Tag Archives: health benefits of Chocolate

Chocolate: Is it Actually Healthy?

Chocolate is a treat that many people around the world love to indulge. However, many of these people feel guilty about eating the sweet sensation due to concerns about their health. “Will eating too much chocolate make me fat?” is a question that many people ask themselves when craving chocolate, and obviously too much chocolate won’t be healthy for someone. Healthy chocolate sounds like a dream come true and something out of the ordinary, but chocolate hasn’t gained the status of health food quite yet. Still, chocolate’s reputation is, in fact, on the rise, as a growing number of studies suggest that it can actually be a heart-healthy choice.

Chocolate has been shown in some studies that it is healthy for the heart. Chocolate’s main ingredient, cocoa, appears to reduce risk factors for heart disease and other heart problems. Flavanols in cocoa beans have certain antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Flavanols, a class of flavonoids that have the 3-hydroxyflavone backbone, also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function, and are more prevalent in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate. In addition, some experts have connected chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and even heart attack through their research. But more research is needed to confirm these results (Zeratsky). 

Flavonol (ResearchGate)

Chocolate falls into one of three categories: milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate. Chocolate’s darkness is determined by the proportion of cocoa solids made from cocoa beans, mixed with cocoa butter and sugar. Milk chocolate is the most popular type in America, and typically contains about 10 percent cocoa liquor. Cocoa liquor is the paste made from ground, roasted, shelled and fermented cocoa beans that contains both nonfat cocoa solids and cocoa butter. But this is a small percentage compared to the minimum of 35 percent found in dark chocolate. Usually, consumers can see how much cocoa liquor is in a dark chocolate bar by looking for the “percent cacao” figure on the label. Cacao is the raw form of chocolate, while cocoa is the heated version of cacao. A standard bar of dark chocolate with 70 percent to 85 percent cacao contains about 600 calories and 24 grams of sugar. Milk chocolate contains roughly the same number of calories but twice the sugar. White chocolate contains only cocoa butter combined with sugar and other ingredients and no cocoa solids. Some people don’t consider white chocolate to be a chocolate at all because of this. The amount of cocoa solids in dark chocolate is important because it acts as an indicator of the amount of dietary flavonoids in the chocolate, which are the antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables and certain drinks that make them so healthy (heart.org).  

White, Milk, and Dark Chocolate (TheHaleTelescope)

In addition to its ability to reduce the likelihood of heart disease, A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains: 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the RDI for iron, 58% of the RDI for magnesium, 89% of the RDI for copper, 98% of the RDI for manganese. It also contains plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. Obviously 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces, is a fairly large amount and not something you should be consuming daily. All these nutrients also come with 600 calories and moderate amounts of sugar, so it is more beneficial for dark chocolate to be consumed in moderation (Gunnars). One benefit of chocolate that some people may not know about is skin protection. As it turns out, the bioactive compounds in dark chocolate are great for your skin. The flavonols in chocolate can protect against sun damage, improve blood flow to the skin and even increase skin density and hydration. In addition to blood flow to the skin, dark chocolate also improves blood flow to the brain. Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It may improve verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease, as well (Gunnars). 

Brain’s blood supply, computer artwork (NeurologyAdvisor)


“Are There Health Benefits from Chocolate?” Www.heart.org, www.heart.org/en/news/2019/02/12/are-there-health-benefits-from-chocolate.

Gunnars, Kris. “7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate.” Healthline, http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate#section4.

Zeratsky, Katherine. “Is Chocolate Good for Your Heart?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 Nov. 2017, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/healthy-chocolate/faq-20058044. 

Health Benefits of Chocolate

As we all know, chocolate is the most renowned and versatile sweet to date. Through high level marketing and compulsive consumption at a national level, chocolate has grown from a tiny cacao seed and bloomed into a multi-billion dollar industry. According to CNBC Americans consume around $18.27B worth of chocolate per year, which equates to around 4.3 kilograms (10.8 pounds) per person. It’s crazy to think about what a big role chocolate plays in our everyday lives, but it can also be scary considering the health risks that are associated with over consumption of sweets and desserts. Eating too much chocolate can lead to increased weight gain, elevated sugar glucose levels as well as increased risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. Now, with that being said, let’s get down to what we’re really here to talk about today: The health benefits of chocolate! Although there are major health issues that could arise from eating an excess of chocolate, when consumed in moderation chocolate can actually prove to be beneficial.

Let’s first look at one of the premier drinks among children: chocolate milk. Although children often find themselves attracted to the savory, smooth taste of the drink, what they should actually be content about is hitting the proposed daily dairy intake every day…and enjoying it! Furthermore, chocolate milk is said to provide more than 1.5 times the amount of protein that is found in regular 1% white milk. This means if you’re trying to gain weight in a healthy way, chocolate milk should be your drink of choice sometime throughout the day. Also, chocolate milk is proven to be a great recovery drink for athletes after a long workout. We already addressed the superior protein chocolate milk, but it is also a great provider of fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates–vital contributors to muscle and joint recovery. This drink is so good, in fact, that our very own Harvard University makes it a point to keep a whole refrigerator stocked in in-season athlete’s locker rooms at all times. Chocolate milk is a much more natural and nutrient-rich replacement to the sports drinks athletes consume today.

However, chocolate doesn’t have to be in liquid form to be great for your body. Probably the most nutritious sweet to date is dark chocolate. According to healthline.com, a 100mg bar of dark chocolate contains: 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the RDI for iron, 58% of the RDI for magnesium, 89% of the RDI for copper and 98% of the RDI for manganese (RDI meaning “recommended daily intake”). Dark chocolate is also super rich in antioxidants, which are natural combatants of “free radicals”. Free radicals contribute to your body’s aging process. To put it in perspective, dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than blueberries and acai berries. Dark chocolate even fights against one of the most common diseases that are associated with the overconsumption of most other chocolates: heart disease. The compounds in dark chocolate are actually protective against the oxidation of LDL, a factor known to lead to the deadly disease. So if you’re ever thinking about going on a chocolate binge trip, make sure you add some dark chocolates in the mix (just kidding, no matter what you do, a chocolate binge trip will never be healthy).

