiber-rich food. The body can access this for longer and it also makes it less thick.

Does chocolate act as an aphrodisiac? 

Chocolate in its primal form preceded the reputation of acting as an aphrodisiac, i.e. being sexually stimulating. This legend has held up to this day, probably because the enjoyment of chocolate is generally considered sensual and seductive, and because chocolate supposedly helps to form the "happiness hormone" serotonin. But quite apart from the fact that the effect of serotonin is already controversial, the amounts of the "happiness" that could be formed with the help of chocolate are far too small to have an effect. Similar to the promise of happiness in chocolate, its eroticizing effect is more wishful thinking than science.