"FOOD OF THE GODS"
You don't get cacao powder from simply grinding cacao beans -- there is an extensive chain of events from pod to powder. Cacao beans are in large pods when they are harvested. The pods are split open and then allowed to ferment to mellow the natural bitterness of the cacao beans. Cacao beans are then roasted and hulled to uncover the cacao nibs. Nibs are ground into a thin paste, referred to as chocolate liquor. The liquor is then pressed to squeeze out the cacao butter and leave the cacao solids. The cacao solids are pressed again, dried and then ground into cacao powder.
Chocolate liquor, that thin runny paste that comes from grinding chocolate nibs, is the basis for cacao powder but also many other chocolate products, such as dark chocolate and milk chocolate bars and morsels. Chocolate manufacturers control the cacao butter percentage, added sugar and other ingredients to create a range of chocolate products. If you've picked up a dark chocolate bar lately, you may be wondering what the percentage values mean. For example, Lindt dark chocolate bars can be as high as 99% cacao, and 99% is listed on the packaging. The higher the percentage, the higher the cacao levels in the bar and the higher the health benefits.
The big health buzz for the past few years has been about the health benefits chocolate can deliver. What a treat! You can eat your favorite confection guilt-free! But before you run to the candy bar aisle, keep in mind that the health benefits are derived from small portions of chocolate and the most health benefits are derived from the darkest chocolate. White chocolate doesn't count and milk chocolate has more sugar. Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure and may reduce the risk of blood clots. Essentially, dark chocolate is good for your heart. A recent study published on BMJ online last month indicates that people who frequently eat chocolate have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.