Up to this point, you’ve read about the great ways chocolate improves your body physically, but now it’s time to address an equally important aspect: mental health. This is the portion of your health that chocolate will likely have the greatest impact. In a cross-sectional survey conducted by the anxiety and depression association of America, over 13,000 U.S. adults were asked to self-report their weekly chocolate consumption as well as how often they exhibit depression-like symptoms. The results showed that those who ate chocolate in the past 24 hours were 70% less likely to report depression. An explanation for this could be that chocolate is thought to reduce anxiety and irritability. Moreover, Harvard University reported that consuming small amounts of chocolate prior to performing brain activities actually improves performance. This is because the flavonoids found in chocolate greatly help in the improvement and growth of brain activity. So next time we have a big chocolate quiz, it might not be a bad idea to make a quick CVS run beforehand.

We’ve now addressed the multitude in ways that chocolate can improve your way of living as long as you keep the consumption in moderation. However, that’s the part that most Americans struggle with. Being one of the most sweets consuming countries on the map definitely comes with more cons than pros, but it’s always important to try and find the silver linings in every situation. It’s no question that our country has long strides to make before chocolate can be looked at in a purely positive light, but you should always remember that there are definitely healthy ways to indulge in the popular sweet.





Beauty Chocolate: Women, Wellness, and the History of Chocolate

‘Eat more chocolate to improve your life.’ ‘Chocolate is not a guilty treat, it is a way to become more beautiful, thinner, energized, and stress free.’ These are the sentiments of a range of wellness related chocolate products for women on the market today. Instead of a sinful indulgence, why is some chocolate today seen as exactly the opposite: an essential part of healthy and wholesome life? How did chocolate become not only a “superfood” but also a beauty product? While it may be surprising to see a chocolate bar marketed as a beauty product, by looking back at the historical intersections of health, gender, and chocolate, we can see that this type of product has a more logical origin story than one might think.

In an increasingly “wellness” focused culture, the nutrition industry has boomed. Guides to healthy eating, while not a new phenomenon, have increased in number and variety. From paleo diets to vegan cookbooks, there is a huge market for nutrition-based wellness products.


Chocolate as a multi-billion dollar global industry has, unsurprisingly, not escaped becoming part of this trend. Chocolate has emerged in a number of different veins of the wellness industry including medicine, nutrition, and beauty, often with a focus on marketing to women in particular. Compared to other chocolate marketing towards women, focused on chocolate as an indulgence, even an out-of-body moment of bliss, the wellness industry has found a different way of marketing chocolate to women through the wellness industry.

For instance, Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s natural health company published a wellness article on its site titled “The Good-for-You Chocolate Guide.” The article, a question and answer session with Dr. Sara Gottfried, touts the health benefits of chocolate as a “superfood” that is a “functional medicine for your DNA.” It goes on to cite a number of studies that found health benefits associated with chocolate consumption, and concludes with a list of Goop’s “Good-for-You Chocolate Round-Up.” The selection highlights chocolate makers that are part of the “bean-to-bar” chocolate industry, including Dandelion Chocolate and Ritual Chocolate. In this way, even though the artisanal chocolate products Goop is recommending are not specifically targeting a health and wellness market, this type of limited-ingredient, carefully sourced chocolate has clearly been embraced by the wellness industry as part of healthy lifestyle.

Yet, beyond the promotion of this luxury small-batch chocolate, the wellness industry has brought about the creation of chocolate products designed and marketed specifically as wellness enhancing. Like chocolate in general, these products are marketed largely to women as part of a self-care regiment designed to improve and perfect their appearances, and thereby their lives, from the inside out. While there are a range of chocolate products marketed to improve certain aspects of women’s health and lives, one of the most striking and prevalent trends in this area is chocolate designed and marketed to be beauty enhancing.

One example of this is Beauty Bar Chocolate, a small company selling a single chocolate bar that is sugar-free and made from “raw chocolate.” It’s creator, Candice Puthawala, states that it is intended to help women “relieve stress, fight fatigue and balance hormones all while giving your skin that natural spa glow.”

Similar products on the market include Addictive Wellness’s Beauty Chocolate Bar, Sakara’s Beauty Chocolates, and Freaky Health Chocolate’s Beauty Bar. These products, packaged in pink, and modeled on the tongues of beautiful smiling women, are directly, and arguably exclusively, targeting female consumers.

Interestingly, the beauty enhancing ingredients in these products are mostly additive. Beauty Bar Chocolate lists its ingredients as Cacao Butter, Raw Cacao Paste, Lakanto Monkfruit, Sunpotion Rhodiola, Pearl, Organic Vanilla Extract, and Himalayan pink salt. The packaging identifies rhodiola as the stress relief, energizing, and hormone balancing product, pearl as providing the collagen boost for better hair, skin, and nails, and finally raw cacao as the ingredient that “creates feelings of bliss and calming energy.” If one were just to look at the ingredient label, the significance of the chocolate itself to these beauty enhancing products might be somewhat unclear. Yet, through a historical examination of the centuries old intersections of chocolate, health, and gender, a clearer picture takes shape.

History of Chocolate and Health:

Associating cacao with medicinal qualities and health benefits is not a new or uncommon link. Chocolate has historically been consumed for its health benefits. According to scholars Sophie and Michael Coe in their book The True History of Chocolate, when it was adopted and adapted to European contexts, one of the primary purposes and places of chocolate as it spread across Europe in the sixteenth century was its use as a medicine within the humoral system (126). However, according to one French writer in 1862, due to new scientific discoveries that were replacing the humoral system with a more modern understanding of the body and medicine, the therapeutic virtues of chocolate understood through humoral medicine had been widely debunked as well (Coe 233).

