After the mighty brain, the humble little cocoa plant might seem like nothing special to talk about. But I'm going to anyway, because cocoa really is kind of cool. And, any excuse to talk about chocolate, right?
Cocoa can be considered a super food. Its high levels of phosphorous and magnesium help healthy teeth and strong bones, and the chemical theobromine in cocoa kills the organisms that cause cavities (chocolate toothpaste, anyone?) Cocoa is actually the richest dietary source of magnesium found in any common food, as well as the richest source of antioxidants. It has ten times the antioxidants found in blueberries, twenty times more than red wine, and thirty times more than green tea! And, the Phenylethylamine (PEA) in cocoa helps with concentration. Cocoa also contains iron, and flavinoids that help prevent heart disease.
Now we can't just declare all chocolate a health food. Really, the health benefits of cocoa would only be maximized when the chocolate itself has a high cocoa content and lower sugar content - in other words, dark chocolate. The higher milk and sugar content of milk chocolate decreases the health benefits and increases the calories and fat content. White chocolate doesn't contain cocoa at all.
But really I wanted to highlight cocoa, because it's an example of the plant life God put on this earth to help keep us healthy and heal naturally. Our culture has such a pharmaceutical mindset. And, while man-made pharmaceuticals are important sometimes, we often forget that we have so much God-made stuff available to us. So break out the dark chocolate (preferably organic and fair trade), and praise the Lord for the wonderful gift he gave us in the cocoa plant.
Some interesting facts about cocoa:
* The botanical name for the cocoa plant is Theobramba cacao, which means "food of the gods."
* The plant is native to the rain forests of Latin America, where they live in the shade of the understory, enjoying the consistent temperatures and abundance of moisture.
* The fruit of the cocoa plant grows directly off the trunk and branches.
* The Mayans used cocoa beans as currency - 100 beans would buy a slave.
* When chocolate came to Spain, it was used as medicine and prescribed for things like fevers and pain relief. And at one point, the Catholic church approved chocolate as a dietary supplement to be taken during fasting.
*Before the late 1800s, chocolate was consumed only as a drink. In 1850, Joseph Fry added more cocoa butter instead of water, and solid chocolate was born. In 1875, Henri Nestle added condensed milk, creating the first milk chocolate.
*It takes about 400 cocoa beans to make a pound of chocolate.
*Most Americans prefer milk chocolate.
*Cocoa also has a savory side, and is an ingredient in many chili recipes as a compliment to the spicy, smoky flavors of other spices.
My favorite chocolate is Green & Black's organic Maya Gold. What is your favorite way to enjoy cocoa?
(note: I do plan to add a list of my sources, but I've run out of time and need to get this posted. Check back later if you want to know where I found my information.)
Names of God - C:
Creator * Counselor * Comforter * Cornerstone * Christ