10 Strange Facts About Chocolate
You don’t need an excuse to tear into some chocolate. But wouldn’t you like to know the secret behind those Cadbury eggs, you maniac?
Chocolate tastes wonderful, of course, but for many chocolate lovers, a piece of great chocolate offers them something more. Here are some of the reasons why the palate and body desire chocolate to such an extent, along with a few strange chocolate facts.
Death by Chocolate Actually Occurred in Mexico
Whenever people hear the phrase "Death by Chocolate," they probably assume it’s a joke or a really embarrassing play that they were in junior year of high school. Thankfully, they’re usually right, but on one occasion in Mexico in the 17th century, chocolate was the culprit that did a man in.
To be fair, it wasn’t the chocolate itself, but the poison injected into the chocolate, which killed a Spanish Bishop brazen enough to ban the consumption of chocolate during church services. If only he could have abstained, he might have survived. Chocolate: the food so good you eat it even though it's poison.
Chocolate Makes Us Happy...With Science
There are a lot of naturally occurring chemicals in chocolate that are either good for us or affect our mood. There’s a chemical that induces feelings associated with love (which we'll get to later), as well as tryptophan, which makes us very happy.
Tryptophan (which is also found in turkey) influences the levels of endorphins in the human brain and increases the production of serotonin, which leads to elevated states of euphoria. Since there’s a lot of this stuff in chocolate, it makes sense that people can go a little overboard when it comes to their passion for chocolate. (Or their passion for drumsticks at the Renaissance Faire.)
The Aztecs and Mayans Used Cacao Beans as Currency
Ancients believed chocolate was the food of the gods. Aztec and Mayan kings drank cups of warm chocolate on a regular basis, and the magical cacao bean, so valued in pre-Columbian America, was used as a form of currency.
Rather than walk around with coins in their pockets, or loincloths, or whatever, folks would swap cacao beans for goods and services.
Cocoa Can Ward Off Tooth Decay
You probably think chocolate is full of sugar or artificial sweetener, and it isn’t good for our teeth. Well, it is, but it doesn't have to be. Pure cocoa can actually help prevent tooth decay.
Certain naturally occurring chemicals in cocoa beans fight harmful bacteria in the mouth. Chocolate’s ability to deal with the microscopic crawlies living on the surface of your teeth is so effective that it might be added to toothpastes and mouthwashes one day—minus the sugar, of course.
Americans Consume Almost Half the World’s Chocolate
If you think Americans eat too much chocolate, you’re right. As it turns out, we consume about half of all of the world’s chocolate (although we're not first on a per capita basis), which weighs in at more than three billion pounds. Don't worry, Europeans still come in at about 40% of the planet's chocolate consumption.
Chocolate Is Literally Chemical Love
Chocolate contains a chemical called phenylethylamine. Phenylethylamine releases certain “pleasure” endorphins in the brain, which make people feel good all over -- similar to how they feel when they’re madly in love. While chocolate might not be a perfect love substitute, it’s one of the best alternates you’ll find produced in mass quantity.
Chocolate Makers Adore Nuts
Chocolate producers worldwide annually use around 20% of the world’s peanut crops and about 40% of all of the almonds grown. Given this information, there probably isn’t a dairy or peanut farm out there that isn’t rooting for the continued success of chocolate.
German Chocolate Isn't Actually German
If you have some German heritage, and thought you were honoring your ancestors by digging into a piece of sweet, German chocolate cake, you couldn’t
be more wrong.
While this tasty treat does have the name “German” in the title, it has absolutely nothing to do with the country itself. In the mid-19th century, a man named Sam German came up with a recipe for dark baking chocolate bars that could be used when making cake. Sam, who worked for the Baker Chocolate Company, did such a good job, that he got a cake named after him.
Chocolate Inspired the Invention of the Microwave
Percy Spence, a scientist working on WWII radar and weapons projects, happened to be a big fan of chocolate. After spending some time near a formidable device called a magnetron, he noticed the chocolate bar he’d been keeping in his pocket had turned to mush.
He quickly put two and two together and realized magnetrons might be able to heat up food at incredibly fast rates, and voilà, the microwave oven was born.
Sugar Free Chocolate Is Basically Ex-Lax
You might think maybe you can cheat the system by buying a bunch of sugar-free chocolate and eating that to save calories. But that is a terrible mistake. Why? Because gorging on sugar-free chocolate is essentially a one-way ticket to Bathroom City. And the people who make it know it.
At one factory that makes reduced-sugar and sugar-free chocolates, there are buckets on the floor filled with defective chocolates. Each bucket has a sign warning employees of the ramifications losing control will have on your bowels. Seriously, do not eat too much sugar-free chocolate.