While chocolate has long been associated with health and medicine, “wellness” has brought new meaning to chocolate as a treatment. Although scientific research has, inconclusively, found potential health benefits to chocolate consumption, when it comes to the women’s wellness market, the narrative around chocolate is less about its possible cardiovascular health benefits and more about things like getting a better complexion, losing weight, lowering anxiety, and having more energy. This is not to say that one of these things must be at the exclusion of the other, for instance lower stress and anxiety is likely linked to improved heart health, yet the marketing of one benefit and not the other is significant, and reflects the historical intersection of chocolate, health, and gender.

History of Chocolate and Gender:

According to scholar Emma Robertson, chocolate became feminized in the west during the industrialization of the nineteenth century (20). Women were tasked with providing chocolate to their families, making them both primary producers and consumers of chocolate. As Robertson highlights, the marketing of chocolate products beginning during this era played on the image of the ideal housewife and mother as one who could provide this wholesome product to her family (20). In this sense, chocolate—in the right context and form—was already seen as a “wellness” product associated with a femininized idea of wholesomeness and health. Yet, since women were seen as belonging to the domestic sphere and as care takers of the family, this connection between chocolate, women, and wellness was directed outward; a woman were meant to provide chocolate to her family to ensure their holistic wellness, not her own.

Robertson’s analysis goes on to examine the ways in which advertising shifted, evolved, and expanded into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to portray women as paid workers in need of the energy boost provided by chocolate (20). Robertson identifies World War II as a unique moment in chocolate advertising towards women (24). Because women were needed in the paid work force, chocolate marketing towards these working women focused on chocolate’s energizing nutritional value. This progression in the marketing of chocolate to women provides valuable historical context to the contemporary trends in the intersection of the wellness industry and chocolate products today.

Gender and Class in ‘Beauty Chocolate’ Today:

Today we continue to see chocolate marketed as an energy boosting substance for women in the wellness industry, yet in this context, the message is less about workplace productivity and more about a broader idea of self-improvement and lifestyle enhancement.

For instance, Beauty Bar Chocolate claims that the cacao in their product gives its consumers a “calming energy.” Founder, Candice Puthawala, states that eating her chocolate daily will bring women “peace, focus, and glowing skin.” By offering peace and focus, this wellness-oriented chocolate product urges women to cultivate a balanced and tranquil life. The implication of such a product is that it generates beauty from within; an inner beauty that nonetheless is clearly visible on the surface in the form of beautiful skin, hair, and nails. Here we see a clear link between physical health and feminized beauty standards.

To add another dimension to the intersection of health and gender in the context of chocolate consumption, it is crucial to address the class dynamics of these types of wellness products. As scholar Julie Guthman writes in “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of ‘Yuppie Chow,’” “…craft production and crafted bodies raises some class and gender issues that, at the very least, complicate the new politics of consumption.” Guthman continues by writing that the false dichotomy between organic food and junk/fast food suggests that “’good’ food is out of the economic and cultural reach of non-elites…[and] it contributes to the pervasive social nagging about body norms,” (497). In terms of this good/bad food dichotomy, chocolate reflects other food products shaped by the gender and class norms Guthman highlights.

This is especially true in a product like chocolate, which has such a rich and culturally complex history. Walking the line throughout history—and crossing back and forth depending on the context—chocolate has the identity as both a health food or medicine, and as a treat associated with indulgence and sin. While the same type of chocolate product has been considered both at different points in history as trends and information about diet, nutrition, and health evolve, the wellness industry has had a significant role in widening the divide between chocolate that is ‘good food’ and chocolate that is ‘junk food.’

The wellness industry has created a space for small craft chocolate makers to dominant the market. Compared to the heavy weights in the chocolate industry like the Hershey’s and Mars companies, small chocolate makers have an advantage in the wellness market because consumers are looking for “natural,” “pure,” and “healthy” chocolate products, and do not want products associated with candy or “junk food.”

The Goop article reflects this concept of “good food” in its discussion of how, as a consumer, to decide which chocolate to eat. When asked what to look for in a chocolate product, Dr. Sara Gottfried states that she recommends “organic, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free chocolate.” The market power of these qualities within the wellness industry can also be in the marketing of beauty chocolate. Freaky Health Chocolate products, for example, are vegan, and gluten, sugar, and soy free. Goop’s article also highlights the concept of purity as associated with health, writing “The purest and healthiest way to experience chocolate is by eating the cacao bean straight, with zero added sweeteners or extra processing.”

Beauty Chocolates by Sakara, for which a one month supply is priced at $45, has a label reading “eat clean eat whole.” Clearly, this product is out of the reach of Guthman’s “non-elite,” reflecting a link between health, beauty, and wealth embraced and perpetuated by chocolate products in the wellness industry. The idea of “eating clean” also has some connotations of morality, as if to say that those who choose to eat “clean” “pure” foods are treating their bodies better than those who eat—by choice or necessity—processed, fast, or junk foods. While Guthman points out that the labels assigned to the different types of foods—often in distinct price ranges—are neither accurate nor necessarily mutually exclusive, the use of these labels is extremely prevalent in the wellness industry.

In the case of beauty and health chocolate, these ambiguous marketing buzzwords may represent an attempt to evoke common myths—or at least, unproven claims—about the beneficial properties of “clean, pure, raw” chocolate.

Despite various studies and wide spread claims, the scientific evidence about the health benefits of chocolate consumption remains inconclusive. According to psychologist David Benton, “there is no convincing evidence that there are substances in chocolate that act directly on the brain in a pharmacological manner,” and yet claims of chocolate’s hormonal mood boosting effects abound in the wellness industry’s marketing of chocolate products. In the Goop “Good-for-You Chocolate Guide,” interviewee Dr. Sara Gottfried claims that 70% cacao dark chocolate lowers cortisol levels and raises serotonin levels in the body. While there may be some evidence pointing to the validity of these claims, Benton argues that this is not due to the direct pharmacological properties of cacao, but the result of the attractive taste of chocolate products, “the combination of sweetness and fat [that] approaches the ideal hedonic combination,” (206).

