Chocolate is one of those dreamy foods that almost everyone loves. It is the favorite of children, as well as adults. People of all walks of life tend to enjoy a good square of delicious chocolate. And it’s popular all over the globe. Chocolate isn’t a simple food. There are entire books, websites, documentaries and podcasts devoted to chocolate and its delectable intricacies. Though we could fill our own book of interesting facts about chocolate, we’ve chosen just ten facts that we thought were the most fascinating to share with you. Enjoy!
#1 – Cocoa beans were once used as currency. It turns out that it isn’t just your six-year-old who will gladly make his bed for a chocolate bar. Written history has indicated that in the 1500’s, cocoa beans were traded for slaves, services and goods. Around 50 cocoa beans could help you find lodging, fresh water and a good supply of food. There is also evidence of cocoa beans being traded for goods as far back as 1900 BC.
#2 – Cocoa contains more antioxidants than kale. I know this sounds too good to be true. Not only does cocoa have more antioxidants than red wine, blueberries, kale and broccoli, but cocoa actually contains more antioxidants than any other food on earth (with the exception of a few spices). The United States Department of Agriculture gives unprocessed cocoa powder a 26,000 rating on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale. Next in line is the acai berry, at 18,500.
#3 – You can make chocolate at home! Chocolate is amazing. But it’s normally full of sugar. A great way to control the sugar content of your chocolate is to make it yourself. You’ll need high quality cocoa powder, food grade cocoa butter or coconut oil, sweetener of your choice, vanilla and salt. You can get fancy and add nuts, flavorings, fillings and whatnot. But here’s the basic recipe:
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup cocoa butter, coconut oil, or a combination of the two
¼ cup honey or maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
Heat the oil or cocoa butter over low heat to liquefy it. Once it is all melted, add the cocoa powder, honey or other sweetener, vanilla extract and salt. Use a fork or whisk to combine it. Once everything is mixed and completely smooth, remove it from the heat and pour the mixture into molds or onto parchment paper. Allow it to cool in the fridge until it has hardened.
This chocolate will be a little bittersweet. If you’d like yours a touch sweeter, add in more honey or maple syrup. Also – this chocolate will melt easily (particularly if you use only coconut oil for the fat). You’ll need to store it in the refrigerator or freezer. If you’d like to make your chocolate more shelf stable, look into the art of tempering chocolate so that it will stay solid at room temperature, without melting. You can even buy special tempering machines if you’re into gadgets.
#4 – Chocolate contains little to no caffeine. It’s a common myth that chocolate or cocoa contains significant amounts of caffeine. The truth is, that chocolate only contains trace amounts of caffeine. Chocolate does contain something similar, called theobromine. Theobromine is a cousin to caffeine. Like caffeine, theobromine is a stimulant and a diuretic. But unlike caffeine, theobromine doesn’t jolt the body’s central nervous system. The mild stimulant provides a pleasant lift that won’t give you a case of the jitters like caffeine does.
Theobromine has been used successfully to treat asthma. It has anti-inflammatory properties and it can help lower blood pressure. Theobromine is also naturally found in nuts and tea. But chocolate contains more of this potent phytochemical than any other food. As a rule of thumb, the darker the chocolate – the higher the concentration of theobromine.
#5 – We all misspell the name of the bean. So, this is funny. Back in the 1700’s, an English importer reversed the last two letters of the word ‘cacao’, while he was filling out a ship manifest. On the manifest, the cargo was listed as ‘cocoa.’ Somehow that misspelling was copied. And since the beans were a relatively new trend in England, at the time, the erroneous spelling stuck and the word was forever changed.
These days, we still refer to the tree as the cacao tree. The species name is Theobroma cacao. And the beans, which grow inside the cacao seeds, are then regarded as cocoa.
#6 – Chocolate is incredibly nutritious! Aside from the sky-high levels of antioxidants we mentioned earlier, chocolate is loaded with other nutrients too. Cocoa beans are full of essential minerals such as iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, iron, chromium, copper and potassium. But that’s not all. You’ll find it also contains vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, and B3.
