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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rich, sinful chocolate that simply melts in the mouth—is there a more heavenly experience? Admittedly, most chocoholics can think of more imaginative phrases to describe this wicked indulgence that has its origin in Central America.

Popular in Mayan and Aztec civilizations, the New World used it in bitter spicy xocoatl. Introduced by the Spanish to Europe, it gradually gained popularity, especially among the aristocrats. The nineteenth century saw the emergence of the modern-day chocolate. The Dutch, the Swiss, the English, the French, and others experimented and helped perfect the process.

There are no better gifts than gourmet chocolates to add to the festive punch of any holiday season, to sweeten the memories of a loved one, to put a smile on a face, or to simply to overwhelm the senses with pleasure. No special occasion is required to enjoy chocolate. There are different types of chocolate —unsweetened chocolate liquor used for baking, dark chocolate without addition of milk, couverture that is rich in cocoa butter, milk chocolate, semi-sweet cooking chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, and cocoa powder. Mint, orange, strawberry, caramel, liqueur, dry fruits, cream, nuts of all kinds, and rice crispies are common additives to further enhance these sumptuous chocolates.

Criollo, Trinitario, and Forastero are the three varieties of cacao beans used. From harvesting beans to blending, conching and tempering, all these process determine the character of the chocolate.

Can one imagine a chocolate-free dessert world? Be it a simple comforting cocoa drink or chocolate chip cookies to rich chocolate gateaux, chocolate is delightful. Chocolates could be inexpensive candy bars or expensive truffles. In demand are genuine, completely conched Swiss chocolates, famous Belgian specialties like ballotins de pralines and manons, divine French creations like bonbons, truffles, Turkish delights, chocolate-covered fruits, and many more. Appreciating the work of premier chocolate-makers is almost like the fine art of wine tasting. Movies like Chocolat and Charlie and the Chocolate factory further prove the popularity of this supposed aphrodisiac.

For the passionate chocophile there is no better gift than irresistible gourmet chocolates, with their attractive shapes, colors, flavors, aromas, and packaging. So take a stroll or go online for flawlessly sculpted tasty treats before it is too late!

By Ross Bainbridge

Check Out the Related Article : A Brief History of Chocolate

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Monday, February 16, 2009

It is rumored in some quarters that chocolate is unhealthy. It is said the high-calorie contents will add to excess body fat and clog arteries. There is good news for chocolate lovers! Chocolate in moderation has many health benefits.

Chocolate is so delicious that it is hard to believe it has any kind of health benefit. Yet in chocolate there are vitamins essential for our body's proper functioning. The same chocolate that has a delicious velvety texture also contains calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E. And this is not the full extent of it. Eating chocolate may help reduce the risk of heart disease. High blood pressure is lessened as well because the cocoa in chocolate contains flavonoids.

These flavonoids help to keep fat from clogging the arteries. This is a great thing for those who worry about blood clots. Flavonoids also have antioxidants, which are linked to wonderful health effects like reduced cancer risk.

Chocolate also contains nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps maintain blood pressured and a healthy heart. There is a lot of research being done to strengthen and understand this link. The chocolate benefits do not stop there. Studies show the blood thinning effects are similar to that of a low dose of aspirin. This contributes to free flowing blood less likely to clot. (But chocolate should not be considered a substitute for aspirin which has a longer lasting effect.)

In addition to blood and heart benefits many find that eating chocolate increases positive aspects of their day. Alertness and happiness are increased and many find a pain reducing benefit as well. Theobromine, caffeine, tyramine, and phenylethylamine (also found in chocolate) can reduce fatigue and give people the extra boost they need to get through the day. There are even cannabinoids that give people a sort of safe and happy feeling.

The antioxidant research is probably what wins most people over to the health benefits of chocolate. These antioxidants help to stop the effects of free radicals. Antioxidants can also be found in many fruits and vegetables.

The evidence cited above does not mean that everyone should eat buckets full of chocolate. Depending on how it is prepared, it can be high in fat and calories and lead to an ever-expanding waistline. Even so, the benefits speak for themselves!

Finding health in a food that has always been deemed as "junk" is quite refreshing. There are many who will be thrilled at the news that their beloved treat can increase heart health and possibly even add years to life. Go eat a nice bar of dark chocolate to celebrate!

By William Rayment

Check Out the Related Article : Chocolate and Anxiety - Can Chocolate Help Relieving Anxiety?

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