We’ve all been there. Every so often, the snack choice between the fruit bowl, the celery stick or the oh-so tempting chocolate bar is inevitable and irreversible. You haven’t even consciously made the decision before you see your hand reaching for that block of sweet, rich deliciousness. As such a universally recognized treat, the ultimate antithesis, it would appear, to a healthy lifestyle, we wondered – can chocolate be good for you?
Described by Alexandra Leaf, founder of Chocolate Tours of New York City as ‘the best-known food that nobody knows anything about,’ chocolate has a fascinating history, including diverse uses and some revelatory properties. In fact, for 90% of its known life, chocolate has, in fact, been drunk, not eaten. Discovered by the Mayans and Aztecs some 3000 years ago, the cacao bean (from which chocolate is made) was used to make a bitter, spicy, hot drink called ‘xocoatl’. Such was its symbolic, even spiritual value that the beans were used as currency. Ten beans would buy you a rabbit while a hundred, rather aptly for this time of year, would get you a turkey hen. It wasn’t until Spanish conquistadors discovered cacao that European interest took off. Our sweet teeth got the better of us though and sugar cane was added to render the drink less bitter. The royal courts and aristocratic tables of the Spanish, Dutch and French drank hot chocolate by the gallon. Casanova was a huge fan, particularly impressed by its aphrodisiac properties. Then, during the industrial revolution, various chemists set to work making it solid; it was an Englishman, Joseph Fry, who figured it out, later teaming up with a Mr. Cadbury to sell the first chocolate bars. The rest is history.
CHOCOLATE: The Superfood we've always Craved
It wasn’t just its flavour that gave chocolate its extraordinary popularity and privileged status. The cacao bean, found in its highest concentrations in dark chocolate, is one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet. Studies have shown that when pitted against troublesome free radicals, pretty much no other substance known to man is as good at neutralising any threat they might have to our bodies. Not only that, the flavonols found in high concentration in dark chocolate dramatically increase blood flow. This outcome in turn has been shown to improve the health of our hearts, reduce the risk of stroke and prevent memory decline. Nutrient rich chocolate has even been shown to lower cholesterol, protect your skin from the sun and stimulate weight loss. No really. Most importantly of all, it makes us feel good! We at Fare Healthy believe there is absolutely no problem with indulging our sweet tooth once in a while, particularly when the endorphin boost can be so significant and so delicious!
So there you have it. Chocolate can be good for you. Of course we shouldn’t be eating huge quantities of the stuff all the time. Of course there is some chocolate that is better for you than others. But there is very real evidence that chocolate can do us a power of good. So next time your hand inadvertently reaches for that foil-wrapped delicacy, let it. Not for nothing does the Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, literally mean ‘food of the Gods’.
Chocolate at Fare Healthy!
We're excited to be welcoming some delicious chocolate brands this weekend. We're especially excited to learn more about probiotics in Ohso's talk with Lucy Whigham & Millie Hancock. Ohso is a delicious Belgium chocolate that contains probiotics - who knew!