The cocoa bean has a long and storied history, with humans consuming it in one form or another for millennia. So why was cocoa once called the food of gods?
Chocolate has been around for hundreds of years. Initially, it was enjoyed as a hot drink, and it wasn't until the modern era began that chocolate took the form that we see today. If you love chocolate, you may have often found yourself wondering how chocolate was discovered and whether it was as loved by people back then as it is today.
Aztecs started to believe that chocolate was a food that was sent to them by their Gods. They enjoyed chocolate as a hot and cold drink. They also used it as a currency, and for them, it was as valuable as gold. They also used chocolate as an aphrodisiac and energy booster.
It turns out that it's not just us who adore chocolate so much. Chocolate is just a dessert for us that's accessible to everyone today but back in the day. Chocolate was only available to the rich. It wasn't just a casual dessert but was something that was only served on grand celebratory occasions. Chocolate was also used as an energy booster and aphrodisiac. It was taken in very high regard because people, particularly the Aztecs, believed that it was a gift given to them by their gods. Since we've come a long way, it's now a popular question why was it once called the food of gods? What was so special about chocolate that we might be missing today?
We've studied the history of chocolate in much detail, and we can tell you that chocolate was a very special dessert back in the day. It was seen in the highest regard and was only available for the prestigious individuals. We might have figured out why cocoa was called the food of gods?
Chocolate – Food of Gods
According to the popular Aztec tradition, a bearded, white-skinned god whose name was Quetzalcoatl, who is believed to be the god of knowledge and wisdom, came all the way from his land of gold to the land of Aztecs with some cacao beans. The god himself showed the people how to grow and harvest the tree and how to prepare chocolate. This is the reason why the first cacao tree was named Theobroma cacao in 1735 by Linnaeus.
Back in the day, chocolate wasn't consumed as we know of today. It was consumed as a thick, bitter, hot drink. Sometimes, honey was added to it to make it sweet. It was literally considered as food of Gods and was greatly respected by the people of Mesoamerican civilization. It was reserved by the elites of the civilization. The chocolate drink was only reserved for funeral offerings and sacred ceremonies.
There are many artifacts that give us an indication that the kings and the gods consumed chocolate.
It's believed that in Mayan culture, chocolate brought about numerous sacred moments for agriculture. When the first cacao flower sprouted, people are believed to have offered blood from their arms and ears to earth to ensure that the weather stayed favorable for the cacao crop. Chocolate was an extremely expensive drink that the general public couldn't afford.
Does Chocolate Really Offer The Benefits That It Was Used For In The Past?
The Aztec ruler, Montezuma II, used to drink several gallons of chocolate every day for its aphrodisiac and energy-boosting properties. He even reserved a good number of cocoa beans for his soldiers. Today, people are more knowledgeable, and they won't believe in the goodness of something just because people in the past practiced it. They want scientific proof and backing today.
So, is chocolate really as beneficial as people in the past believed it to be?
Aztecs used chocolate for its aphrodisiac properties and the Mayans associated chocolate with fertility.
Chocolate contains serotonin and phenylethylamine. These chemicals are known to be mood boosters and are also mild sexual stimulants. The reason why you feel good after eating chocolate is the fact that it promotes the release of serotonin, that's known to promote the feeling of happiness. The impact of chocolate as a sexual stimulant doesn't have much to do with the sexual stimulation, but it's more about the sensual pleasure you feel after eating chocolate.
Apart from what Aztecs and Mayan knew chocolate for, research has helped us to discover a lot more about chocolates. Chocolate is known to improve blood pressure, reduce the level of bad cholesterol (LDL), and thereby positively affect overall heart health. Dark chocolate also improves the blood flow to the brain, improves insulin sensitivity, and thereby reduces the risk of diabetes.
Chocolate surely has numerous health benefits, but it's important that you consume chocolate only in limited quantities. Consuming too much chocolate may do you more harm than good. Going overboard with chocolate doses on a daily basis will lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart problems, and numerous other health conditions.
Other common side effects of eating too much chocolate include acne. Chocolate also contains caffeine, and too much caffeine can also result in disturbances in sleep patterns.
Chocolate is best used as a dessert. However, if you start binge-eating chocolate, you're putting yourself in the face of chronic health conditions.
It was considered the food of Gods, but we now know it really isn't that!
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore