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Cacao

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Cacao
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Scientific Classification
Bionomial name

Theobroma cacao

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Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is a tree that is best known for being the plant from which cocoa and chocolate are made. Cacao has been cultivated since before Christ in Central and South America, and is presently still cultivated in South and Central America, as well as western Africa, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka; all tropical regions.[1][2] The genus name, Theobroma, combines two Greek words to mean food of the gods. Sometimes the cacao plant is called the cocoa tree, or even a chocolate tree. Cocoa is an English word for the unprocessed beans, and refers to its origins in the cacao plant. The cocoa we use for cooking or in milk is a highly processed chocolate product that only has a vague resemblance to the cocoa that producers refer to.

Anatomy

Description

The trunk of the cacao tree is thick and its height is about 12m (40 ft). The leaves are long, oval, and leathery; the end of the leaf is pointed and the middle of leaf remains slender as well. The small flowers are white with a diameter of about 1.5 cm. The calyx (the sepal cup which holds the petals) is purple shading toward red. The flower has 5 petals, 6 stamens, one pistil, and 5 ovaries.[1]

The flowers grow when the cacao plant is 4-5 years old. If the Cacao reaches 12-50 years, then many flowers might grow at once, but only 1 fruit pod develops per 200 to 400 flowers. The cocoa pod or cacao fruit is a long oval, like a toy football, 15-30 cm long (6 to 12 inches) and 8-10 cm wide (3-4 inches).[1] The pod is orange when ripe.

Each pod has 40 to 60 seeds. The seeds have about 2% of theobromin and a small percentage of caffeine, but contain about 50% of their weight in fats called cocoa butter. After the seeds are removed from the ripe fruit (at which point the seeds are called cocoa beans even though they aren't ready to use), they are allowed to ferment for about 9 days in a wooden tub, or in a pile of seeds covered with bits of cacao plant. After they ferment, the seeds or cocoa beans become reddish brown, with a peculiar smell. The cocoa beans will be ready to process only after being washed with water, and dried for a time. The beans are roasted and their husks removed, the brownish bean interior that remains is called the chocolate nib. The nibs are ground into a paste, some of the cocoa butter is removed, and the sluggish mass left is called chocolate liquor (though there is no alcohol content) which can be processed into chocolate, especially with the addition of sugar and milk.

The fat which is derived from the paste of dried cocoa beans is called cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is a light yellow color, and is used for a margarine, a hair pomade, and medical supplies because of its peculiar fragrance, as well as kindness to skin.[1]

Advantages and disadvantages of Chocolate

1) Diet

Most people think that chocolate is a factor in gaining weight, but if you eat only a little chocolate before or after a meal, the chocolate's sugars help control your sense of hunger or feeling of fullness. Chocolate has 520 kcal per 100g, and actually the percentage of fat is only 20% for whole bitter chocolate. Pure chocolate has a fat content that comes from cocoa butter which contains no cholesterol and generally doesn't increase blood cholesterol. Because its fat is hard to absorb, you don't have to worry about the fat causing an excess of calories; the fat factor does not come from the chocolate. [3] However some warn that the milk fats and sugars added to pure chocolate cause enough problems for obesity, and that too much chocolate, however pure, will help you gain weight.[4][5]

It is important to remember that chocolate is poisonous to dogs because it contains methylxanthine. For example, a one pound bag of semi sweet chocolate chips can kill a 50 pound dog, or three ounces of baker's chocolate can kill a 20 pound dog.[6] The poisonous dosage depends on the concentration of chocolate and the size of the dog. Because of this experts recommend not letting your dog learn to like the taste of chocolate.


2) prevention of diabetes and cancer

Arteriosclerosis, diabetes, or cancer are thought to be worsened by free radicals based on oxygen. People can't live without air, but 1% of air's oxygen which is absorbed in body becomes activated oxygen which can combine with molecules to make free radicals. Since the active oxygen's power of cohesion with other matter is so strong, it can combine with enzymes or disturb metabolism of cells and so there has been a great search for antioxidants. One very efficient element which inhibits the activity of active oxygen is called polyphenol. Chocolate has plenty of natural polyphenols, so it works well to prevent disease.[7][3]


3) constipation aid

If a person doesn't have enough fiber in their diet, it is easy to get the constipation. Cacao fruit has abundant fibers, so it enables food to move fast in the large intestine; and so cures the constipation.[3]


