Not just an indulgent treat, the cocoa bean contains flavonoids, magnesium, and iron for protection from heartdisease.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which are rich in antioxidant flavonoids, fiber, and minerals. The chocolate-making process also provides procyanidins, which have an anti-inflammatory action. For better or worse, chocolate contains caffeine and a 3½ oz/100 g bar of dark chocolate has about as much as a cup of coffee. Cocoa powder is a relatively low-fat, high fiber source of minerals and antioxidants and for chocolate lovers watching their fat intake, a cocoa drink made with skim milk is a good alternative. Antioxidant content can have an anticoagulant action and protect against the oxidation of cholesterol in our bodies. Magnesium content protects the heart. Iron content can keep blood healthy and maintain energy levels. Contains the stimulant theobromine, which is a diuretic.

Practical tips:
The type of chocolate that we buy has a strong bearing on the amount of nutrients it contains. Generally, the more cocoa solids that the chocolate contains, the more antioxidants and minerals it has. This means that dark chocolate with 70 percent cocoa solids is a good source, while standard milk chocolate is not. Cocoa butter is high in total fat and saturated fat, so even dark chocolate should be consumed in moderate amounts. White chocolate is a mix of cocoa butter and milk solids and has negligible healthy nutrients.

Cocoa beans grow on cocoa trees that are now mainly grown in South America and Africa. They were first imported to Europe by Christopher Columbus in the early 16th century.

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