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February is well recognized as a time to show love through gifts, acts of kindness, and of course sweet treats. What better way to show some love than through chocolate! Celebrate Chocolate Month this month by sharing some fun facts with your Valentine about one of America's favorite foods
- Experts in the field refer to the plant chocolate comes from as “cacao” and anything made from the beans of that plant as “chocolate”. The powdered form of this sweet treat is usually referred to as “cocoa”.
- Research suggests that consuming dark chocolate or flavanol-enriched chocolate products for a period of 2 – 18 weeks may help to lower blood pressure.
- Cocoa beans and their parts have been used for a variety of purposes including as a treatment for infections, as an antidiarrheal, as an asthma or bronchitis treatment, to treat wrinkles and stretch marks, and as a compounding base for pharmaceutical manufacturing.
- Scientists believe that chocolate was first consumed somewhere between 1100 and 600 B.C.
- Mesoamerican peoples made chocolate drinks using cocao beans ground into paste and mixed with water, chili peppers, cornmeal and other local ingredients. This “bitter water” or xocoatl, was thought to have restorative properties and to stimulate wisdom and vitality.
- In Aztec culture, chocolate was so valued it was used as currency. When it was introduced to Europe in the 1500s, it was so expensive only royals and members of high society could afford to drink it.
- It is estimated that today, people worldwide consume more than 3 million tons of cocao beans each year. Cocao beans are grown around the equator and can be found in the Carribean, Africa, Southeast Asia, Somoa and New Guinea.
Are you a chocoholic? Share your favorite chocolate recipe ideas in the comments below.
Article written by Angela Stancil MS, RD, LDN