In this sense, though chocolate might not necessarily make you more beautiful—and therefore, it is probably better to pay for high priced bars only when it is associated with better labor practices in the chain of production, and not in the hopes of it providing superior curative and life-enhancing power—yet if the attractive taste of the chocolate itself makes you happier, this fact alone makes it part of a good self-care regime and a sure-fire way to improve your wellness.

Work Cited

Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Benton, David. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain, edited by Astrid Nehlig, CRC Press, 2004, pp. 205–18.

Guthman, Julie. “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of ‘Yuppie Chow.’” Social & Cultural Geography, vol. 4, no. 1, 2003, pp. 45–58. hollis.harvard.edu, doi:10.1080/1464936032000049306.

 “Our Story.” Beauty Bar Chocolate, https://beautybarchocolate.com/pages/about-us.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2009.

“Sakara Beauty Chocolates.” Sakara Life, https://www.sakara.com/products/beauty-chocolates.

“Shop Freaky Health Chocolate.” Freaky Health Chocolate, https://freakyhealthco.com/. Accessed 3 May 2019.

“The Good-for-You Chocolate Guide.” Goop, 23 Feb. 2017, https://goop.com/wellness/health/the-good-for-you-chocolate-guide/.

Health and Hyperbole

How Chocolate Companies Contruct and Distort the Public Understanding of Healthy Food

Chocolate in its generic form occupies an archetypal position within the American diet. Complete with a palatable mixture of milk, some type of fat, and sugar – it is appreciated as a classic form of indulgence. And within the healthy/un-healthy binary thinking that permeates the American perception of food, chocolate has traditionally fallen in the latter category. Beginning in the late 20th century, the public became increasingly aware of the role of everyday diet in determining health, and more consumers sought to understand the nutritional value of the food they purchased. Chocolate companies, in order to capitalize on consumer interests, began to look for ways to rebrand their chocolate products as health foods. As what is considered “healthy” has changed over time, chocolate in America has evolved in response. A case study of two brands, Skinny Cow and Righteously Raw, demonstrates how what companies chose to market as “healthy” changed in response to an evolving understanding of health. The marketing strategies of these chocolate companies have generated more conversation about what makes food nutritious and perhaps given chocolate a more complex position within the diet. However, chocolate companies have continually failed to provide the whole truth to consumers, and their marketing claims, which cherry-pick information from scientific studies, fuel public misconceptions about what constitutes healthy food.

Skinny Cow and The War on Fat

When cardiovascular disease became the leading cause of death in America in the 20th century, scientists and health care providers scrambled to find a cause. From their efforts emerged the war on fat. Fat, especially in its saturated form, became the most vilified nutrient as scientific studies warned others about its high caloric density and ability to build up in the form of plaques within the cardiovascular system (Keys et al.). In 1977, a Senate Committee led by George McGovern published the “Dietary Goals for the United States”, which advised Americans to eat less high fat foods and obtain more caloric intake from grains, fruits, and vegetables. Fat was deemed guilty for causing the cardiovascular health epidemic (Oppenheimer and Benrubi).

What transpired in the food industry was the reduction of fat across almost all grocery store items. “Low-fat” labels started to appear on peanut butter jars, potato chip bags, and granola bar boxes. Chocolate was no exception. In 1991, Silhouette Brands Inc. launched Skinny Cow, which produced and sold low-fat, low-calorie ice cream. Soon, Skinny Cow’s product line expanded to include truffle bars and chocolate clusters. One of the brand’s advertisements is shown below.

The premise of this advertisement was that Skinny Cow chocolate tastes just as good as other generic chocolate bars while also being healthier. Throughout the advertisement, Skinny Cow emphasized the low-calorie content of their chocolate. Furthermore, on their boxes, they highlight the calorie and fat content by printing the numbers in bolded font and boxing them in color. While there was not necessarily an explicit heart-healthy claim in how Skinny Cow marketed their chocolate, their chocolate still capitalized on closely related consumer concerns

Skinny Cow, just like many other brands at the time, conflated low-fat and low-calorie with healthy. While the health dangers of excessive consumption of fat and calories have a scientific basis, what transpired in the market presented an oversimplified view of nutrition. Fat is essential for the human development process, especially at an early age, and is crucial for satiety and vitamin absorption. However, consumers pounced at the idea of a healthy chocolate, and Skinny Cow became very successful in the market. In 2004, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of Nestle, bought Silhouette Brands Inc. for $70 million (Dreyer’s Purchases Silhouette Brands – LA Times).

Righteously Raw and The War on Sugar

Statistics showed that heart disease rates declined from the 1980s to the 2000s, although at least half of this decrease has been attributed to improvements in medical and surgical treatments rather than risk factors (Ford et al.). Furthermore, heart disease continued to remain the leading cause of death in America, and obesity rates continued to climb at a steady rate.

The war on fat caused Americans to eat more carbohydrates, primarily simple carbohydrates and sugars, in place of fat (Aller et al.). Entering the 21st century, more and more people began to question the supposed “unhealthiness” of fat. Review articles criticized the poor correlation found in many studies between fat consumption and body weight (Tobias et al.). An increasing number of studies started to probe another nutrient, sugar, instead. The public response shifted to focus on reducing sugar consumption. In 2012, New York City’s Board of Health voted to ban restaurants from selling sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 oz. In 2014, an article titled “Ending the War on Fat” and written by Bryan Walsh was published by Time Magazine (Fat Is Good for You | Time.Com).

“New research suggests that it’s the overconsumption of carbohydrates, sugar and sweeteners that is chiefly responsible for the epidemics of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Refined carbohydrates–like those in “wheat” bread, hidden sugar, low-fat crackers and pasta–cause changes in our blood chemistry that encourage the body to store the calories as fat and intensify hunger, making it that much more difficult to lose weight.”