Despite these amazing and healthy attributes, we don’t recommend replacing your multivitamin with a candy bar. Rather, we’ve got a really nice recipe that you will just love. This delicious chocolate shake has no refined sugar. It also contains a secret serving of vegetables that no one will even taste.
Healthy Chocolate Milkshake
4 frozen bananas
2 tablespoons high quality cocoa powder
1 cup spinach (fresh or frozen)
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional)
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
Put the frozen bananas, cocoa powder, spinach and milk in a blender. Add in the teaspoon of coconut oil if you want to add fat. Also add the optional chia seeds at this time. Then blend on high for about 30 seconds. Remove the lid and scrape any greens from the side of your blender. Then replace the lid and blend for another 30 seconds or until smooth.
This chocolate shake is delightful. Not only does it contain all the nutrients of the ever-nutritious cocoa bean, but with the added spinach, you’ll also get the benefit of niacin, dietary fiber, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folate and a bit of protein. The almond milk provides calcium too. So, don’t feel guilty about drinking this rich, chocolate shake often.
#7 – The Aztecs believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac. The ancient Aztecs of Mesoamerica served a drink they called xocolatl. It was a cold, bitter, frothy drink made with cocoa, spices, corn puree and sometimes wine. The xocolatl was served only to wealthy merchants, nobles and Aztec soldiers. The Aztecs believed that Quetzacoatl, their god of wisdom, gave them the gift of chocolate. They prized the bitter drink because they found it gave them strength and stamina, as well as aphrodisiac powers.
Chocolate is a gift from the gods that makes one popular with the ladies? That sounds about right. Maybe the Aztecs were on to something there.
#8 – The British were the first to make solid chocolate. It’s a shame that even though Christopher Columbus was the first to bring cocoa beans to Europe, he never got to enjoy a chocolate bunny or even a simple bar of chocolate. Sadly, it wasn’t until 1847 that a company called J.S. Fry & Sons produced the first solid chocolate. Soon to follow in their steps were the Cadbury brothers, a company that eventually merged with J.S. Fry & Sons and is still selling chocolate today.
#9 – Eating chocolate can boost your mood. Chocolate contains serotonin, a chemical our nerves produce (also known as a neurotransmitter). Serotonin is the chemical that’s responsible for helping balance our moods. A lack of serotonin can cause depression. Pure cocoa and dark chocolate contain higher levels of serotonin. There have been several studies published that show the wonderful effects chocolate consumption can have on our moods. Researchers are linking the mood-altering effects of chocolate with the naturally occurring serotonin in cocoa.
One 2012 study, published in the Malaysian Psychiatric Association’s e-Journal, took a sample of cancer patients and measured their depression scale, then administered questionnaires regarding their quality of life. Over three days, one group was given dark chocolate, while the other was given mineral water. They were observed and the researchers found that the participants who were given dark chocolate had much lower instances of anxiety and depression. And their quality of life assessments were higher. The conclusion indicated that a 3- day dark chocolate consumption may improve the perceived quality of life and reduce anxiety and depression in cancer patients.
#10 – The inventor of the chocolate chip cookie sold her original recipe to Nestlé in exchange for chocolate. Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the first chocolate chip cookie, at her restaurant, The Toll House Inn, in 1938. Her recipe became insanely popular. As people began making similar cookies at home, the sales of Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate bar increased. Andrew Nestlé approached Ruth Wakefield and the two made an appetizing business deal. Wakefield gave Nestlé the permission to use her Toll House cookie recipe and name in exchange for one dollar and a lifetime supply of glorious Nestlé chocolate. Shortly after the deal, Nestlé began manufacturing the first chocolate chips, with the original Toll House cookie recipe printed on each bag. It’s true, Wakefield could have opted for a cash deal. But really, who needs money when you’ve got a lifetime supply of chocolate?!
For centuries, people around the world have been enjoying the wonderful flavors and effects of chocolate. It may just be the most beloved food in existence. So, next time you reach for a nibble of luscious creamy chocolate, know that you’re not alone in your craving for more.
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