Once thought of as the food of the gods and more valuable than gold, chocolate has been known since prehistoric times. Today, over 3 billion tons of chocolate are produced and consumed globally each year. We found 12 secret facts about chocolate; you may not know that will surprise and delight chocolate lovers everywhere!
Chocolate has been used as money and…
The Aztecs and Mayans were the first to discover cacao, the source of chocolate. “Cocoa,” as we know it today, seems to be the result of a misunderstanding by a Spanish scribe, but the name stuck in Europe and remains to this day. In the Central American Pre-Columbian cultures, cacao was used as money, and cacao powder was considered a sacred drink for the priests and rulers. This is where the name “xocolatl” came from originally. But the oddest use of chocolate so far goes to Belgium. The country released a limited edition of chocolate-flavored postage stamps in 2013!
The chemicals found in dark and milk chocolate include tryptophan, the reason you feel good and get a “turkey high” at Thanksgiving; theobromine, which acts as a mild stimulant and relaxant; and phenylethylamine, which simulates the feeling of being in love. Also, the scent of chocolate increases theta brain wave activity, which boosts relaxation and may be an aid for depression. Depression sufferers are estimated to eat about 50% more chocolate than non-sufferers, and research shows that dark chocolate, which is high in theobromine, quiets coughing better than codeine!
Chocolate has antibacterial properties.
If you ever heard your dentist say to avoid chocolate because eating it would rot your teeth, you were robbed! (Sort of.) Research shows that chocolate helps kill harmful bacteria in the mouth and also helps prevent tooth decay. It is the sugar added to chocolate that can cause tooth decay, which is why dark chocolate, with a lower sugar to cacao ratio, is the healthiest choice.
People who eat a little dark chocolate every day do not just get an emotional boost. Research has demonstrated that eating dark chocolate daily can help cut the risk of heart disease by up to 33%, even in people who have previously had heart attacks or other issues. So if you’ve been worried about indulging because of heart issues, you can breathe easier, relax and enjoy!
To be defined as “chocolate,” a certain threshold amount of cocoa powder or liquors must be present. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, which is not the same, and tends to have a higher sugar content than its darker cousins. Because of this, the people who say white chocolate is not really chocolate at all are correct, at least according to Hoyle.
Americans eat about ½ of the chocolate produced globally every year.
Every second, America as a nation eats 100lbs of chocolate. That’s 360,000lbs or 180 tons every hour, 8,640,000lbs or 4,320 tons a day and a whopping 3,155,760,000lbs or 1,577,880 tons of chocolate every year. This represents about half the total chocolate made on the entire planet. Considering it takes 400 cacao beans to produce 1lb of chocolate, that’s over 1.25tn cacao beans the planet’s munching down annually! Europe is the next biggest consumer, at about 40% of all chocolate, and the biggest single supplier of cacao in the world is the Ivory Coast of Africa.
So are nut and dairy farmers the world over. About 40% of all the almonds grown in the world find their way into chocolate products, as well as a decent slice of 75% of all the artificial vanilla produced worldwide. (The rest of that amount goes into ice cream.) US chocolate manufacturers including Reese’s, Nestle, Hershey’s and others use about 3.5 million pounds of whole milk each day. That is over 1.25bn pounds of milk used each year, just in the US alone, on chocolate! We see from this that chocolate is big business for the nut and dairy industries too.
Chocolate does not cause acne.
This old wives’ tale was being taught in high school health classes at least as recently as the late 1990s, despite being thoroughly debunked by scientists. It is not the chocolate, but a diet high in fatty and sugary foods that cause excess sebum production, the underlying cause of most acne. Being smart and eating a sensible, healthy diet will help clear up your skin, but it means you can indulge your sweet tooth without guilt as long as you do it in moderation.
Well, yes and no. It is theoretically possible to overdose on theobromine, but the quantity required to get the job done would be outright impossible for most people. You’d have to eat 22lbs of chocolate, or about 40 Hershey bars, to achieve the required toxicity level. Household pets such as dogs and cats are very sensitive to the chemicals in chocolate, though, so keep Fido and Fluffy well away from your treats! However, “death by chocolate” actually did occur once in Mexico. A Spanish bishop annoyed at the number of people chomping down on chocolate during Mass, decided to ban chocolate from the cathedral. In retaliation, and a magnificent twist of irony, an unknown member of the congregation slipped the bishop poisoned chocolate, resulting in one of the only documented, actual cases of death by chocolate on record. In this case, the chocolate got a bad rap, because it was not the chocolate but the poison that did the pontiff in.
Chocolate has an unusually low melting point.
Chocolate melts at right about 93 degrees Fahrenheit, or 33.88 degrees Celcius. This is just below average human body temperature. It is why chocolate melts in your mouth and, if you hold onto it for too long, your hands too! Chocolate is the only food known to man that does this, even though we talk about things “melting in your mouth” when we discuss particularly tender or succulent steaks, etc.
Chocolate = quick energy.
A single chocolate chip contains enough calories to allow an average adult to walk 150 feet (45.72m). This is one of the reasons why chocolate has been so popular in the world’s military services. M&Ms were invented in 1941 so front-line troops could indulge without worrying about chocolate melting on their hands, thanks to the candy coating. Chocolate has even been to space, with every US and Russian manned mission having chocolate aboard for the astronauts and cosmonauts, because it is such a great source of energy!
There once was an actual river of chocolate!
That famous scene in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where Augustus Gloop nearly drowned was filmed in a real river of chocolate created especially for the occasion. The river consisted of 15,000 gallons of water, cream and chocolate. Because of the cream, the river quickly spoiled, creating a stink on the set worse than Veruca Salt at her brattiest could ever have pulled off!
We have a passion for chocolate, and we love finding out strange new facts about our favorite food group! Do you have a favorite chocolate secret you want to share? Let us know in the comments below?
Also published on Medium.