Chocolate companies responded similarly. In the 2000s, a number of chocolate brands, which marketed their chocolate on cacao content rather than fat or calorie content, sprang up. One of these companies was Righteously Raw, which was independently founded in 2004 by business woman Audrey Darrow. A picture of a packaged Righteously Raw chocolate piece is included below. The “Raw” part of the company’s name refers to how the company attempted makes its chocolate from raw cacao beans to increase the amount of antioxidants in the bar. The company claims that their beans are raw because they are not roasted. The “Righteous” part refers to how the ingredients of the chocolate are ethically sourced, meaning that cacao beans are only purchased from farms and growers who provide ethical working conditions for employees.

Different from how Skinny Cow marketed its chocolate, Righteously Raw, as seen on its packaging, emphasized the cacao content of its chocolate and the absence of refined sugar. From the nutritional information provided by Skinny Cow and Righteously Raw, it is evident that the fat content per serving increased by 3 grams while the sugar content fell by 8 grams.

Nutrition Facts for Skinny Cow Chocolate Bar
Nutrition Facts for Righteously Raw Chocolate Bar

Interestingly, the calorie content when serving sizes are equilibrated does not change significantly, meaning that the energy which was provided by sugar in Skinny Cow chocolate was substituted for by fat in Righteously Raw chocolate. Other components, such as sodium and cholesterol, did not change significantly either. This change in nutrition comes from the change in ingredients used to make chocolate. As shown on the ingredients list for Skinny Cow chocolate, sugar was the highest quantity ingredient in the bar. Looking at the ingredients listed for Righteously Raw’s 83% Pure Dark chocolate, cocoa butter is the highest quantity ingredient followed by cocoa powder.

Righteously Raw has defined “healthy” chocolate to mean chocolate that is dark and minimally processed. They manufactured their chocolate in a way which capitalized on recent popular studies that have explored the antioxidant content of red wine and cacao as having heart protective properties. In the 1990s, antioxidants began to draw public attention as scientific studies suggested they could protect against heart disease by preventing the buildup of free radical species (Antioxidant Vitamins and the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease – American Family Physician). In terms of chocolate, people were led to believe that the darker a chocolate is, the healthier it must be. This claim does have some scientific merit to it. Studies by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have reported that even the small amount of antioxidants present in chocolate have been found to have a heart protective effect in observational studies. However, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has been much more cautious in advising an increase in chocolate, even dark chocolate, consumption (“Study Strengthens Case for Heart Benefit in Chocolate”). Dr. Elizabeth Motofsky reported that

“Eating excessive amounts of chocolate is not recommended because many chocolate products are high in calories from sugar and fat and could lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems. But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice.”

Thus, while Righteously Raw seems to correctly assert the benefits of antioxidants, it’s incorrect in its implicit claim that increasing its brand’s chocolate consumption will improve health.

Righteously Raw also runs into trouble in claiming that it has a higher nutritional value from the rawness of its ingredients. By definition, raw food is not heated to temperatures exceeding 118 degrees Fahrenheit in its preparation. The exact “rawness” of its cacao is questionable given that all cacao beans must first be fermented, a process which often exceeds temperatures of 125 degrees Fahrenheit. And whatever the case, farms, not companies themselves, control the bean fermentation process. Righteously Raw claims that roasting the cacao beans destroys many beneficial polyphenols within the beans. However, this claim has not been supported by scientific studies. The roasting process itself does not necessarily destroy antioxidants and in some cases can even make antioxidants more bioavailable (Scapagnini et al.) Furthermore, both the fermentation and roasting process help kill harmful pathogens that would otherwise pose a new, separate problem to consumer health. Overall, Righteously Raw in creating and branding its chocolate selected different parts of scientific studies which fit the company’s story. Despite there being scientific support to some aspects of its claims, its claims in their overall entirety remain problematic.

Beyond Health

Beyond the scope of nutrition, both Skinny Cow and Righteously Raw address and are themselves implicated in different social issues. Skinny Cow, as demonstrated in the video advertisement and as evidenced in their femininely packaged items, specifically markets to women. The cow mascot features a measuring tape around its waist, and the company’s marketing scheme promotes the gender-specific expectation that women need a slim waist to be appealing. Righteously Raw on the other hand has arguably less gendering in its advertisements. However, its unit price is significantly higher than that of Skinny Cow and generic chocolate brands, such as Hershey’s. On the its company website, one bar of chocolate, which is 57 grams, sells for $5.99. By contrast, Skinny Cow costs around $1.85 per 60 grams of chocolate and Hershey’s costs around 80 cents for the same amount. Such a steep price difference, whether justified by ethical practices and ingredient quality or not, raises the issue of who is able to afford to eat healthy. Is healthy chocolate something that everyone has the chance to enjoy, or is it just a fashion statement for America’s well-off? While it would take several more blog posts to explore these issues in depth, these questions serve as a reminder of the limitations beyond having sound scientific studies and transparent marketing in terms of helping people eat healthy.

A Grain of Salt

America continues to have a health problem, and consumers, especially those endowed with the time and financial resources to do so, have demonstrated interest in how they can adjust their diets based on recommendations from public health officials. In the midst of massive cardiovascular health concern, there has been a dream that there exists food which consumers can eat the same way they might take pills as a cure. Chocolate, in its indulgent splendor, was and continues to be an especially appealing target for a miracle food. Companies have tried to sell this dream of a healthy, guilt-free chocolate. However, as with almost all food fads, this chocolate dream falls prey to common sense and the moderation mindset. Ultimately, while companies have been pushed by nutrition regulations and consumer interest to report more on their nutritional content, they have also cherry picked from studies and fueled misconceptions about what constitutes healthy food. Their explanations often suffer from oversimplification and generate misconceptions about nutrients, such as sugar and fat. Perhaps one good thing that this discordant conversation has produced is a more complex understanding of chocolate and its health value in the diet. For chocolate lovers and companies alike, it is likely for the better that chocolate is not strictly in the unhealthy category of food. And as for when and how much to consume of chocolate, it seems wisest with the current body of knowledge to continue to enjoy it as an occasional snack or dessert.


