In the Beginning
Recently, much has been written about the health benefits of chocolate. It’s almost as if the possibility that chocolate could be a healthy food is a brand new concept. While it is true that new scientific evidence suggests a role for chocolate in heart health, the idea that the wondrously flavorful extract of the cocoa bean is good for you began as far back as the ancient civilizations of central America. Cocoa trees are thought to have been cultivated as long ago as 1000BC by the Olmec people of this region.
Archaeological evidence suggests that these ancients symbolically associated their cocoa beverage with the human heart and blood.
Chocolate-filled pottery was found entombed with deceased nobility, presumably to sustain them in their journey through the hereafter. In any case, cocoa beans were an elemental commodity in Mayan trade, essentially as money that grew on trees.
During the later Aztec period, chocolate beverages made with cocoa beans and hot peppers were thought to be their most healthy
and compete food, capable of total nutritional sustenance. However, this expensive beverage was available only to the higher members of Aztec society. Only the wealthy, the nobility, and the warriors had access to this revered concoction. Aztec records
reveal the monetary value of cocoa beans. A few hundred beans could buy you enough food for a feast.
The Conquistadors were at first far too interested in gold to pay much attention to a humble bean. That indifference changed profoundly when over the course of the next century chocolate became the favorite drink of the Spanish court. When the secret got out, chocolate quickly became the enjoyment of royal courts all across Europe. Cocoa cultivation began its spread to the tropics of Asia and Africa, largely through the use of slave labor. As in earlier times, chocolate held its position as a health-giving elixir that was only within the reach of the elite.
Eventually the warm cocoa beverage was mixed with milk for smoother flavor and consistency. In the mid-1700’s chocolate was made into the more familiar solid form that we know today.
Chocolate and Today’s Healthy Lifestyle
What seems clear from its history is that chocolate was always believed to bestow healthful benefits. Current scientifically based information indicates that the chocolate lovers of yesteryear were on to something good.
We now know that chocolate contains natural anti-depressants, neuro-transmitters, and vitamins and minerals. Of greatest interest today are the antioxidant flavonoids found in chocolate (especially dark chocolate) that provide important protective benefits. The flavonoids in chocolate help the body’’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals formed by normal bodily processes such as breathing, or environmental contaminants like cigarette smoke.
When the body lacks adequate levels of antioxidants, free radical damage ensues, leading to increases in LDL-cholesterol oxidation and plaque formation on arterial walls. In addition to their antioxidant capabilities, flavonoids also are thought to help reduce platelet activation, affect the relaxation capabilities of blood vessels, and may positively affect the balance of certain hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids, which are thought to play a role in cardiovascular health. Although this research is an ongoing work-in-progress, it’s a good bet that chocolate, in moderation, is a heart-healthy food.
Why choose Chip’n Dipped?
When cocoa is processed, it goes through several steps to reduce its naturally acidic taste. Unfortunately, it is the flavonoids that provide this tartness. The more that chocolate is processed (such as fermentation, alkalizing, roasting), themore flavonoids are lost.
That is why at Chip’n Dipped we use only natural chocolates that are minimally processed or not processed at all. By blending the world’s finest milk and dark chocolates, our cookies and brownies keep both their wonderfully smooth flavor and the beneficial flavonoids we seek.