Chocolate

Emperor Motecuhzoma was the ruler of the Aztecs who mistook the Spanish conquistador Cortes to be a god. Motecuhzoma’s people felt betrayed by their leader and stoned him to death.

You may have heard the expression ‘Montezuma’s revenge.’ It’s a euphemism for traveler’s diarrhea. Been there. Had that. Oral rehydration salts, the water from a green coconut and probiotics (healthful bacteria) are my recovery recommendations. The brand of probiotic I recommend is Florastor®

But the real way Motecuhzoma’s ghost avenged himself is much more interesting. When the gold was gone and the jade was jaded, cocoa is what filled the Spanish galleons. The Aztecs had been drinking hot cocoa for 2,000 years when Cortes introduced it to Spain. To meet the cocoa demand the Aztec nation was enslaved.

Meanwhile in Spain the cocoa bean met sugar. The confection became chocolate, which took Europe by storm. Casanova claimed chocolate enhances love. St.Valentine’s day became devoted to chocolate. For some people every day became devoted to chocolate. They were enslaved. Emperor Motecuhzoma’s ghost called it his ‘just desserts’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting a chocolate addicts’ support group. If so, I’d have to be a member. I’m recommending becoming a savvy chocolate consumer. After all, cocoa is a bean and beans are good food, right?

The cocoa bean is indeed healthy. It is an antioxidant which protects the blood vessels and organs from chemical damage. You could even include cocoa in a vitamin capsule. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to cocoa and it is even healthier.

Cocoa butter is a fat. As Atkins and South Beach dieters know, fat is not necessarily ‘bad for you’. Cocoa butter is healthy. It contains short saturated plant fats known to boost the immune system.

Now look at your chocolate’s ingredients. Does it have cocoa in it? Chances are it has substituted cocoa butter for unhealthy vitamin-hollow trans fats such as hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats.

Here’s another snafu. The Aztec word for hot cocoa means bitter water. Cocoa needs a lot of sweetener to become chocolate. Is sugar or fructose syrup in the top three ingredients of your chocolate bar? Does it contain ‘sweet nothings’ like sucralose and aspartame? Healthful sweeteners include stevia, xylitol (and other sugar alcohols), ribose, vanilla and honey.

Here are some chocolate-choosing tips: Buy real cocoa. Choose semisweet dark chocolate over sweet. If you are making your own hot chocolate, buy bitter and add healthful sweeteners to taste. Also add healthy spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. You may also remember from a recent Ingridients newsletter that magnesium 400mg daily takes the edge off some chocolate obsessions.

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Posted on: May 6, 2009, by : Heather