Aller, Erik E. J. G., et al. “Starches, Sugars and Obesity.” Nutrients, vol. 3, no. 3, Mar. 2011, pp. 341–69. PubMed Central, doi:10.3390/nu3030341.

Antioxidant Vitamins and the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease – American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0901/p895.html. Accessed 3 May 2019.

Dreyer’s Purchases Silhouette Brands – LA Times. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2004-jul-27-fi-dreyers27-story.html. Accessed 3 May 2019.

Fat Is Good for You | Time.Com. http://time.com/2863227/ending-the-war-on-fat/. Accessed 3 May 2019.

Ford, Earl S., et al. “Explaining the Decrease in U.S. Deaths from Coronary Disease, 1980–2000.” New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 356, no. 23, June 2007, pp. 2388–98. Taylor and Francis+NEJM, doi:10.1056/NEJMsa053935.

Keys, A., et al. “The Seven Countries Study: 2,289 Deaths in 15 Years.” Preventive Medicine, vol. 13, no. 2, Mar. 1984, pp. 141–54.

Oppenheimer, Gerald M., and I. Daniel Benrubi. “McGovern’s Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs Versus the: Meat Industry on the Diet-Heart Question (1976–1977).” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 104, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 59–69. PubMed Central, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301464.

Scapagnini, Giovanni, et al. “Cocoa Bioactive Compounds: Significance and Potential for the Maintenance of Skin Health.” Nutrients, vol. 6, no. 8, Aug. 2014, pp. 3202–13. PubMed Central, doi:10.3390/nu6083202.

“Study Strengthens Case for Heart Benefit in Chocolate.” Harvard Gazette, 23 June 2017, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/06/study-strengthens-case-for-heart-benefit-in-chocolate/.

Tobias, Deirdre K., et al. “Effect of Low-Fat vs. Other Diet Interventions on Long-Term Weight Change in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The Lancet. Diabetes & Endocrinology, vol. 3, no. 12, Dec. 2015, pp. 968–79. PubMed Central, doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00367-8.

Health Conscious Humans: Changes in Chocolate Consumption

Dating back to the Olmec civilization starting around 1500 BCE, cacao has taken on uses in religious, cultural, and medicinal contexts (Coe & Coe, 2013). It was featured in early colonial documents alleviating fevers and treating fatigue. Global consumption of sugar and chocolate skyrocketed so that it contributed to the obesity epidemic in America. Americans now question the “healthy” snack that used to “food of the gods” (Lippi, 2009). As our society becomes more health conscious, chocolate consumption declines. Brands like Hershey’s and Mars are adjusting their products, and snackers opt for vitamin-rich dark chocolate, smoothies, and salads. For years to come in the United States, chocolate most likely will remain integral to social events but be consumed in smaller amounts and different contexts, such as protein shakes and bars, more frequently than caloric snacks off the shelves at the cash register.

           Although chocolate was consumed in religious rituals, social settings, and used for decorations, it was also applied to cure illnesses. The ancient Maya believed it had many benefits, including aphrodisiac qualities, which is why we gift it on Valentine’s day (Martin, Feb. 13 Lecture). Manuscripts featured chocolate in medical applications, such as the Badianus Codex of 1552 using cacao flowers to treat fatigue, the Florentine Codex of 1590 using cacao beans to treat hearts, and the Badianus Manuscript of 1552 applying cacao flowers to energize men in public office (Dillinger et al., 2000). The books of Chilam Balamand and The Ritual of the Bacabs are copies of codices and also feature cacao being used as medicine (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008). The Maya used it during ceremonies to alleviate fevers, seizures, and skin abnormalities. Their botanical remedies typically featured cacao as the main ingredient to cure such ailments.

This image is from Codex Borgia and depicts an epidemic with vomiting and diarrhea (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008).

Alphonse de Richeliu introduced the treatment to France, and it was taken on for energy, digestion, breast milk production, kidney stones, poor appetite, and other purposes (Coe & Coe). The Spanish even believed it improved conception probability and breast milk quality (Dillinger et al., 2000). Chocolate was thought to have many nutrients, so the Church banned consuming it during religious fasts unless for medicinal purposes. Chocolate was considered a cure for almost any ailment.

Chocolate consumption grew exponentially throughout the 1900s due to several innovations that allowed mass production of cheaper chocolate and enabled it to spread beyond the elite. Incomes rose and production costs fell after the Industrial Revolution. Coenraad Johannes Van Houton invented the hydraulic press, which separated cocoa solids from cocoa butter (Coe & Coe, 2013).

This machine, the hydraulic press, led to Joseph Fry & Son creating the first chocolate bar in 1847.

As shown above, the press is comprised of cylinders, pistons, and hydraulic pipes. A piston is inserted into the small cylinder to create pressure so liquid cocoa can move through the pipes (Coe & Coe, 2013). As it goes through the press, the fat is squeezed out and the result is fat free cocoa powder. Another development was conchin, a stirring process to make chocolate smooth. These inventions allowed chocolate to change from a foamy drink only consumed by the elite to a cheap and delicious option for all classes. Fry & Nestle even created a solid form of chocolate, which further increased accessibility (Coe & Coe, 2013). Mintz noted that sugar production increased so much that it became integral to the English diet (Mintz, 1986). By 1900, sugar constituted 20% of English calories consumed and chocolate was a major part of their diets.

There are positive effects to chocolate. Dark chocolate has a high cocoa content and antioxidants. Harvard Health notes that dark chocolate can help athletes’ oxygen availability during competition (Tello, 2018). Americans adopted chocolate as a delicious treat but had difficulty consuming it in moderation. Today, chocolate mostly is seen as a contributor to obesity. Many favorite snacks are loaded with sugar and fat. Cacao butter is filled with saturated fat and harmful for cholesterol (Mintz, 1986). With America wrestling with an obesity epidemic, chocolate and sugar are identified as culprits.

