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Almost everyone likes chocolate, adults and children. However, it is a highly energetic food and often excessively rich in sugars and fats; therefore it is advisable to prefer only the consumption of dark chocolate, which contains at least 70% cocoa , such as Modica Chocolate .
Typically Sicilian, it is different in texture and flavor from the classic chocolate. The appearance is rough and the organoleptic qualities are unmistakable, so unique that it has won the IGP designation . Furthermore, the natural principles and properties of cocoa are kept almost totally unaltered in this product, thanks to the natural processing of the raw material, which is carried out cold .
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Every day, according to EFSA recommendations , you can eat a piece of dark chocolate, about 10 grams , or you can use 2.5 grams of cocoa powder to prepare hot chocolate.
But how do you get the raw material to prepare this delicacy?
The cocoa powder is obtained through a delicate series of processes from the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao ), native to the Amazon forest ; after the discovery of America, it was spread and cultivated in tropical climate zones around the world. The fruit is called carbosse , while the seeds are called broad beans .
Some archaeological finds show Mayan deities holding cocoa beans (this is why it was originally defined as the food of the gods ) and this makes us understand how ancient the origins of this plant and its use for food are. For the Maya and the Aztecs , cocoa was also important from an economic point of view: it was in fact so appreciated that it was even used as a bargaining chip; it seems that it was also used to pay tributes to the emperor and that the famous Montezuma boasted enormous deposits.
How cocoa powder is obtained
It takes approximately 5 years for the plant to be able to produce . The carbosse are harvested by hand and cut with the utmost care, so as not to damage the seeds.
Subsequently these are piled up away from light and subjected to a series of fermentations (alcoholic, lactic and acetic) to eliminate their original bitter taste; during this phase the precursors of the much loved aroma develop.
Then follows a drying process: generally it is preferable to exploit the sunlight, because the slower process guarantees a better quality of the product; finally we proceed with the roasting phase, which allows to better develop the aromas that were pre-formed and to eliminate any bacteria, volatile acids and humidity.
Finally, the cleaned and toasted seeds are crushed and finely ground to obtain a powder, characterized by a high number of active substances and a high degree of digestibility.
The components of cocoa and its fabulous properties
It is a food rich in proteins , lipids, essential amino acids, and purine alkaloids, such as theobromine and caffeine .
Theobromine and caffeine give cocoa a tonic , diuretic and vasodilating function; for this reason it can be effectively used to integrate the pharmacological treatments of patients suffering from angina pectoris, as long as it is associated with draining foods.
It is also rich in iron , calcium , potassium , phosphorus , magnesium and B vitamins ; the latter exert a tonic action on the body: a research by the University of L'Aquila , published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Nutrition , has identified cocoa as an extraordinary natural neurostimulant, capable of increasing concentration in conditions of fatigue.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has ruled that cocoa also helps to keep blood pressure under control and that, in general, it is beneficial for the heart and vessels . In fact, cocoa contains many flavonoids , substances that are proving to be a real panacea for the cardiovascular system; recent studies have confirmed their ability to inhibit the process of formation of atherosclerotic plaques, to prevent the formation of blood clots and to reduce inflammation affecting the walls of blood vessels; also useful as anti-inflammatories and antioxidants.
Furthermore, an enrichment of the diet with cocoa has shown effects such as a reduction in body weight and visceral adipose tissue , thanks to an increase in thermogenesis.
ll cocoa contains chemicals, specifically neurotransmitters, such as tyrosine, serotonin and endorphins , capable of crossing the blood brain barrier, regulating mood and also acting as "natural painkillers" .
Its many properties also include that of promoting sleep induction . For this purpose, it should be taken no later than five in the afternoon, to give the body's metabolic processes time to transform tryptophan into serotonin, one of the main inducers of sleep.
For people with a very sensitive nervous system, chocolate and cocoa-based drinks should not be taken after five in the afternoon, as the xanthines contained in cocoa stimulate excitatory molecules such as adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Solid chocolate is a more recent invention than liquid chocolate. Its birth is due to the English Joseph Fry who in 1847 discovered that by adding a little of the fat part of the seeds to the cocoa mass, the cocoa butter in fact, you get a paste that can be modeled : thus the first bar of chocolate to the world!