The history of chocolate
The Theobroma cacao tree, to use its scientific name, provides us with one of the world´s most delicious foods-chocolate Theobroma is a Greek word meaning ‘food of the gods’. The tree originally comes from the Amazon region of South America. Hand-sized pods that grow on the tree contain cacao seeds-often called ‘cocoa beans’.These seeds, or beans, are used to make chocolate.
The earliest use and consumption of cacao beans dates back to around 1000 B.C. Later, the Mayan and Aztec civilizations consumed cacao as a drink. They often flavored it with ingredients such as chili peppers, and other spices. It is believed that drinking cups of chocolate was important in Mayan rituals such as wedding ceremonies. Consumingcacao was also believed to have positive effects on health. In Peru, eating or drinking a mixture of chocolate and chili was said to be good for the stomach. The Aztecs thought it cured sicknesses such as diarrhea, and believed it was aphrodisiac. Their ruler, Montezuma, was said to have drunk fifty cups day!
Christopher Columbus, along with Spanish explorers, made his fourth voyage across theAtlantic in the early 1500s, and arrived on the coast of Honduras. It was at this time that he first discovered the value of cocoa beans, which were used as currency in many parts of Central America.
In the sixteenth century, chocolate was taken back to Spain by Hernando Cortez, another explorer. The Spanish people added ingredients such as sugar and vanilla to make it sweet. It later spread to Francein the seventeenth century after the marriage of Louis XIII to the Spanish princess, Anna, who loved chocolate. The popularity of chocolate continued to spread further across Europe and Americas. The only Asian country to adopt it at that time, though, was the Philippines, which the Spanish invaded in the sixteenth century.
As chocolate become more popular, the demand for people to work on thecocoa plantations increased. Slaves were brought to the Americas from Africa and cultivation began there. Today, the African plantations provide almost seventy percent of the world´s cacao, compared with one a half percent from Mexico.
Addicted to chocolate
How often do you eat chocolate? If you answered ‘every day’, you may be addicted to chocolate; but is this addiction damaging to yourhealth?
Eating too much chocolate is often thought to be the cause of tooth decay, weight gain, headaches, and skin problems such as acne. On the other hand, chocolate is known to make people feel happier. Eating chocolate releases a distinctive flavor that gives us a pleasant, positive feeling. What is it that causes this feeling?
Chocolate contains over three hundred known chemicals.Like a drug these chemicals stimulate areas of the brain that enable us of feel pleasure. The most well known chemical is caffeine, which is also found in coffee, tea, and some types of soda. Theobromine, a weak stimulant, is present in higher amounts than caffeine. It is believed that the combination of these two chemicals causes the temporary ‘lift’ we experience after eating chocolate.
However,does eating too much chocolate cause any real health risks? The popular opinion of chocolate is that it is a fattening food that gives you spots, and contains no nutritional qualities. The fact is, chocolate does contain saturated fat. This type of fat can contribute to heart disease by increasing levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. On the other hand, scientists at the University ofCalifornia have discovered that chocolate also contains high levels of chemicals called phenolics, if consumed in small amounts, are believed to lower the risk of heart disease.
Evidence that eating chocolate does not cause acne comes from two studies: one at the Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the other by the U.S. Naval Academy. Their research showed some interesting results. They found that there...