People take to Twitter to vent about the terrible impact high sugar content has on health (Twitter, 2018).

Rather than focusing on the medicinal qualities of chocolate, society now raises concerns about high sugar content (Twitter). Low prices of huge sharing size bags lead to some consuming excessive amounts of sugar in one sitting. A bag of Hershey’s individually wrapped chocolate bars contains up to 81 grams of sugar (Google Images). The negative health effects commercial chocolate contains are gaining media attention, and people are adjusting their eating habits accordingly.

The image shows nutrition facts and total sugars in a sharing bag of chocolate that people sometimes consume by themselves.

Consumption of chocolate is now falling in America because of trends toward being healthier and losing weight. Diet brands are raking in dollars as consumers opt for more nutritious options with less sugar. Salad chains, Weight Watchers, and workout classes such as Barry’s Boot Camp and Soul Cycle have become popular. Chocolate consumption drops. The average American ate 12.6 lbs of chocolate in 2007 but only 9.5 lbs in 2015 (Wong, 2016). Healthier brands like Atkins and Kind are selling better than Hershey’s and forcing companies to adjust to their audiences. A recent Skinny Pop commercial depicts the new trend:

The commercial shows children examining snack ingredients.

The commercial ends with a child remarking, “It’s all real, that’s pretty cool” regarding the three ingredients in Skinny Pop (popcorn, sunflower oil, salt). The next generation is being raised to be more health conscious and to consume natural ingredients rather than sugar and saturated fat.

The consumption decline is shown by dominant brands diversifying as they lose market share. More than 50% of confectionary market share was controlled by only five brands: Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Craft, and Ferrero (Coe & Coe, 2013). Hershey’s recently acquired amplify snack brands, which owns Skinny Pop, in a $1.6 billion deal (Global News Wire, 2017). Hershey’s is even beginning to produce meat bars, as their former best sellers are no longer sailing off shelves. Hershey’s isn’t the only old dominant brand struggling. Mars invested in Kind Bars, which features health conscious mottos on their labels (Global news Wire, 2017). Chocolate brands adjust their products and tailor to a changing audience, which will alter how chocolate is consumed.

Not only are Americans consuming less chocolate, but when they do it is in different contexts. Fitness spots such as Equinox still sell chocolate but offer bars that are gluten, dairy, sugar alcohol, and trans fat free.

Barry’s featured a photo of a chocolate recovery shake on Instagram (Instagram, 2018)

Chocolate is featured in low sugar bars and protein shakes more frequently than in caloric foamy drinks. The turn in society towards healthier lifestyles, less sugar consumption, and increased fitness has caused vendor diversification and is changing the way chocolate is consumed.

Despite chocolate and cacao’s widespread medicinal uses in the past, it has been demoted to a sugary dessert in America. As people fight the obesity crisis, consumers practice self-control and grab alternative foods off the shelves. Brands with “skinny” in the name have grown in number: skinny pop, skinny cow, and halo top with the number of calories in huge print. Advertisements featuring natural ingredients, such as the Skinny Pop commercial, are successful. The chocolate market may never be the same—Hershey’s with the famous brown sealed chocolate bar now is selling popcorn and even meat bars (yuck). Not only has chocolate consumption declined, but the way the population consume it has changed because it is being revamped into healthier foods and not just sweet desserts.


Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition.        London: Thames & Hudson.

Dillinger, Teresa, et al. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” Oxford Academic The Journal of Nutrition, Oxford University Press, 1 Aug. 2000, academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/8/2057S/4686320.

Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon Edgar Greenhill. Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods. University of Arizona Press, 2008.

Google Search, Google, www.google.com/search?q=hersheys%2Bsharing%2Bbag%2Bnutrition%2Bfacts&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS768US769&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiqu6TVzOzgAhWQg-AKHSS6DLkQ_AUIDigB&biw=1009&bih=658#imgrc=ovjpEWmHHdY-uM:

Google Image Search, Google, www.google.com/search?rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS768US769&biw=1418&bih=658&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=1z5_XKqZPOuxggfR-7uAAw&q=hydraulic%2Bpress%2Bmaking%2Bchocolate&oq=hydraulic%2Bpress%2Bmaking%2Bchocolate&gs_l=img.3…1922.4213..4249…1.0..0.206.1336.14j2j1……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i8i30j0i24.hcnFkDDU_Rk#imgrc=aSVPvbsdA1Cf1M:

Hershey Company. “Hershey Enters Into Agreement to Acquire Amplify Snack Brands, Inc.” GlobeNewswire News Room, “GlobeNewswire”, 18 Dec. 2017, globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/12/18/1263249/0/en/Hershey-Enters-Into-Agreement-to-Acquire-Amplify-Snack-Brands-Inc.html.

Lippi, D. “Chocolate and Medicine: Dangerous Liaisons?” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19818277.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 13 Feb. 2017. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.Popcorn, SkinnyPop. “SkinnyPop | Simple Tastes Better.” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Aug. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iCta8t7BmU.

Tello, Monique. “Can Dark Chocolate Improve Vision?” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 1 May 2018, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-dark-chocolate-improve-vision-2018050313767?utm_content=buffer4fdfe&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=buffer.

Wong, Venessa. “Hershey Shifts Gears As Chocolate Consumption Slows.” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 26 Apr. 2016, www.buzzfeednews.com/article/venessawong/people-just-dont-eat-chocolate-like-they-used-to.

Chocolate in Medicine

“Chocolate : Louis : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive, archive.org/details/chocolate_893.

One could say the history of chocolate is quite rich, pun intended. Throughout history, chocolate has been enjoyed and employed in an endless amount of creative ways. In contemporary society we view chocolate as nothing more than a delicious indulgence. However, chocolate has had numerous implications in medicine since its genesis, and is even proven to have health benefits today.  The utilization of chocolate in medicine has evolved tremendously throughout history. The aim of this blog post is to explore and analyze this evolution of chocolate in medicine through a historical lens.

