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Chocolate's Dark Secret

From religious elixir to lover's treat to health food? The new truth about chocolate.

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Q:What is the difference in the calories in cocoa, baking chocolate, and chocolate candy?

A: Most chocolate we eat today is a combination of cocoa solids, fats, sugar, and, in the case of milk chocolate, milk. Here's the scoop on fat and calories:

  • Pure cocoa powder: (2 tablespoons): 40 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate (1 ounce):140 calories, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat.
  • Semisweet or milk chocolate (1 ounce): 135 calories, 8.5 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat.
  • Dark chocolate (1 ounce): 142 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 6 grams of saturated fat.

Q: What is the difference between cocoa powder, baking chocolate, dark, milk, and white chocolate?

A: It all boils down to how chocolate is made. Cocoa beans are roasted, graded, and ground to make a chocolate liquor, which also contains cocoa butter.

  • Unsweetened baking chocolate is chocolate liquor that's been solidified and pressed.
  • Cocoa powder is cocoa butter removed from chocolate liquor and dried into cocoa powder.
  • Dark chocolate is a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, and sometimes vanilla.
  • Milk chocolate is made by adding milk or milk powder to the dark chocolate formula.
  • White chocolate contains sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla. It has no chocolate liquor.

Emulsifying agents are usually added to chocolate candy to give it a smooth texture and mouth feel. More expensive chocolates are processed longer to enhance the mouth feel.

Q: Is chocolate really an aphrodisiac?

A: The Aztecs considered chocolate a royal aphrodisiac. The Mayans associated it with their fertility god. And today, Sarah McLachlan sings, "Your love is better than chocolate," a modern twist on the chocolate love connection.

Here are the scientific facts. Chocolate contains the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are thought to be mood boosters and mild sexual stimulants. Eating chocolate makes you feel good, even euphoric. But the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate are more about the sensual pleasure of how it melts in your mouth than as a sexual stimulus.

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Reviewed on December 30, 2008
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