It’s hard to believe that the most loved food on the planet could actually be healthy for you. Did you know that the average American consumes about 12 pounds of chocolate a year. How could something so fattening and loaded with sugar actually be healthy for you?
History of Chocolate
Let’s start with a little history lesson to better inform you on how there could actually be some benefits of dark chocolate. Chocolate has a long history, dating back to around 600 AD when the Mayan Indians established cocoa plantations in the Yucatan region of Mexico. The Mayans and later the Aztecs created a chocolate drink called ‘xocoatl’ or ‘chocoatl’ which originated from cocoa beans taken from cocoa trees. This ‘chocoatl’ drink consisted of chocolate flavored with vanilla and spices and had the consistency of honey. Chocolate was only consumed in liquid form at this time.
The Dutching Process
When the Europeans were introduced to chocolate it was still in its purest form. This changed in the early 1800s when a Dutchman by the name of Coenrad Jahannes van Houten discovered that if you added alkali-potash to the beans before they were roasted it would neutralize the acid or bitter taste of the natural cocoa.
While there were some obvious benefits of the “dutching” process, the biggest problem was that because of that process the most important benefits of dark chocolate were being removed.
Chocolate in the Raw
One of the most important nutrients being eliminated during the “dutching” process was flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants found in raw fruits and vegetables that help to slow down the oxidation or aging process in our bodies. Therefore, the most healthy chocolate is raw or unalkalized.
What About the Fat?
Cocoa butter, like its name suggests, is the natural fat of the cocoa bean. For years it was believed that cocoa butter was a harmful ingredient found in commercial chocolate products. New research now shows that cocoa butter is actually a “neutral” fat, meaning that it does not increase blood-cholesterol levels.
Worried About Caffeine
Would you believe that natural chocolate has little or no caffeine. However, more and more manufactures are adding caffeine to their products, so check the label before buying.
Bitter is Best
To receive the benefits of dark chocolate, you must find it in its purest form. The typical processing of the cocoa bean kills at least half of the antioxidants found in the pure cocoa bean. Try to consume products that contain at least 70% pure cocoa powder.
Drink of the Gods
The Aztec Indians placed great importance on chocolate, believing that chocolate was consumed by the Gods in paradise and that the cocoa seed was brought to earth as a special blessing for the people by the God of the Air. The last Aztec emperor, Montezuma, reportedly drank only ‘chocoatl’. He was supposed to have drunk up to 50 goblets of chocolate a day.
Fact or Fiction
More and more research is being done on the health benefits of raw unprocessed cocoa. Searching for dark chocolate studies. The science is there ready to be discovered and what a great discovery it is. Doctors will soon be prescribing chocolate for all our ailments