Is chocolate one of your guilty pleasures? If so, it’s time to reach for your favorite chocolate bar and tuck in with a clear conscience. The good news is that all around the world chocolate is changing lives for the better as more and more of the leading chocolate manufacturers make the move to Fairtrade chocolate. Recent studies have also linked chocolate to a range of health benefits such as a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lower levels of stress and anxiety. So if you have just succumbed to a deliciously wicked chocolate craving, relax and have another square. The time has come for chocolate to reclaim its rightful place in society.
Ancient peoples such as the Mayas and the Aztecs didn’t need to be convinced of the importance of chocolate. They used cacao seeds, the seeds of the cacao tree from which chocolate is made, as their currency, although the valuable end product was mostly reserved for society’s elite, such as kings and queens. These privileged early chocoholics got their fix in the form of a bitter tasting health drink made from cacao seeds mixed with chilies and other ingredients. It would be thousands of years later before the manufacture of the world’s first chocolate bar by Joseph Fry in 1847.
Thankfully, it is no longer necessary to be born into royalty in order to experience the joy of chocolate and nowadays, chocolate plays an important role in combating inequality and poverty. Sustainably sourced chocolate helps workers and small farmers in countries such as Samoa, Ghana, the Dominican Republic, Cote d’Ivoire and Belize. Eat a bar of and you are helping fund various worthwhile community projects such as medical facilities, wells for drinking water, sanitary facilities and education. Fairtrade chocolate also supports local sustainability and means better prices for small farmers. All proof, in case any was needed, that chocolate can indeed be truly life-changing.
Hard-core chocolate addicts may argue that there is no such thing as a bad chocolate. Science, however, tells us that not all chocolate is created equal. The health benefits that derive from such beneficial components as antioxidants and flavanoids, for example, are found in greater quantities in good quality, dark chocolate, so try to choose chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa solids.
It will come as no surprise to chocolate lovers that Theobroma Cacao, the scientific name for the cacao tree, translates as “food of the gods”. It is believed that over the years, “cacao” came to be spelled as “cocoa” and the rest, as they say, is chocolate history. For those who dream in chocolate, surrendering to temptation is now even sweeter, as major chocolate manufacturers embrace the Fairtrade concept, improving the lives of thousands of cocoa producers worldwide. As workers and their families in developing countries get a fairer deal, there has never been a better time to indulge. So go on! Treat yourself to some chocolate – changing lives has never tasted so good!