When you’ve had a long, hard day… When you need just a little something sweet after dinner… When you’re feeling sad after a break-up…
Sometimes you just need a little chocolate.
Today (Oct. 28) is National Chocolate Day, and to celebrate the sweet treat (which can be healthy when enjoyed in moderation!), we rounded up 24 fascinating facts about the confection. Read on to learn more — and then celebrate with a square.
- Americans eat a lot of chocolate: 12 pounds a year.
- Chocolate is made from cocoa powder, which is made from cacao seeds/beans.
- Cacao beans come from cacao pods, which come from the Theobroma Cacao — the cacao fruit tree.
- The Mayans worshipped the “god of cacao.”
- The Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) produces about one-third of the world’s cocoa. Meanwhile, the Netherlands processes the most cacao beans by volume in the world.
- The first chocolate made for eating was introduced in 1847 by Fry & Sons.
- Hershey, Mars, and Cadbury came shortly after in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
- Cacao contains tryptophan (which makes relaxing serotonin, a brain chemical), as well as theobromine (which has a stimulating effect). Together, the nutrients make you feel happy and energized, yet relaxed.
- There are 11 grams of fiber in a 100-gram bar of dark chocolate (that is 70 to 85 percent cocoa content).
- Eating chocolate regularly could help lower your cardiovascular disease and stroke risk. The big reason why? Its high flavonoid content. (Flavonoids are a class of plant nutrients.)
- Flavonoids up nitric oxide production — which controls insulin sensitivity, thereby keeping diabetes risk low.
- Flavanols are the main flavonoid in chocolate, and have antioxidant powers.
- Epicatechin is a particular flavanol in chocolate that is good for blood flow.
- Not all chocolates are high in flavanols — the more processed it is, the fewer flavanols it has.
- Dark chocolate doesn’t automatically = healthy. Even some some dark chocolates that have undergone heavy processing, which would decrease the flavanol content.
- Flavanols in chocolate could help boost thinking abilities in people with mild cognitive impairment, which can lead to Alzheimer’s.
- Another potential reason chocolate is good for the heart: The way it’s digested. In a lab experiment, researchers found that some cocoa powder was broken down and absorbed by a faux stomach and small intestine, and then gut bacteria went and broke down some of the other cocoa “matter.” But the cocoa matter that was left over from all of this fermented, producing cholesterol-lowering substances.
- Dark chocolate consumption is linked with decreased inflammation in several studies.
- Research also shows chocolate-eating is linked with decreased levels of stress hormones in anxious people.
- For your healthiest chocolate, try to pick ones that are low in sugar.
- Fat in chocolate may not deserve quite the bad rap it’s gotten in the past: It has heart-healthy oleic acid, as well as stearic and palmitic acids (which are kinds of saturated fat). While palmitic acid can affect cholesterol levels, stearic acid does not appear to affect cholesterol levels.
- Chocolate milk has been shown in studies to be a great recovery drink — it just must be consumed 45 minutes to an hour of exercise.
- Even the Mayans and Aztecs drank a chocolate-y drink called Xocolatl in pre-Columbian Mexico.
- There is no actual chocolate in white chocolate.
Read This Next: 30 Things You May Not Have Realized About Coffee