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8 Potential Health Benefits of the Theobromine Found in Chocolate

8 Potential Health Benefits of the Theobromine Found in Chocolate

In recent years, chocolate lovers have rejoiced as more and more studies suggest both milk and dark chocolate boast a variety of health benefits—thus justifying everyone’s cocoa addiction.

Now, there are still more reasons to celebrate. Newer research suggests the theobromine found in chocolate may boast a slew of mental and physical benefits. 

Just what is theobromine, exactly? It’s a compound that exists naturally in a variety of plants, most notably the cacao bean. (Other natural sources of theobromine include coffee beans, guarana berries, and some tea leaves.) Theobromine generally occurs in higher quantities in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate due to the cacao content typically being higher in a dark chocolate versus a milk chocolate, but in either case its chemical makeup is quite similar to caffeine.

Complex chemistry aside, the bottom line is theobromine may be good for you in a number of ways. Here are eight of the potential health benefits of the theobromine found in chocolate.

Healthy Heart  

Research suggests theobromine may help protect the heart in several ways. For starters, it naturally lowers blood pressure. This, in turn, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. There’s also some evidence theobromine may reduce “bad” cholesterol and improve “good” cholesterol. Additionally, the substance may improve blood flow throughout the body, further supporting the heart.

Increased Energy

As noted above, theobromine is quite similar in structure to caffeine; so it may not come as a surprise that theobromine is a known stimulant. This means consuming theobromine may result in both a physical and mental energy boost. Theobromine differs from caffeine, however, in that its stimulant effects are likely to be milder and longer-lasting.

Improved Cognitive Function (at least temporarily)

Because theobromine functions as a stimulant, it may provide a short-term boost in brain function. This is likely because it encourages blood flow to the brain, which may help people feel more mentally alert and focused after having a chocolatey snack.

Healthy Teeth 

Preliminary research suggests theobromine may help strengthen the teeth by protecting tooth enamel from erosion. In the process, theobromine may help defend against the tooth decay that causes cavities. Even more impressive? Theobromine may be a more potent cavity fighter than fluoride, the teeth-strengthening chemical found in the vast majority of toothpastes and mouthwashes.  

Good Mood

Research in this area is mixed, but there’s some evidence the consumption of theobromine may result in a mood boost in the form of greater relaxation and a more positive affect. While more research is needed, we think most people would agree that eating high-quality chocolate is liable to put a smile on their face!

Cough Suppressant

While it’s tempting to reach for the cough syrup when you feel the sniffles coming on, you might be better off eating some chocolate instead. Some research suggests theobromine may act as a cough suppressant. There’s even evidence theobromine is more effective than codeine when it comes to soothing a nasty cough.

Healthy Respiratory System

Evidence suggests theobromine may widen the body’s airways and relax smooth muscle tissue throughout the body, including the smooth muscle tissue found in the lungs. This, in turn, increases airflow to the lungs—which helps explain both why theobromine may be an effective cough suppressant (as noted above) and why theobromine may be useful in the management of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Reduced Inflammation

As demonstrated by the benefits described above, there’s strong evidence to suggest theobromine may be a potent anti-inflammatory. This is largely because the substance has antioxidant capacities, which helps reduce oxidative stress down to the cellular level.

While the benefits of theobromine are impressive, none of this is to say that people should start supplementing with massive doses of the stuff in powdered form. As with caffeine, excessive theobromine consumption may result in headaches, sweating, and shaking. But if you consume the substance via moderate intake of chocolate, researchers haven’t discovered any risks. To the contrary, evidence suggests a little chocolate really does do a body good.

7 Light, Chocolatey Snack Recipes that Won't Ruin Your Appetite

7 Light, Chocolatey Snack Recipes that Won't Ruin Your Appetite

Chocolate has quite the decadent reputation. From German chocolate cakes to giant fudge sundaes, many of chocolate’s most popular recipes might end up with you putting on a pair of sweatpants and taking a whole evening to digest.

With the following recipes, you’ll be able to leave those sweats safely tucked into your dresser. These snacks utilize chocolate in all its glory, yet still manage to avoid inducing a button-popping incident. If you’re looking to enjoy the taste of chocolate without spoiling your appetite for the rest of the day, these seven recipes are for you.

Dark Chocolate Hummus

Everyone’s favorite dipping snack gets an upgrade with a chocolatey twist. This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, and free of refined sugars—yet it still manages to remain delicious. It starts off with classic hummus ingredients in the form of chickpeas and tahini, then switches course with the addition of maple syrup, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract. Serve with strawberries, apple slices, and/or pretzels.

Dark Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn

Make America’s favorite movie snack more interesting with the addition of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. Carefully melt the chocolate, pop your popcorn kernels, and then drizzle the melted chocolate over the popcorn while it’s hot. If you want to make things even more interesting, consider sprinkling orange zest or crystallized ginger over the whole shebang.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Chocolate-covered strawberries aren’t only reserved for Valentine’s Day. Whip them up any day of the week for a surprisingly healthful snack. The strawberries provide loads of vitamins, while using dark chocolate ensures your snack packs an extra antioxidant wallop. Take things up a notch by rolling the dipped strawberries in crushed nuts, or simply enjoy them the classic way for a refreshing pick-me-up.

