Short History of the Cocoa Bean
The word chocolate comes from the Aztec people who gave it the name, “Xocolatl.” The Lower Class saved the cocoa beans because they were a valuable currency. But the Aztecs did not discover chocolate, it was the Maya who began cultivating cocoa as early as 600AD, and the Toltecs who continued to cultivate it after the Maya. The Aztec Empire used the cocoa bean as their primary currency and it was taxed by the state. Cocoa beans were so valuable that they were stored in large vaults when possible, and given the same status as gold. It was finally the Spanish conquisador Cortes who conquered the Aztec empire after they were ravaged by small pox and returned to Spain with details on how to prepare the cocoa beans and the drink. The Spanish then further brewed the drink to their liking by adding sugar, vanilla, and other spices. The Spanish noble class enjoyed chocolate for decades before finally introducing it to be enjoyed by the rest of Europe.
The benefits of dark chocolate (must be at least 70% dark chocolate):
1. flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease
2. flavanols may reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular function
3. some studies have linked it to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke, and heart attack; however more research needed to confirm these results
4. cocoa by itself is low in sugar and fat; therefore, add plain cocoa to low-fat 1% or 2% milk or oats
5. commercial chocolate (read the label to see the ingredients) on the other hand usually has sugar and fat added to the product thereby contributing to weight gain, possible high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes
There you have it! Personally, I have one square of organic 90% dark chocolate once a day with breakfast. Like most things in life, everything in moderation. And I make all my hot chocolate drinks with pure cocoa and one square of melted organic 90% dark chocolate in low-fat 1% or 2% dairy and/or organic almond milk . I also put a spoonful of pure cocoa into my protein shakes with organic almond milk, frozen blueberries, frozen dark cherries, frozen raseberries and/or blackberries, powdered egg white, and half a banana with organic whey powder . Enjoy the simple pleasures in life!