Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and with Valentine’s Day comes chocolate. Nothing says “I love you” quite like the gift of rich delicious chocolate and that is why it is a popular gift on nearly all holidays, not just Valentine’s Day. Although many people think chocolate is unhealthy and choose to avoid it, chocolate has actually been proven to have health benefits.
Granted, no one can live on one thing alone and if too much chocolate is consumed one probably will gain weight or start to feel queasy. However, as long as it is kept in moderation then the intake of chocolate can actually be beneficial. According to MorkesChocolates.com:
“Chocolate contains a range of nutrients which include minerals such as potassium, calcium and iron. It also contains the B-vitamin riboflavin. It is true that most of chocolates’ calories do come from fat but the ingredient, known as cocoa butter, is the kind of fat that consists mostly of monounsaturated fatty acid also found in olive oil; the ‘healthy’ fat needed in all diets….In test studies, people who consumed cocoa regularly had a lower blood pressure than those that did not, were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and had better peripheral blood flow….Dark chocolate has the potential to have the largest quantity of cocoa solids – at least to 70%. This means that 70% of the chocolate is from the cocoa bean and less from added sugars, oils and perhaps other fillers. Thus the antioxidants in the dark chocolate surpasses pecans (14% less) and red wine (25% less).”
Thus, dark chocolate is generally regarded as the healthiest kind of chocolate when compared to milk-chocolate or even white chocolate (that can actually be dyed any color). Meanwhile, chocolate snacks can be made even healthier when paired with “good” foods like nuts and strawberries. Women’s Health Magazine recently ran an article about the benefits that chocolate has on women’s health. The full article can be viewed here: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/chocolate-facts
Chocolate has a long history and it has been beloved by people for generations. MorkesChocolates.com outlines this history in detail:
“The origin of the cacao (pron. Ca-cow) tree is in dispute. Some say it originated in the Amazon basin of Brazil; others place say it is native to Central America. We do know that during his conquest of Mexico, Hernando Cortez, the great Spanish explorer, came upon the Aztec Indians using cocoa beans to prepare their royal drink which they called “chocolatl” (meaning warm liquid). Excited about this new product, Cortez took some beans back with him to Spain. With some added cane sugar, the chocolate drink became very popular, especially among the Spanish aristocracy. Spain wisely started to plant cacao trees themselves which developed into a very profitable business. Remarkably, the Spaniards succeeded in keeping the art of the cocoa industry a secret from the rest of Europe for nearly a hundred years. Spanish monks, who had been involved with the processing of the cocoa beans, leaked the secret out finally and soon Europe started to develop their own cacao bean industry. Throughout Europe, the delicious chocolate drink became hailed as a health-giving food. In 1657, chocolate drinking houses started to open up, but mainly served only the rich, since the cost to make chocolate was still very expensive. As inventors created machinery, and thus eliminated the need for grinding the chocolate with ones hands, the manufacturing process became more efficient, thus less expensive, and produced an even better tasting chocolate. By 1828, the great taste of chocolate expanded to a wider audience although it wasn’t until 1847 that the first ‘candy bar’ was invented and 1876 that the first milk chocolate was invented.”
Presently, there are many famous candy companies throughout the world: Hershey’s, Godiva, Cadbury, and Lindt are only a few among many. There are also various outlets for promoting and selling chocolate. In recent years, marketing and advertising has turned buying the treat into amusement for consumers. For example, locations such as Dylan’s Candy Bar, M&M Stores, and Hershey Park can be considered activities and entertainment instead of merely shopping. Yet no matter how big or small a chocolate company or store may be, the common trend throughout all companies and countries is people’s unwavering love of chocolate.
Part of children’s education is learning about the food chain. Around the holidays it might be wise to let them learn a bit about chocolate and its health benefits alongside lessons about the more basic food groups like meat and vegetables. Certainly incorporating facts about chocolate into the lesson plan will do much to spark children’s interest in learning about different kinds of foods and how each one affects our bodies and health. Chocolate cannot be a steady diet, but it certainly can be a nice end to a well-rounded meal and can be enjoyed, guilt free, in moderation.
Below are a number of fun facts about chocolate taken from Candyfavorites.com:
• Aztec Emperor Montezuma drank 50 golden goblets of hot chocolate, dyed red and flavored with chili peppers, every day.
• Cacao beans were so valuable in ancient Mexico that the Maya and subsequent Aztec and Toltec civilizations used them as a means of currency to pay for commodities and taxes.
• In 1828, cocoa in a powdered format became widely available. This allowed chocolate to become mass produced and widely available during Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth (19th) century.
• In 1875, Milk Chocolate was introduced. After over eight (8) years of experimentation, Daniel Peter of Switzerland created this concoction.
• In 1896, the recipe for chocolate brownies, an American snack food staple, was introduced in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
• In 1907, the iconic Milk Chocolate Hershey's Kisses were introduced. They are one of the most successful chocolates and Hershey produces approximately 20-25 million per day in a variety of flavors.
• During the Second World War, the U.S. Government commissioned Milton Hershey to create a candy bar to be included in soldier’s rations. The candy bar chosen was the famous Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar. So successful was this collaboration, Hershey Chocolate was called upon during the Persian Gulf War to create a chocolate bar that could withstand high temperatures. The “Desert Bars” were included in the soldier’s daily rations and were also sold to consumers for use in survival kits.
• In 1960, Chocolate syrup was used to simulate blood in the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “Psycho”. The scene, featuring Janet Leigh, took over seven (7) days to shoot.
• The U.S. produces more chocolate than any other country but the Swiss consume the most, followed closely by the English.
• Americans eat an average of twenty two (22) pounds of candy each year, or approximately 2.8 BILLION pounds annually, split almost equally between candy and chocolate. That is far less than most Europeans consume.
• The Midwest and the Northeast consume more candy per region than the South, Southwest, West or Mid-Atlantic states.
• The American palette prefers milk chocolate, approximately ninety two (92) percent, but dark chocolate's popularity is growing rapidly.
• American chocolate manufacturers use about 1.5 billion pounds of milk only surpassed by the cheese and ice cream industries. They also consume approximately 3,500,000 pounds of whole milk.
• Chocolate manufacturers currently use forty (40) % of the world's almonds and twenty (20) % of the world's peanuts.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!