10 Surprising Facts About Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is closing in on us and what better way to spend it than talking about chocolate! Chocolate is possibly the best thing known to humans. Be it a plain chocolate bar, or a candy mixed with nuts, some ice cream, or a delectable chocolate cake or even a hot, molten chocolate drink; there is no form of chocolate that isn’t delicious. Chocolate is perfect for every occasion, if you are sad, curl up with a chocolate bar to make yourself feel better, if you’re happy, celebrate with some yummy ice cream. Chocolate is not only the perfect food item, it makes the perfect gift to satisfy just anyone you want. Chocolate Day is right up on our doorstep, on the 9th of February, to remind us of all the happiness that this delicious food item brings. Although, despite however much we indulge in chocolate, do we really know much about chocolate? Here are some surprising and delicious facts about your favorite thing on earth:


10. Chocolate Was First Popular As A Drink


Mayans and Aztecs, who were the first ones to consume chocolate, drank it as a bitter delicacy. The Aztecs improved on it by adding pepper, allspice, vanilla and honey. When Europeans first imported chocolate, it wasn’t a favorite and was consumed as a bitter, frothy drink. And they only grew accustomed to it because among the Aztecs and Mayans it was a much esteemed drink. Soon, people started adding vanilla and honey to counteract the bitter taste. In fact, the Spanish were first ones to add sugar to the concoction. It was only after the Industrial Revolution, in 1815, when alkaline salts were added and chocolate began to be processed. It was only in 1875 that milk chocolate was invented. Aren’t you glad to have been born in this century for all the varieties of chocolate we have?


9. White Chocolate Isn’t Even Chocolate


White chocolate does not have any trace of cocoa solids or cocoa liquor, so you must be wondering why it is even called chocolate. During production the dark-colored solids of the cocoa beans are separated from its fatty content, but in the case of white chocolate the cocoa solids are not combined later. White chocolate contains only trace amounts of caffeine and lacks the antioxidant properties of regular chocolate. It is, in fact, made of cocoa butter and sometimes has additional flavorings such as vanilla.


8. Chocolate Doesn’t Cause Cavities

Despite what your dentist might tell you, chocolate is not a cause for your cavities. It is speculated that the cocoa butter in chocolate coats the teeth and prevents plaque from forming. Chocolate also melts quickly in your mouth, unlike other long-lasting candies. The sugar in the chocolate is of course a contributor to dental cavities, but it is the same for any food with high sugar content. Chocolate is, however, known to cause headaches, especially to those who have migraine or chronic headache issues.


7. Chocolate Was Used As Currency

The Mayans are known to have discovered chocolate and were consuming it since around 500 AD. Research into archaeological sites has shown that the Mayans consumed chocolate as a drink and usually used it for ceremonial purposes. By the 15th century, the Aztecs adopted cacao into their culture, but since they could not grow it on their own lands, chocolate was a luxury that was imported into their empire. There is also a myth in the Aztec culture, associated with a god who was punished for sharing chocolate with humans. The Aztecs collected chocolate as tax in the areas they ruled. Cocoa beans were also collected as currency, for instance 100 cocoa beans would buy a whole turkey and 3 would buy a fresh avocado. Things haven’t changed much since then, have they?


6. The Chocolate Chip Cookie Was Accidentally Invented!


This one has to be one of the most fortunate accidents to ever occur. The cookie was discovered by Ruth Wakefield, in the 1930s, and there are several versions to how this happened. According to the largely accepted one, Ruth ran out of chocolate while making cookies and broke pieces of chocolate and mixed them in the dough. She had figured that the chocolate would melt, but the chocolate pieces remained intact and thus the chocolate chip cookie was born. She later sold the idea to Nestle in return for a lifetime supply of chocolate. What a sweet deal!


5. Too Much Consumption Can Cause Poisoning

Chocolate, other than containing caffeine, also has high levels of a drug called theobromine. It is a powerful stimulant of the central nervous system. Theobromine poisoning can cause heart failure, seizures, acute kidney damage and dehydration. However, it needs to be consumed in large quantities to be lethal. For instance, a lethal dosage is somewhere around 10-11kgs, or 40 bars of dairy milk. Theobromine is also the cause that makes chocolate poisonous for dogs. So, the lesson here is, too much of everything is bad.


4. Acts as an Anti-depressant!


Researchers have found that chocolate makes people who are prone to depression less anxious and irritable. This explains why sometimes chocolate is all the lifting up your spirits need when you are down in the dumps. Scientists believe that it is the endorphins and opioids in chocolate that make us feel more relaxed. In fact, studies have shown that people who are depressed are more prone to have cravings for chocolate. Chocolate has shown tangible benefits in fighting mood disorders. It increases serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain which makes us happier.


3. Dark Chocolate Reduces Risk of Heart Disease


Recent research and studies have shown that chocolate helps protect your cardiovascular system. Cocoa beans are rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids help protect plants from environmental toxins and repair damages. These flavonoids are believed to improve vascular health by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot. It also has antioxidant properties which help the body’s cell resist damages. However, the more processed chocolate it, the more it loses its flavonoids. So, if you’re looking to stay healthy, tilt towards the darker chocolates.


2. There Is A Serious Chocolate Shortage

Chocolate is very hard to produce, as it takes about 270 cacao beans to produce one pound of chocolate. And one cacao pod contains only about 42 beans. All over the world, cacao trees are ridden with pests and diseases. In Indonesia and Latin America, from where most of the world’s cacao comes, the trees are unable to produce due pests and diseases and farmers are moving to a different crop to earn money. In Africa, most countries are facing social and political upheaval, which puts a stop to the production of chocolate. These shortages would mean a boom in the price of chocolate as the demand is not going to reduce any time soon.


1. Chocolate Production Depends On Slavery

No, we are not talking of a distant past where you think such things happened. In 2009, Salavation Army International Development UK noted that around 12, 000 children were trafficked to produce chocolate. Most of the world’s chocolate production takes place on the Ivory Coast of Africa. It is believed that millions of children work as slaves in chocolate producing farms. These children work in harsh and abusive environments, often tricked into the drudgery by being promised enough money. However, an increasing number of health-food and anti-slavery organizations are campaigning against the use of trafficking in the chocolate industry.

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Afreen Zeb