Ah, chocolate. What a life.
According to the Aztecs, the great feathered serpent god of wisdom and creation known as Quetzalcoatl introduced the cocoa bean to mankind. It’s likelier that it originated in the Amazon rainforest and wound its way north to Mesoamerica, whose inhabitants figured out they could domesticate, ferment, roast, crush, and mix cocoa with water, chilies, and spices to produce a bitter, intoxicating drink. It then took a boat across the Atlantic, learning Spanish along the way. Europe wasn’t sure what to make of the bitterness until someone spilled a little sugar into the drink. Cocoa quickly swept across the continent, giving rise to large corporations that persist to this day, like Cadbury, Nestle, Hershey, and Lindt.
Today, chocolate is everywhere. It’s part of the fabric of human experience.
Why’s it so good?
Let’s start with…
The Health Benefits
Chocolate Contains Healthy Fats
Cocoa butter is mostly monounsaturated and saturated fat, with very little polyunsaturated fat. And because most of that saturated fat is stearic acid, which turns into oleic acid in the body and is well known for having neutral effects on LDL, even avowed lipophobes can happily and heartily gobble up cocoa fat.
Cocoa butter has been shown in animal studies to protect the liver against ethanol-induced damage.
Dark Chocolate Contains Lots of Flavanols
Flavanols are an important class of polyphenols, the phytonutrients that have beneficial effects on oxidative stress, inflammation, and help produce beneficial hormetic stress responses. When it comes to polyphenol content and antioxidant capacity, cocoa trounces the “superfruits” acai, pomegranate, cranberry, blueberry and almost everything else. The most studied polyphenol in chocolate is epicatechin, a flavanol.
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