Recently, chocolate has been getting a lot of attention not only as a yummy snack food, but also for its benefits to our mental and physical (not to mention sexual) well being. It seems that the special bean the god Quetzalcoatl gave to the Aztecs more than 800 years ago is rather magical indeed.
Chocolate, or more specifically the Cacao fruit, first appears in historical records in Egypt in the 16th century BC. Little is know of its use in Egyptian culture, but we know that the Mayan culture used it and called it xocoatl, from which we get its current name. The Aztecs and Mayans believed that their ancestors brought the Cacao seeds from paradise. This fruit bestowed wisdom and power upon all who ate it or, in most cases…drank it. It’s suspected that the Cacao tree originated in the Amazon region.
Chocolate for Heart Health
As reported in the article Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health, chocolate’s rich flavonoid content is being recommended by medical professionals for heart health. The phenols contained in one chocolate bar are comparable to those in a glass of wine or cup of green tea. The article states, “Chocolate protects the development of heart disease by oxidizing LDLs (bad cholesterol) which protects them from damaging artery walls and helps reduce the chance of heart disease.” The article cites many studies that support the heart healthy benefits of chocolate. But this tasty treat has other health benefits.
Other Health Benefits of Chocolate
Among the more recognized health benefits of chocolate are those associated with its antioxidant content. In the article My Favorite Power Foods & Superfoods”, the author states that “Flavonoids reduce risk of heart disease and help clean the bloodstream and arteries of fat and other toxins. Cocoa also helps keep blood pressure down and regulates blood flow, not unlike a low dose of aspirin.”
In her article Chocolate for Coughs and Other Medicinal Purposes, writer Annmarie Kostyk, cites many studies related to chocolate’s health beneifts, including its effectiveness as a cough syrup for children, its use in restoring memory in Alzheimer’s patients and its potential use in fighting cancer. All this and it tastes great too!
Chocolate for Love
Just when you thought chocolate couldn’t possibly get any better…we bring you a few of its less “technical” aspects. Chocolate has long been recognized as a natural aphrodisiac. It is known to regulate blood pressure, which can help with sexual performance and it releases endorphins. As one article puts it…”[chocolate] improves circulation, stimulates the nervous system and enhances the production of endorphins in the brain.” That’s a powerful combination for love. But chocolate has also been studied for its usefulness as an antidepressant–for many of the same reasons. Eat chocolate, be happy.
The cocoa tree is very fussy. It only grows in special conditions. It requires year-round temperatures above 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and loves the company of other trees. These conditions mean it grows best in a a handful of tropical nations. One of those nations, Brazil, has long been among the world’s leading producers of cocoa. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Spain gradually gained a near monopoly on the precious powder, with its many plantations in Western Africa. European market for Cacao powder increased during this time, although it was used principally by the rich. But Spain’s hold on the precious nut was suddenly broken, as other nations entered the market. During this time, Brazil maintained its presence in the world chocolate market. To this day, Brazil is one of the five largest chocolate producing nations. The other four are on the Ivory Coast of West Africa, cocoa plantations left behind by the Spanish.
Today, Brazil produces around 150,000 tons of cocoa each year, with over 90% of it going out to the rest of the world. The largest portion—over 30 percent—goes to the United States, the world’s largest importer of cocoa and by far the largest producer of chocolate products (all using imported cocoa). The rest of Brazil’s exports are divided among various continents, including South America, Africa, and Europe. Among the largest consumers of chocolate per capita are the nations of Germany and France.
In an article on NaturalNews.com, chocolate is examined for its skin rejuvenation qualities, “While chocolate used to be known to cause acne, it has since been recognized that the milk in chocolate (or a whole list of other ingredients that make up your average chocolate bar) is the cause of acne. In fact, it has recently been discovered that putting milk in powerful foods such as tea and chocolate keeps the antioxidants from being absorbed.”
Chocolate can also be used as a natural hair coloring, according to this “natural beauty tip” on Natural Cures (the blog): Chocolate Hair.
The Ethics of Chocolate
If you’re wondering about the harvesting, growing, production and other ethical aspects of the chocolate trade, then this article on AlternativeConsumer.com is for you: Ethics and Chocolate. You’ll learn about the World Cocoa Foundation and a special chocolate company, called Endangered Species Chocolates, two companies that are helping the planet through chocolate.
More articles chocolate and its benefits:
Improve Your Health and Well-Being with Raw Chocolate
Chocolate’s Potential Health Benefits – and its Effect on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients
Herbal Aphrodisiacs: From the Amazon to Copacabana
Happiness Shake Recipe
A Potent Make-it-Yourself Face Mask for Radiant Skin