Last Saturday, July 7, we celebrated World Chocolate Day in honour of arguably the most beloved food of all time. If you ask me, everyday should be World Chocolate Day!
It's a day reserved to celebrate chocolate and all its variations - milk, dark, even white chocolate. Speaking of white chocolate… white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa solids or cocoa liquor - products that a chocolate bar should contain in order to be classified as chocolate. Instead, it contains cocoa butter. Sounds wrong but still...yum!
The Origin of Chocolate
Historians suggest that chocolate has been around for approximately 2,000 years but it could be older than that. The Mayan civilisation thought so highly of chocolate that they used it as currency and restricted its cultivation to retain its value. They considered it more valuable than gold dust!
The origin of the word 'chocolate' is traced back by etymologists to the Aztec word 'xocoatl'. This roughly translates to “food of the gods”. Very apt, isn’t it?
The Cacao tree from which chocolate comes from has a scientific name of Theobroma cacao. Chocolate comes from the the beans of the Cacao tree ( Theobroma cacao ). It is from the evergreen family, Malvaceae. Other members of this family include Mallows, Okra, Cotton, Cola Nuts, and Flame tree.
Your brain on chocolate
Did you know that chocolate can give you a longer and more intense “buzz” than kissing? "Chocolate contains phenylethylamine which can raise levels of endorphins, the pleasure-giving substances, in the brain. It also contains caffeine which has a stimulatory effect on the brain.” Imagine if it were chocolate kisses…
Chocolate has also been shown to improve depression and anxiety symptoms and help enhance feelings of calmness and contentedness. Both the flavanols and methylxanthines in chocolate are believed to play a role in its mood enhancing effects.
Some studies have suggested that the flavanols that get absorbed when you consume chocolate penetrate and accumulate in the brain regions involved in learning and memory. These flavanols increase blood flow to the brain, promote the formation of new neurons, improve the functioning of neurons and enhance connections between neurons. This may add up to better brain function.
It may be no coincidence then that countries with the highest per capita chocolate consumption are also home to the greatest number of Nobel Peace Prize laureates!
Death by Chocolate
It's not all good news on the chocolate front. Chocolate can be potentially lethal for dogs and cats. Theobromine is present in all types of chocolate (even white chocolate) and its toxic to our furry friends.
Humans can also die from chocolate overdose but you have to 10kg of chocolate in order for the theobromine to be fatal. That's the equivalent of a 1 metre by 53cm x 2cm block of Cadbury Dairy Milk. That's too much chocolate, even for me.