Ah, chocolate! Who doesn’t have fond memories of chocolate rabbits at Easter, hot chocolate after a day in the snow, or a bar of Hershey’s chocolate? Chocolate has an illustrious and long history -- even longer than your oldest friend!
After returning from the Americas, Spanish explorers spread the famed cocoa bean across Europe. It became famous as both a frothy and invigorating drink (usually served cold) as well as a medicine. Until well into the 18th-century, chocolate was prescribed by doctors. Cocoa was seen as a remedy for everything from digestive problems, to nervous system complaints, even as a heart medication!
Don’t you wish you were a patient back then? I do!
Chocolate drinks appeared in cafes in London and Paris in the 1600s. During the American Revolutionary War, soldiers were even sometimes paid in chocolate. The Bakers Chocolate factory was built in Massachusetts in 1780. Fry’s Chocolate appeared in the United Kingdom in 1847. Lindt Chocolate opened in Switzerland in 1879. Our own Milton Hershey started his famous chocolate bar in his chocolate factory in 1894.
Nothing has been the same since the first mass-produced chocolate bars. Today there are even chocolate museums in many countries. One of the largest chocolate museums is in Cologne, Germany. You can eat chocolate, drink chocolate, and some people even sculpt in chocolate!
Chocolate is everywhere! So it must be okay to eat, right?
Chocolate is one of those things from childhood we can take with us. Cocoa has given us pleasure for centuries. It isn’t called The Food of the Gods for nothing.
Chocolate contains flavonoids and plant pigments. These are also found in fruits, red wine, and vegetables. These flavonoids bind the aggressive free radicals that can accumulate in our bodies and lead to cell damage. This can possibly lower slightly elevated blood pressure.
Back in 2018, scientists at California's Loma Linda University studied exactly how dark chocolate work in the body. Studies showed that older people who regularly ate a little dark chocolate were able to greatly improve their attention, processing speed, and fluency.
A piece or two of good quality dark chocolate can be good for you whether you are five years old or eighty-five!
“Researchers enlisted older adults to consume either low, moderate or high amounts of flavanols in a cocoa-based beverage every day for eight weeks, and a link was found between the higher amounts of flavanols and improvements in tests of cognitive function.” Live Science
There are many good things about chocolate in addition to its great taste and aroma.
“Most people with peripheral artery disease, PAD, have great difficulty walking and few treatments to help. Preliminary results of a new Northwestern Medicine study suggest that cocoa may have a therapeutic effect on walking performance in people with PAD. Mary McDermott, MD, led this study and shares the results.” Northwestern Medicine
Like all foods and drinks, everything we eat and drink should be of good quality and consumed in moderation. If you like chocolate, purchase an expensive, good-quality bar. Avoid the bar of store-brand milk chocolate filled with sugary creme.
“A great chocolate bar is the Lindt dark chocolate block (70% and up). You can find the one with the right amount of sweetness for you, without being too bitter. Some people like their chocolate very dark!” More Life Health
We often avoid sweets to avoid cavities and the extra weight. We know that chocolate was at one point actually a medicine, and we know what happens if we take the wrong medicines or the wrong mix.
Eating chocolate is most likely safe for everyone. If you are unsure about the effects of caffeine and the related chemicals found in chocolate on the medications you are taking, you should ask your doctor. Don’t ask the sweet lady at the candy counter. She is sweet, though, isn’t she?
Consuming large amounts of caffeine is likely to have the expected side effects: nervousness, increased urination, sleeplessness, and perhaps a fast heartbeat. Though perhaps your fast heartbeat is caused by the sweet lady -- or fellow -- at the candy counter.
Chocolate contains cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and other ingredients -- like sugar. Cocoa can cause allergic reactions in some people. It might also constipate you.
Stop eating chocolate and ask your doctor if you experience any not-so-sweet symptoms such as:
Cocoa in larger amounts -- did you eat ALL your grandchildren’s Easter candy? -- is possibly unsafe because of the caffeine level. Good quality, dark chocolate contains less caffeine than coffee. You should still take note of anything containing caffeine if it doesn’t suit your diet.
Foodstuffs that contain caffeine – and on average, how much:
Surgery: Cocoa may interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgical procedures.
Bleeding disorders: Consuming a lot of cocoa may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising if you have a bleeding disorder.
Diabetes: Cocoa may interfere with blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
Glaucoma: The caffeine in cocoa increases pressure in the eye and should be consumed cautiously by people with glaucoma.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): The caffeine in cocoa, when taken in large amounts, may worsen diarrhea and might worsen symptoms of IBS.
Osteoporosis: The caffeine in cocoa may increase how much calcium is released in the urine. Cocoa should be consumed cautiously if you have osteoporosis.
Again, please check with your doctor for any and all medical advice.
Is there anything better than a cold glass of milk with a warm chocolate chip cookie? Perhaps you can’t drink milk anymore, and you’ve chosen to take soy or oat milk in your coffee.
Wondering what foods to avoid? Food really affects not only our physical health but our mental health too. Avocados, broccoli, salmon, walnuts, dark chocolate – there are many foods that provide a "good mood" and are actually good for you!
Some foods contain elements that can be disruptive to our systems – especially if we are on medication or suffer from a specific ailment. Your doctor has probably already talked with you about your intake of caffeine and salt. You probably already know how much dairy, raw vegetables, and beans you can happily consume, too.
“Chocolates are good for elderly feeling depressed and low. Dark chocolate contains two saturated fatty acids – palmitic and stearic acids – that uplifts mood. Chocolate is associated with the pleasure region in our brain.” TriBeCa Care
You are on vacation and find a nice chocolate store, or enjoying yourself at an event and eat three slices of chocolate cake. Food and drink are an important part of enjoying ourselves!
Enjoy your life -- it’s the only one you have.
“Dark chocolate is different from milk chocolate, which has little to no health benefits. Made from cocoa butter, it contains a higher level of cocoa with antioxidants such as polyphenols. This is why a square of dark chocolate is considered a “superfood” and an all-around great snack choice.” Family Private Care, LLC
Chare your chocolate?! Probably not! It’s too delicious. How else will you be taking care of yourself today? We’d love to know. Then go ahead and share this with your friends. Want to read more articles like this? We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter where we send weekly emails with helpful and fun articles.
Senior Living FYI
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