* The caffeine contained in chocolate remains an addictive substance in its own way, so it could be that in people who are sensitive to it, and who consume chocolate in high doses, a real addiction develops.
Chocolate is mainly fatty and sweet, two of the things we crave most in terms of gustatory pleasure and a feeling of well-being and soothing.
Among other things, this takes us back to our earliest taste experiences. To the memory of mother's milk, which has the same criteria (fatty and sweet) and to the emotional state we were in during the feeding. And there's a whole emotional mechanism linked to this, depending on how we've been brought up to eat and the relationship we've built up with food as we've grown up (you know the little square of chocolate that comforts all the sorrows...).
So there's an emotional factor, but also the stimulating side that chocolate provides.
As Science & Vie explains so well in its article "Where does chocolate addiction come from?";
"This pleasure is due to the cocktail of psychoactive substances it contains. In particular two methylxanthines: caffeine and theobromine, which appear to block adenosine receptors, a substance that inhibits arousal. Caffeine is known to increase the secretion of epinephrine, a hormone in the same family as adrenaline, contributing to its stimulating effect. "
So it's all pretty scientific, in other words, chocolate contains stimulating substances that our brains recognise. The brain, which is very good at making associations, makes the link between the effect - the stimulation it is looking for - and the food that is capable of providing it.
That's why, when we need it - when we're looking for a boost, a stimulus - we'll remember the chocolate that fulfilled that need and awaken in us the desire to eat it.
However, there are also other criteria in the composition and manufacturing process that can disturb our senses and deteriorate the "sensors" that allow us to stop. These sensors enable the transmission of satiety signals, leading us to consume only what the body needs, to stop and cut any desire for consumption as soon as it has taken the necessary nutrients from food. While we discuss this in the context of chocolate, it applies to all transformations of raw foods.
It is therefore essential, to choose your chocolate wisely, to be aware of these criteria, and always read the ingredients!
So, although the brain makes the connection between the substances in chocolate and the body's needs, the processing of chocolate disrupts our senses and our ability to limit ourselves to our needs. Roasting involves heating cocoa beans to around 140°C to reduce the naturally present moisture content, thereby reducing the acidity caused by their natural fermentation and developing the taste of chocolate.
Unfortunately, this process is rarely done in a traditional way, with the appropriate steps, temperature, and duration, which damages the beans and leads manufacturers to use additives. "Gentle roasting must respect both a low temperature and a sufficient duration that is not restricted for economic reasons. Only gentle and perfectly controlled roasting not only avoids burning the beans but also preserves the fats in cocoa beans. This factor is essential to avoid the incorporation of additives such as soy lecithin." – According to the Blog tpe chocolate.
However, they are often roasted at over 200°C, sometimes even burned, which alters their biochemical composition and makes chocolate from these beans less interesting (nutritionally speaking) and less recognizable for our brains, which will no longer know when to say stop.
Add to this the factor of sugar. Yes, because chocolate is not just cocoa beans! The addition of sugar, most often refined, in significant quantities is also a factor to consider. It disturbs the ability to limit ourselves to our needs, and the call is felt, again and again. We now know that sugar acts like a drug on our brain; studies have shown that one can be more addicted to sugar than to heroin!
Naturally, cocoa beans are bitter and not very sweet. That's why, in making chocolate, sugar is added, followed by milk to soften the taste. Many other variations have been developed to make it even more appealing, with toppings such as nuts, fruits, creams, caramel, and other delights.
But there are also additions that are not visible, not felt, but still modify the chocolate. These can be preservatives (in the worst cases), artificial flavors, sugar derivatives (glucose syrup, fructose, etc.), emulsifiers (like lecithin). Often, these are found in (very) cheap chocolates, but they are still present in the "major brands" of industrial chocolate.
If you observe these elements in the list of ingredients, it means that the manufacturing process was not done according to the rules of the art and does not allow the beans to be properly exploited. Normally, a well-processed bean (following harvesting, drying, roasting, crushing steps) requires no additions for a chocolate aroma and a solid, melting texture in the mouth.
Traditionally, chocolate is a preparation composed of few ingredients: cocoa paste, cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla. Industrialization and the increasing demand for lower-cost options have led to the development of increasingly fanciful recipes to make chocolate more appetizing – but also more addictive – and to have a less expensive yield.
Choosing at least organic quality will avoid chemical treatments and pesticides, providing chocolate whose virtues (from cocoa beans) are not too deteriorated.
Pure Cocoa Butter
According to Mickaël AZOUZ, any mention other than "pure cocoa butter" indicates that the cocoa bean roasting process has not been respected and that they may have been heated (burned) to over 275°C. Therefore, "cocoa paste," "cocoa butter," "defatted cocoa," "lean cocoa" indicate a detrimental, even toxic, roasting process for our bodies. This includes chocolates with over 90% cocoa that do not have the "pure cocoa butter" label.
As mentioned earlier, the percentage of sugar influences our desire to consume more. Therefore, it is preferable to opt for chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. The higher the cocoa percentage, the less sugar it contains. Consume preferably chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa. Additionally, if you prefer chocolate containing whole sugar, it will be less addictive and less harmful to your health.
Dark chocolate is free of milk. Stronger, more bitter for some, dark chocolate is enjoyed and consumed in moderation. It is challenging to find milk chocolate containing over 50% cocoa, with the rest composed of sugar, a lot of sugar, milk (powder), and sometimes other toppings, emulsifiers, preservatives, etc. Its quality is therefore less controllable. Milk chocolate is also more likely to lead to overconsumption (hence the risk of a stomachache in case of excess). It doesn't truly satisfy the craving, and it is savored very little because sweetness calls for more without even letting a whole square melt in the mouth.
For those with refined palates, enjoying good dark chocolate is like savoring a fine wine!
However, be sure to read the ingredients; dark chocolate is not necessarily vegan or free of dairy products. Many industrial and artisanal chocolates include butter in their preparation.
Raw chocolate is simply made with fermented and dried cocoa beans instead of roasted ones. The details of the steps are well explained in this article from Chaudron Pastel. They thus preserve all their nutritional properties – rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium, neurotransmitters – and their original flavor. More bitter, more intense, but more raw, raw chocolate would more easily bring one back to moderation, to the actual need.
To counter the effects of heated/processed cocoa and meet the real needs our brain has when it craves chocolate, one can opt for recipes based on raw chocolate (cocoa), good fat, and unprocessed sugar. Homemade recipes made with raw cocoa powder are ideal. This way, you are sure of what makes up your indulgence and can ensure to bring genuinely interesting elements while savoring guilt-free treats to satisfy the "chocoholics."
Now that you know how to choose your chocolate and all the criteria that come into play for adequate quality, perhaps you will better understand the price that high-quality chocolates can command. You may prefer to invest in good chocolate to savor occasionally, rather than opting for mediocre chocolate every day. A small change in your consumption that will be beneficial for your body, your health, and the planet.
In summary, to choose high-quality chocolate with authentic flavors, a moderate amount of sugar, and that truly satisfies your current needs, you should choose chocolate that is: