Scientists are Giving More Reasons to Love Chocolate
Posted on 31st March 2015

ChocolateA less bitter and a healthier chocolate–what can be better? Dark chocolate is already famous for being the candy that can curb obesity and diabetes. Those are just two of its plethora of health benefits, though. Chocolates can reduce risks of heart disease, reduce stress, boost the skin’s sun protection, help brain activity, induce a happier pregnancy that also leads to happier babies, relieve cough, and get rid of diarrhea.

That is already a bunch, but scientists have better things in mind.

Cacao, the plant from which chocolate comes, is rich in antioxidants. The plant bears the chemical polyphenol, which is responsible for chocolate’s health benefits. This chemical has a reputation of helping in the prevention of cancer and heart disease. Unfortunately, the regular process of chocolate making removes much of this compound from the candy. Manufacturers may choose to save more of the polyphenol at the expense of the chocolates’ sweet taste. The result will either be a sweet chocolate but with less antioxidant, or a healthier bar but with a very bitter taste.

To improve the process and keep as much polyphenol in the chocolate as possible, scientists from the University of Ghana and Ghent University in Belgium studied the chocolate procedure. They discovered that by storing the cocoa pods a few days before the fermentation and roasting process, a bigger amount of the antioxidant remained in the confectionery. The same process produced a sweeter and richer taste on the chocolate.

Emmanuel Afoakwa, leader of the research, explained that he got the process from the traditional process in Ghana. Unlike the common practice where makers remove the cacao beans from the pod immediately, Ghana farmers tend to store the pods a few days to buy time for the next harvest. This storage results in a richer product after the procedure. Afoakwa emphasized that this procedure is responsible for the good reputation of Ghana chocolate.

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During his presentation of the research during the annual conference of the American Chemical Society, he stated that they have not reached an exact explanation about the effect of the storage. Afoakwa’s team, however, saw how the pulp pre-condition, as they call it, is accountable for the retention of the chemical and chocolaty taste. They stated that through the storage, some of the sweet pulp modifies the beans’ chemical structure before the fermentation process. It somehow protects the natural chemical while contributing its sweet taste to the bean.

This may be a big step in the manufacture of the commercial chocolate, since right after the national meeting, the team proceeded to continue their research on the process. They are currently looking for the connection between the length of the storage, the intensity of heat during the roasting, and other matters. In no time, the world will be saying hello to a sweeter and healthier chocolate.