Chocolate Feature Exercise
A small, brown package sits in front of you. If you pick it up and pull
back the wrapping, you will reveal a glint of silver foil. Pull that back,
too, and while you may not find a Golden Ticket inside, you will find
another kind of treasure: chocolate.
Chocolate, beloved by chocoholics everywhere, has saturated the world's
consciousness since ancient times. Today, it is a sweet, melt-in-your-mouth
treat found everywhere-possibly even in health food stores because chocolate,
it seems, is not as unhealthy as most people think.
The ancient Mayans planted the first known cocoa plantation around A.D. 600. They used the seeds produced by Thebroma cacao trees to make foamy, spicy "chocolatl" drinks. The Mayans and the Aztecs enjoyed this bitter liquid for more than 800 years before Europeans arrived in America.
The ancient peoples believed consuming chocolatl brought a person knowledge
and wisdom. Also, chocolate's contemporary reputation as an aphrodisiac
has its roots in ancient beliefs that the drink increased sexual libido.
Truly, the product of the Thebroma cacao lived up to its Greek name, the
"food of the gods."
Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez popularized chocolate in the Old World
in the 16th century. The Spanish altered the chocolatl to suit more European
tastes, adding sugar and other flavorings. Drinking chocolate became a
favorite beverage of the elite, who were the only people who could afford
its high price until the Industrial Revolution. Solid eating chocolate
and milk chocolate were invented in the late 19th century.
Today, people all over the world consume chocolate. The Swiss eat the
most chocolate per capita at more than 22 pounds a year. The United States,
although it ranks ninth in per capita consumption, is the world's biggest
importer of cocoa beans. It takes in almost a quarter of the world's supply
each year. Most of the world's cocoa supply is produced in three countries:
Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia.
The good news about this universal treat is that it is not nearly as unhealthy as most people think. A typical chocolate bar has no more caffeine than a cup of decaffeinated coffee. In addition, the main saturated fat in chocolate, stearic acid, does not raise blood cholesterol levels. Also, a study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, released on Feb. 14, has demonstrated that chocolate does not cause acne.
Chocolate bars may actually have some very healthy properties. They are
a major source of magnesium and copper, minerals essential to body development
and maintenance. Also, a Harvard University study has shown that people
who eat chocolate and candy may live almost a year longer than people
who do not. The reasons for this result are unclear, but it does indicate
that perhaps eating chocolate is not as bad as most people think.
So don't turn away from that little brown package. Go ahead, unwrap it and enjoy the pleasures of chocolate.
Copyright © 2002 Colleen Fischer | Last updated October 7, 2002