Bags of chocolate fill the isles at the grocery store and into our homes as we prepare for Halloween. Then, we buy candy for our kid's classroom activities, for trick-or-treaters, we have more leftover candy, and then kids come home with pillowcases stuffed to the brim. We know little about chocolate and most of what we know about chocolate came from movies like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, but that is far from reality on how chocolate is made.
Making chocolate is a complicated process that begins with the cocoa bean from the Theobroma Cacao tree. Once pods are ripened, they are harvested and the seeds are separated to begin fermentation. Fermentation takes the bitter taste out of the seed and adds natural yeast and bacteria. Then, the beans are dry roasted which is constant stirring with heat being applied. Next, the bean is extracted and grounded into a fine powder.
The chocolate we’re familiar with is made with cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. Although chocolate is usually harmful to our health, there are actually benefits to dark chocolate. First, the cocoa bean is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. Studies show dark chocolate can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, improves brain function and protect against heart disease.
Of course this doesn’t mean to consume bags of chocolate everyday, but it’s not necessarily bad to eat a bite or two once a day. When picking chocolate to eat, make sure you choose a dark chocolate with 70 percent or higher of cocoa content that has a low sugar content and few calories.
For kids trick-or-treating, it’s important to limit their candy intake, especially around the holiday season. Some tips to limiting candy consumption are encourage smaller bags for trick-or-treating, talk about the importance of healthy eating to your kids before trick-or-treating and use your excess candy for crafts or donations to shelters.
Emma Laing, clinical associate professor of M.S. in Foods and Nutrition, Community Nutrition, suggests walking to houses to make trick-or-treating a fun exercising activity. Laing also advised to have children use their candy as healthier options by using their candy to decorate bananas as ghosts.