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A brief history of chocolate – and some of its surprising health benefits

Cocoa comes to Europe

Cocoa comes to Europe
  • In 1518, Hernan Cortes, a Spanish soldier and explorer reached the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (in the territory that is now Mexico).
  • He and his men drank “chikolatl”, a bitter drink that contained roasted, crushed and then boiled (in water with spices and chilli) cocoa beans.
  • They did not like it, but they knew that the king of the Aztecs, Montezuma II, consumed the drink around 50 times a day. So Hernan Cortes understood the potential of cocoa and brought it back to Spain following his conquest.

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A brief history of chocolate – and some of its surprising health benefits

A brief history of chocolate – and some of its surprising health benefits

https://theconversation.com/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-and-some-of-its-surprising-health-benefits-142692

theconversation.com

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Key Ideas

The Aztec cocoa

  • The cocoa we know now is very different from the one that first arrived in Europe from South America (in the 16th century).
  • The Aztecs consumed cocoa as a drink and they believed it had great cultural and therapeutic value. They believed it could cure fever, diarrhoea, fatigue, angina and even tooth decay.
  • The cocoa was perceived as an elixir sent from Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of wind and wisdom.

Cocoa comes to Europe

  • In 1518, Hernan Cortes, a Spanish soldier and explorer reached the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (in the territory that is now Mexico).
  • He and his men drank “chikolatl”, a bitter drink that contained roasted, crushed and then boiled (in water with spices and chilli) cocoa beans.
  • They did not like it, but they knew that the king of the Aztecs, Montezuma II, consumed the drink around 50 times a day. So Hernan Cortes understood the potential of cocoa and brought it back to Spain following his conquest.

Chocolate: the taste we know today

  • After they reached, Europe cocoa beans were crushed and mixed with honey and sugar, becoming a popular drink among the elites.
  • Joseph Fry and Sons made the first chocolate bar in the 19th century, creating what we know as chocolate today.

Health benefits of chocolate

  • Dark chocolate and cocoa products containing at least 200mg of cocoa flavanols (bioactive compounds) can improve blood vessels elasticity, which helps with blood flow.
  • Consuming cocoa flavanols frequently boosts the ability of blood vessels’ to dilate or expand and this aids the body to regulate blood pressure and blood flow to organs.
  • Cocoa flavanols can also increase blood flow to the brain and this can improve cognitive performance.

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