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almonds

We all know almonds are chock full of healthy fats, but sometimes eating them plain can get a little boring. Enter: bittersweet chocolate, which adds a rich depth of flavor without making the almonds too sweet. For best results, toast the almonds before dipping them in chocolate and sprinkling them with sea salt and just a touch of raw sugar.

Avocado Truffle Chocolates

Sugary truffles can easily spoil an appetite—but not so with this healthier take on the decadent confections. There’s no added sugar in this recipe; instead, the truffles draw their flavor from cinnamon, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, and vanilla extract. As for their rich, creamy texture? That all comes down to good-for-you avocado.

No-Bake Chocolate Coconut Energy Bites

These vegan and gluten-free snacks provide a burst of morning or afternoon energy without any added sugars. The healthy ingredients list includes the likes of almond slices, unsweetened cocoa, ground flax seeds, and coconut oil. Adding in medjool dates adds a touch of natural sweetness and ensures all the ingredients stick together when it’s time to form them into bite-sized balls.

Dark Chocolate Sweet Potato Chips

Finally, a chip you can feel good about! All it takes is five simple ingredients to whip up this healthy snack; they include sweet potatoes, olive or coconut oil, sea salt, ground cinnamon, and, of course...chocolate. The crispy sweet potatoes balance out the creaminess of the melted chocolate, while the sea salt ensures this treat never tastes too sweet.

From rich truffles to heart-healthy almonds: Whether you’re in the mood for a sweet treat or an energy-boosting snack, these seven chocolatey recipes have got you covered.

What Are Fat Bloom and Sugar Bloom, and Do They Make Chocolate Unsafe?

What Are Fat Bloom and Sugar Bloom, and Do They Make Chocolate Unsafe?

Ever opened up a chocolate bar and noticed a whitish dusting or streaking across the surface?  Don’t be so hasty to toss it in the trash! These light-colored blemishes found on chocolate are pretty common, and they’re usually the result of sugar or fat bloom.

Neither one of these blooms is harmful, but it’s still nice to know what’s going on when your food changes appearance. Here’s what sugar and fat bloom are all about—plus how to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Sugar Bloom

Sugar bloom is characterized by a white, dusty, grainy coating that appears on the surface of chocolate. To understand why this occurs, you first need to recall two things:

  • Chocolate consists of ground cocoa beans as well as sugar—and that means sugar crystals are distributed throughout the chocolate.
  • Sugar crystals are attracted to moisture—and when they come into contact with it, they dissolve.

You probably see where this is going...sugar bloom happens when chocolate comes into contact with moisture. This could happen for several reasons: Perhaps someone stored the chocolate in a humid environment. Or maybe they stored it in the fridge and then removed it to sit at room temperature; this can result in condensation (aka moisture) forming on the chocolate.

No matter how moisture comes in contact with chocolate, the end result is the same: The moisture dissolves the sugar on the chocolate’s surface. Then, as the, the moisture evaporates, the sugar re-solidifies into small crystals leaving behind a layer of dried sugar on the chocolate. These crystals create the “dusty” appearance that characterizes sugar bloom. This “dust” will disappear if you re-wet the chocolate, because the sugar crystals will dissolve again. (Which is not to say you should re-wet the chocolate! But it is a way to test whether the change in appearance is due to sugar bloom.)

Luckily, preventing sugar bloom is pretty easy: Simply store chocolate in a low-humidity space with stable temperatures and do everything in your power to avoid letting the chocolate come in contact with liquids.

Fat Bloom

Fat bloom can be identified by grayish streaks that appear on the surface and potentially throughout the chocolate. Most commonly, this results when chocolate is exposed to warm temperatures, which causes the cocoa butter (aka fat) in the chocolate to soften. When the fat melts, it separates from the other ingredients in the chocolate and rises to the surface, where it then re-solidifies and creates a grayish “bloom”. Due to the separation of the cocoa fat from other ingredients, the chocolate can lose its temper and shine.  

Given this, it’s probably not surprising that the most effective way to prevent fat bloom is to store chocolate in a cool (read: not hot) place with stable temperatures.

In some cases, the chocolate may already have fat bloom on it when you buy it. This is could happen at a number of different points in a chocolate bar’s journey to you; either at the source, in transit while being shipped, in the storeroom at your local grocery store, or maybe from being left on your counter during the summer when your air-conditioner is broken.. There’s nothing you can do to turn back the clock on fat bloom, but you can take comfort in knowing that your new chocolate bar’s grayish appearance probably isn’t the result of a major issue, it just may be a little less flavorful than you’d like.

No matter whether your chocolate is suffering from sugar or fat bloom, the bloom is likely to change the texture of the chocolate. While this might be off-putting to some, the good news is that it’s still safe to eat and cook with chocolate that has been affected by either type of bloom.