It’s a pretty amazing food. Not only is it an aphrodisiac and the quintessential Valentines’ Day gift, I like to think of it rather, as a gift for all mankind. While I am personally more of a dark-chocolate fiend, there are SO many varieties. From white, milk and dark chocolate, all the way to chili-chocolate, orange chocolate or even sea salt chocolate. In honor of this decadent food, I thought that this week’s foodie-phile segment should divulge into the masterpiece of Hershey and Willie Wonka. And keeping in line with our Green Diva lifestyle, chocolate has been found to have some pretty cool health benefits. Who knew?
A Wee Bit of History…
Chocolate dates as far back as ancient Mesoamerica. It derives from the cacao plant beans, which were fermented, roasted and ground. Evidence suggests that cocoa drinks could date as far back as 1900 BC. It was a huge part of Mayan and Aztec royal and religious festivities. Priests used it as offerrings to the gods and it was prepared as a beverage during special ceremonies. As the conquistadors took control of the Mayan and Aztec empires, the cocoa beans were used as tax payments.
Once brought over into Europe, the cocao beans were sweetened and lightened with refined sugar and milk. It proved to contrast greatly from the mesoamerican cultures since Europeans used chocolate as a dessert rather than integrating it into their general diet. In the 19th century, a Briton by the name of John Cadbury developed an emulsification process to make solid chocolate and modernized the traditional chocolate bar.
Chocolate didn’t change much until the Industrial Revolution. By this time, Mills were creating hard, durable chocolate. Companies began to advertise these treats that we know of today since it’s production could be commercialized. When new machines were produced, people began experiencing and consuming chocolate worldwide.
Even though the cacao bean was originally derived in the Americas, Western African today produces two-thirds of the world’s cocoa. Cote d’Ivoire surprisingly grows nearly half of the world’s supply. Thanks Africa!
4 Pretty Sweet Health Benefits of Chocolate
The majority of these findings apply to dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao
1. The latest research backs up claims that chocolate has cardiovascular benefits. A Swedish study conducted over the course of 9 years studied 31,000 women. Those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third.
2. Dark chocolate contains several chemical compounds that have a positive effect on your mood and cognitive health. It can really affect your mood. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (or PEA), which is the the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier.
3. A study from early 2012 suggests that eating chocolate regularly is linked with a lower body mass index (BMI). The authors cited overall diet and chocolate’s antioxidant properties as potential reasons to the findings, as well as growing evidence linking chocolate with metabolic benefits.
4. The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be great for your skin. The flavonols can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.
Don’t Forget to Buy Fair-Trade!
Support fair pricing, healthy working conditions, and sustainable farming practices by purchasing fair-trade chocolate. Child slavery happens at many farms across the world and by purchasing your chocolate with that fair-trade stamp of approval, farm workers are given the justice they deserve. It also helps keep the workers out of poverty and maintain a stable income while promoting community development.