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Gotta Love Chocolate!

Did you know that today is National Chocolate Day! Created by the National Confectioners Association and just in time for Halloween, this annual event celebrates all things chocolate! As America’s favorite flavor, chocolate is well deserving of its own day of honor and celebration.

Chocolate comes from the seeds of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree and has been around for thousands of years. Currently, it is grown in Mexico, Central America, and Northern South America. In fact, the earliest known documentation of using cacao seeds is from around 1100 BC.

The cacao tree seeds have a very intense, bitter taste which rely on the fermentation process to develop their flavor. Once the seeds have been fermented, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted. After roasting, the shell is removed and then ground into cocoa powder, which is usually liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients. At this point in the process, it is called chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor may then be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Chocolate not only has an awesome flavor and serves as a wonderful dessert and treat, but research has found that chocolate, when eaten in moderation, can have great benefits to your health. There is considerable evidence that cocoa can provide powerful health benefits, being especially protective against cardiovascular disease. It also has a powerful source of antioxidants; may improve blood flow and actually lower blood pressure; and improve your brain function.

Of course, this doesn't mean we should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day! It is still loaded with calories and sugar. Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them. Be aware (or beware) that a lot of the chocolate on the market is not all that good for you. Choose a quality product such as an organic, dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. Dark chocolates often contain some sugar, but the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.

As always, we encourage you to talk to your doctor regarding anything you may introduce into your regular diet. This is especially true of chocolate. Just because it’s good for most people doesn’t mean it would be good for YOU. But if your doctor gives you the green light, you just might discover that a daily dose of chocolate might indeed be the best "medicine" you ever tasted.

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