(4) A recovery from fatigue

When you eat chocolate, its sugars promote recovery from fatigue, and help bring the blood-sugar level back to normal. The sugar makes the brain active, as it provides nutrition to the brain as well. Chocolate incense is also great to recover from fatigue.[3]


5) Love = Chocolate

Cacao has phenylethylamine. When people fall in love the brain secrets a chemical substance which is the same as phenylethylamine. This substance makes the heart to palpitate. According to some research, after parting from his/her lover, many people desire to eat chocolate. In ancient times, the peerage used chocolate as "The medicine which helps the life of love". The reason is that when they ate chocolate, their feelings were happier.[3]


6) Studying for tests

You may have heard this sentence, "If you eat a chocolate, the test's result will be nice." The reason that students who will take the SAT eat chocolate before taking the test is to achieve a better result. Chocolate's phenylethylamine settles people's minds down, so it makes their power of concentration better. Digestion of carbohydrate, as well helps the ability of brain to speed up its absorption.[3]


7) Youthfulness

Some have said that if you eat chocolate, you can prevent aging because chocolate has polyphenol which has the ability to prevent aging. Chocolate has more polyphenol than green tea, or grape wine.[8][3]


8) Beauty culture for the skin

Cocoa butter helps to maintain the skin's moisture, as well as being effective to make skin smooth.[3]


9) Prevention of heart troubles

Six hours after eating chocolate, plaque deposit activity and the phenomenon of cohesion decreases. Polyphenol contained in chocolate lowers the danger of low density-cholesterol, as well as controlling the activity of the plaque deposit. Chocolate has flavonoids (composite), whose function is to restrain the clotting of blood. Also it helps to maintain a healthy heart, and smooth circulation of blood.[3]


10) Preventative effect on the stomach and intestinal disease

Polyphenol's 12 substances eliminate the active oxygen which is formed by Helicobacter pylori, which is known as a factor for gastritis, and gastric ulcers. It can also prevent many other stomach and intestinal diseases. According to one experiment, after they transplanted a carcinogen to a mouse's stomach and intestine, they medicated the mouse with extract of Cacao, with positive results.[3]


11) Prevention of colds, and control of allergies

Chocolate's polyphenol's improvement of immunity is noted, as well as its effect on the prevention of colds and allergies. Also chocolate polyphenol has flavonoid, one of whose functions is inhibitive action of myocardial infarction or a cardiac disorder.[3]


12) Prevention of tooth decay

Tooth decay is not just because of eating sugar-containing foods. The problem is that the bacteria which eat the sugar easily proliferate, and this situation continues. Chocolate has polyphenol which help prevent decayed teeth.[3]


13) Help for longevity

Professor of epidemiology, Dr. Lee, who works in Harvard University of Medicine discovered that if people eat chocolate, then they will live about 1 year longer than the people who don't eat chocolate. In a study of 7841 graduates of Harvard he discovered that older graduates who ate candy generally lived a year longer than those who did not. He postulated that the difference was the chocolate contained in the candy.[9][3]

14) Boost depression

Cocoa bean's ingredients include caffeine, a small amount of caffeine enables people to feel better. You don't have to worry about the caffeine, because the caffeine in chocolate is only 1/20 - 1/60 of the amount in a cup of coffee. Thus even kids can eat the Cacao's caffeine, and be fine.[10]


15) hydrolysis of alcohol

Muscovado, taurine, and catechin hydrolyze alcohol, as well as prevent drinking alcohol. So chocolate works both before and after drinking alcohol.[10]

Ecology

Almost all cacao grows in tropical areas of the world.[1]

Presently, Indonesia's Cacao farms are about 970,000 hectares, and Indonesia produces about 450,000 tons of cocoa beans yearly. 70% of the products are produced from Sumatra island, and others are produced from Java island. Cacao comes in two varieties which are called blue and red Cacao. We can recognize ripe Cacao by the color. Red Cacao is yellow when ripe, and its taste is sour and sweet, while blue Cacao's color is the same but is sweeter. If you shake a ripe Cacao, you will hear a dull thud inside, the sound comes from the loose seeds inside the Cacao fruit.

People can pick ripe Cacao anytime, but most farmers pick ripe Cacao between May and June, and then usually again in October and November; twice yearly. When you cut a Cacao in half, you can see the white seeds which cling to each other, and if you eat them, you will notice a sour, slightly chocolate taste.[11]

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