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National Chocolate Month



Did you know February is Celebration of Chocolate Month? The more I researched chocolate, the more I realized just how special this food group is. All the more reasons to enjoy some today!


Chocolate is one of the most popular types of food and flavoring around the world and you can find it in a wide variety of foodstuffs including desserts, drinks, candies, and even some savory dishes. Today, the largest producer of cocoa, which is the main ingredient of chocolate, is West Africa.


History

Chocolate (or cocoa) has been around for hundreds of years. In fact, it is thought that the ancient Olmecs and Mayan cultures from Central and South America revered it, used it in celebrations AND used it to finalize important transactions and ceremonies. They often combined the cocoa with chili peppers, honey or water. Aztec ruler Montezuma II allegedly drank xocolatl (or chocolate) every day. By the 1500s it was introduced in Spain by Spanish explorers who had been to the Americas. Soon, it was a favorite in many European countries.


Nestle Company was the one of the first to create milk chocolate and brought it to the market. By the late 19th century, other chocolate companies like Cadbury, Mars, and Hershey were creating a variety of chocolate confections.


Health Benefits

While the common chocolate bar does not have a lot of nutritional value, quality dark chocolate that has a high cocoa content is quite nutritious! Look for bars with 70-85% cocoa content.

  • A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate contains good quantities of fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese.

  • Dark chocolate is also considered rich in antioxidants, which protect your body from unstable molecules called free radicals.

  • Dark Chocolate can help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.

  • It can help protect against high cholesterol.

  • Some studies show that eating chocolate 3 times a week can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Dark chocolate may improve the function of your brain! Some studies show that eating high flavanol chocolate can improve blood flow to the brain in young adults. It can also help maintain cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment and can reduce the chance of progressing to dementia.


Keep in mind that even though dark chocolate does have some power health benefits, it doesn't mean that you should go consume tons of chocolate every day! Small amounts are ok, but make sure it's the right stuff- high quality dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content.


Recipes

Looking for a healthier recipe for a sweet chocolate treat? Try these Healthy 4 Ingredient Reese's Eggs: Healthy 4 Ingredient Reese's Eggs | Ambitious Kitchen


If you are looking for a decadent chocolate dessert to enjoy for Valentines Day, consider trying one of the recipes from Taste of Home: 52 of Our Most Decadent Desserts (With Chocolate) (tasteofhome.com)


Celebrate

Here are a few ways you can celebrate Chocolate Month:

  • Do some research to see how chocolate is made. It's fascinating to watch the process!

  • Give some chocolate. This holiday is a special opportunity to share with others. Valentine's Day is a great time to give someone a special chocolate treat, but don't limit yourself to that day only. Everyone likes to receive a thoughtful gift!

  • Of course, eat some chocolate! The best way to celebrate Chocolate month is to enjoy some yourself!


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