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THE HISTORY & THE BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE

The history of chocolate began with the Mokaya people. It was the Mokaya, a pre-Olmec civilisation in Mesoamerica that were the earliest known adopters of cacao. Chocolate was a large part of their culture known for its health benefits. It was considered a sacred drink that was included in a number of religious ceremonies. A bittersweet drink, it was thought to give the drinker strength and even act as an aphrodisiac. (We still see this today on Valentines Day!)

It later took on the form of currency, thanks to the Mayas and the Aztecs.

But 'choco-mania' didn't explode on a global scale or claim its place in history, until the colonisation of the Americas, when the Spaniards recognized that it was nearly as valuable and precious as gold. In the early 17th century, chocolate was mixed with honey for the European version and served only in the royal courts and in "Chocolate Houses," which catered to the elite.

The Industrial Age revolutionised the distribution of chocolate, bringing world-wide distribution of the cocoa powder. Modern chocolate producers turned that powder into the familiar bars of chocolate we see today.

And now, in Malaysia, a new chapter begins in the history of chocolate with the introduction of Malaysia's first luxury chocolate bar: the Mokaya.

Throughout the history of chocolate, lovers of the food have attributed magical healing powers and health benefits to the food. It's reputed that Montezuma, the last Aztec ruler, consumed fifty "pitchers" of a chocolate drink each day, claiming that "the divine drink" built up resistance and fought fatigue. "A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food," he claimed.

2000 pitchers were prepared each day for members of the Montezuma household.

Now, scientists are studying the godly food, once known Xocolatl, and are finding that the last great Aztec ruler was correct! In fact, accumulated scientific research over the years has linked the consumption of chocolate to 40 health benefits. The benefits of chocolate are essentially derived from the cacao. Therefore the higher the cacao content in a chocolate, the more the health benefits.

It's important to note that studies focus on high-quality, dark chocolate with higher levels of cacao. Here are some surprising findings on the benefits of chocolate:

Good for your heart

New research supports claims that chocolates have cardiovascular benefit. In a recent Swedish study of approximately 31,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate per week reduced their heart failure risk by almost a third.
Courtesy of Women's Health Magazine

Lower your blood pressure

A piece of dark chocolate a day lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent. This is due to flavonoids and antioxidant compounds that increase the flexibility of veins and arteries.
Courtesy of Women's Health Magazine

Lower cholesterol

Chocolate contains flavinoids and antioxidants which have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol which is often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol.

Improved circulation

A recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that dark chocolate improved circulation, and in some patients with chronic Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, reduced pain and increased their ability to walk.

Prevention of memory decline

Scientists at Harvard Medical School suggest drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may keep the brain healthy and prevent memory decline in older people by preserving blood flow in working areas of the brain.
Courtesy of MedicalNewsToday.com

Lower stress levels

The benefits of chocolate are not only known for its purely health benefits, but it can also affect the mind and a person's mood and temperament. Several studies suggest that chocolate increases production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters that make one feel at ease and relaxed.

Radiant, more youthful skin

Chocolate's flavonols (the type of flavonoid found in chocolate) can keep you looking younger! Flavonols are antioxidants that increase skin's natural protection from UV damage, fight free radicals (which cause age spots) and increase blood flow, which gives one a youthful glow.

Prevent obesity and diabetes

In a mouse study, led by Andrew P. Neilson of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, researchers discovered that a certain antioxidant in cocoa - the main ingredient in chocolate - prevented mice from gaining weight and lowered their blood sugar levels.
Courtesy of MedicalNewsToday.com

Healthier Babies

Chocolate may decrease the risk for preeclampsia, a major pregnancy complication with cardiovascular manifestations," according to a study conducted at Yale University.
Courtesy of Medscape.com

Cough Relief

One study found that chocolate quieted coughs almost as well as codeine, thanks to the theobromine it contains. This chemical, responsible for chocolate's feel-good effect, may suppress activity in a part of the brain called the vagus nerve.

Maria Belvisi, a professor of respiratory pharmacology at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, says, "It had none of the negative side effects." Codeine makes most people feel sleepy and dull—and doesn't taste anything like fine chocolate.
Courtesy of Women's Health Magazine

For a full listing of medical studies on chocolate, see: Greenmedinfo.com

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