Healthspan January 25, 2018

Nowadays drinkable chocolate is a thing of luxury that doesn’t just taste good but offers an indulgent, relaxing experience (or is that just the adverts?) for its consumer. It’s officially National Hot Chocolate Day on January 31st, 2018, so how about some ‘did you knows’ for this deliciously moreish, cold-weather companion. 

1. We’ve been drinking hot chocolate for a very long time

Hot chocolate comes from the cocoa bean but way back before we learned the delights of chocolate brownies and cakes it was consumed in liquid form. Of course – nowadays – this ‘liquid chocolate’ combines a diverse range of ingredients that depend on its creator(s) and cocoa is used as the flavour basis. Historians actually credit the people of Southern Mexico as being the first to grind down roasted cocoa beans and mix them together with water, followed by the Aztecs (another tribe in Southern Mexico) who drank ground cocoa in the form of a bitter drink called ‘xocoatl’ that combined chilli, toasted corn and lukewarm water…not quite as appetising as the sweet drinking chocolate varieties we’re familiar with today.

2. It contains some pretty good things

You may be wondering – or indeed hoping – that hot chocolate has some health benefits. Good news, it does. Granted all the added ingredients in modern day hot chocolate (like salt and sugar) are not so good. Make sure to choose a version with low-sugar content. But the actual cocoa contains antioxidants in abundance as well as magnesium without which the production of the sleep hormone melatonin is disturbed.

3. It was even believed to have medicinal properties

The original creators of hot chocolate actually believed it to have restorative properties – but this was because of the jolt of caffeine they got during consumption (their cocoa content was a lot higher than ours is now). If we’re talking about the medicinal properties of modern-day hot chocolate, though, we think you could count the time invested in drinking as medicinal, because any time invested in a moment of calm and relaxation is time well spent. Our hectic work lives and social lives don’t often budget for relaxation these days.

4. It’s fuelled polar explorers and energised WW1 soldiers

Robert Falcon Scott – who sadly died on his return trek back home – ate stew and drank hot chocolate on his year long trek to the South pole. Another Norwegian team had completed the same trek 3 months earlier and also drank a significant about of hot chocolate on their journey. Many years later - in 1989 - a dog sled expedition team consumed almost 2100 sachets of the same heart-warming drink. It’s clearly the perfect energiser in tough times because during WW1 the YMCA also set up ‘comfort stations’ for soldiers that served hot cocoa – they were known as ‘Red Triangle Men’.

5. It prompted religious controversy

Yes – believe it or not – hot chocolate once caused religious controversy. Europe’s Roman Catholics struggled against the debate ‘is hot chocolate a drink or food?’ for a significant part of the 16th and 17th centuries. The debate came about due to question over whether hot chocolate could be drunk (or eaten) during the numerous fasting periods across the Roman Catholics’ calendar. Eventually it was decided that it was, in fact, a drink and could therefore be consumed mid-fast.



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