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In time for Valentine's Day

Feb 04, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Chocolate is a universal symbol of love—never more so that this time of year. It also may boast the best flavor of any food on the planet. Do you know anyone who doesn’t like chocolate? But how much do we know about this irresistible treat?

Just in time to celebrate with those we love most, Dr. Judith Rodriguez, a nutrition professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida, discusses myths and facts about the best treat nature offers.

Myth: Chocolate is native to Switzerland.
Fact: The cacao tree was discovered 2,000 years ago in Mesoamerica. Ancient Maya and Aztec cultures ground the seeds into a paste and made a bitter chocolate drink. Explorers took the seeds to Spain and the cacao was dispersed throughout Europe. There, new recipes that included cream and sugar, were created and the new sweet version was developed.

Myth: Chocolate causes acne.
Fact: Scientific evidence supports the fact that chocolate doesn’t cause acne or pimples. Moreover, acne doesn’t appear to be caused by a specific food, but rather by acne-causing bacteria, an excess of skin oil, and a buildup of dead cells within the pores.

Myth: Chocolate can cause heart attack.
Fact: Actually, Cacao is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease because of its content of phytochemicals. Cacao may help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and increase HDL (good cholesterol). Dark chocolate contains more of these components than milk chocolate, so cacao and dark chocolate are recommended over other chocolates.

Myth: White chocolate is chocolate without the coloring.
Fact: Actually, white chocolate isn’t chocolate—it’s a confection made with sugar, vanilla, cream and/or milk solids, and cocoa butter.

And as for those creative Swiss and Belgians…we’d like to thank you for perfecting that cream and sugar addition and making something good even better.

--Sarah Hagerty
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