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Chocolate treats shown artistically arranged on a serving tray. [CREDIT: Pixabay.com]

World Chocolate Day

Did you know that July 7 is World Chocolate Day?

Chocolate treats shown artistically arranged on a serving tray. [CREDIT: Pixabay.com]

Chocolate treats shown artistically arranged on a serving tray. [CREDIT: Pixabay.com]

According to the World Cocoa Foundation, chocolate is the most popular sweet treat in the world, with more than 3 million tons of cocoa beans consumed each year. So it’s no wonder we see chocolate everywhere: in our coffee, cereals, ice creams, desserts. It’s even in scented candles, cosmetics and hand sanitizers, just to name a few.

But, what is chocolate?

It might surprise you that the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that established a standard definition for products labeled as “chocolate,” which chocolate manufacturers adopted. The FDA states that for chocolate to be considered “real” chocolate, the product must contain cocoa butter and cocoa liquor which are found naturally in the cocoa bean.

Cocoa liquor? Don’t worry, there is no alcohol (naturally). Rather, cocoa liquor is a bitter liquid produced from grinding cocoa beans. During chocolate production, manufacturers add ingredients such as milk, cream and sugar to smooth off that sharp taste.

Dark chocolate, with fewer of those additives, retains more of that bitter taste. But, it also makes for a healthier chocolate choice, because of its high cocoa solid content and punch of antioxidants, powerful compounds that might help protect your cells from damage, promote heart health, and reduce the risk of certain cancers.

A stack of dark chocolate bars, with a trail of chocolate scrapings. [CREDIT: Pixabay.com]

A stack of dark chocolate bars, with a trail of chocolate scrapings. [CREDIT: Pixabay.com]

Chocolate can be “bittersweet” in another way, with an often-high calorie count due to its sugar and fat content, contributing to weight gain. If you want the health benefits of dark chocolate with less worry about weight, try eating no more than three ounces of dark chocolate per day. And, be sure you’re eating dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 65 percent.

That’s easier said than done, for many. As a society, we’ve long had a love affair with chocolate.

Chocolate has actually been around for more than 3,000 years, as it was first cultivated from the cacao tree by the Maya, Toltec and Aztec civilizations. In fact, the Mayans considered chocolate to be the food of the gods and the cocoa tree was considered sacred.

Tasty, revered and more. You might be ready now to head to your local store to buy a box of delicious chocolates and celebrate World Chocolate Day (or, just ANY day). Remember, though, chocolate should be consumed in moderation. Savor the taste and enjoy the experience.

And if you’re not into spending big on pricey little chocolates (we’re looking at you, Valentines Day), don’t worry. You can always find some delicious recipes that incorporate dark chocolate.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the different types of chocolates and some of the health benefits of dark chocolate.

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