The earliest evidence regarding the medical uses of chocolate can be traced back to early Mesoamerican civilizations. At this time cocao was prepared as a beverage, and had many different uses. The most common use of the cocao in early Mesoamerica was by crushing cocao into a powder or paste and mixing it with spices, occasionally maiz, and water (Wilson 2012). The Spanish monk we discussed in class, Bernardino de Sahagun, collected extensive information on Mexican medical practices and culture. He documented that Mesoamericans would use the cocao concoction as a therapeutic medication, treating ailments that involved inflammation and pain (Wilson 2012). He warned against consuming copious amounts of a particular form of the beverage in which the beans used were unroasted. Short-term adverse health effects could be observed in which the user was found to be deranged and confused. When consumed in moderation, the cocao drink was supposedly invigorating. This chocolate beverage was seen as one-stop-shop therapeutic drink for any and all ailments (Nutrients 2013). Circa 1528, the Spanish conquistador Herman Cortes brought cocoa beans back to Spain. Understanding its commercial value, Cortes quite literally realized the “fruits” of his labor.

Once the cocao bean reached Spain, it quickly became known as the “brown gold,” and rapidly spread across Europe. The video below outlines the geographical movement of chocolate and how it was regarded across Spain and Europe.

“The History of Chocolate – Deanna Pucciarelli.” TED, TED-Ed, ed.ted.com/lessons/the-history-of-chocolate-deanna-pucciarelli.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries, many accounts of the miracle bean advertised the medicinal benefits of cocao in Spain (Journal 2015). The Court of Madrid, which served as the capital of the Kingdom of Phillip II, was the vehicle through which chocolate would make its grand debut across Europe. Phillip II sent his royal physician, Francisco Hernandez, to the new world so that he may study the flora and gather information about plants with medicinal potential. Hernandez returned and was among the first in Europe to consider chocolate as regulator in allopathic medicine. He claimed that chocolate would fortify health by ensuring the body and its elements were in balance (Journal 2015). Through these beginnings, chocolate became a major topic of research and discussion in the medical community as its popularity spread across Europe. Many studies such as those conducted by Colmenero de Ledesma, a physician from Andalusia, documented the health benefits of cocao. As chocolate made its way across the world and evolved into the sweet treat we know today, the medical community learned more about the real effects of chocolate.

Before we begin our discussion about the contemporary evidence about the health effects of chocolate, it is important to delineate the differences between processed milk chocolate and purer forms of cocao. As chocolate became industrialized, the processed sugars and additive ingredients created a totally different product than the purer forms of cocao seen in history. It is no secret that the processed sugars found within most milk chocolates act as a detriment to our health (Albritton 2012). However, contemporary evidence suggests that there are benefits associated with the consumption of cocoa. Studies have shown that cocoa can prevent certain cardiovascular diseases by lowering oxidative stress and blood pressure (Van Wensem 2015). The video found in the embedded website URL below outlines some of the potential health benefits of consuming cocoa.


Several studies have uncovered that cocoa does in fact act as a regulatory medication for the body. It has been documented that cocoa has anti-inflammatory effects, anti-obesity effects, and helps the body recover from exercise and strenuous activity more efficiently. These benefits are realized due to the compounds found within cocoa called flavonoids, which provide defense against free radicals (Van Wensem 2015). It seems as though some of the benefits that medical professionals in early Europe theorized were actually true. Although there is significant scientific evidence to support the potential physical and health benefits of cocoa, there remains much uncertainty. Especially since the cocoa that is popularly consumed today is processed with sugar and mixed with several additives and sweeteners for widespread production. Health professionals have reached a general consensus that the beneficial dosage is about ten grams of dark chocolate per day, with as high of a cocoa concentration as possible (Van Wensem 2015). e

The history of chocolate is rich indeed, and its historical and contemporary presence in the medical field is undoubtedly prevalent. Medical professionals in early Spain and Europe advertised chocolate as healthy with medicinal properties. Cocoa’s uses in medicine evolved throughout history, yet cocoa is used in vastly different ways today than was prescribed in early Europe. It seems that contemporary evidence supports a significant amount of these claims in a nutshell, or should I say bean pod? P

Works Cited

Albritton, Robert. 2012[2010]. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” pp. 342-354

Lippi, Donatella. “Chocolate in History: Food, Medicine, Medi-Food.” Nutrients, vol. 5, no. 5, 2013, pp. 1573–1584.

Lippi, Donatella. “Sin and Pleasure: the History of Chocolate in Medicine.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 63, no. 45, 2015, pp. 9936–41.

Van Wensem, Joke. “Overview of Scientific Evidence for Chocolate Health Benefits.” Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, vol. 11, no. 1, 2015, pp. 176–177.

Wilson, Philip K, et al. “Chocolate as Medicine: A Changing Framework of Evidence Throughout History.” Chocolate and Health, Springer Milan, Milano, 2012, pp. 1–16.

*Note: Works Cited only for scholarly articles, multimedia sources are cited in-text per MLA format.

Enlightenment-Era Chocolate/Coffee Houses

from the Diary of Samuel Pepy’s Wednesday April 24, 1661

Waked in the morning with my head in a sad taking through the last night’s drink, which I am very sorry for; so rose and went out with Mr. Creed to drink our morning draft, which he did give me in chocolate to settle my stomach.


samuel pepys.jpgFor Samuel Pepy’s chocolate was the perfect cure for a hangover, relieving his “sad head” and “imbecilic stomach” the day after Charles II’s coronation. During the life of this great diarist and government official, chocolate drinks passed from being a novelty to being a regular luncheon beverage.

Chocolate and the two stimulant drinks, coffee and tea, became the Enlightenment’s, the age of reason , most fashionable non-alcoholic beverages in Europe and the Americas. The introduction of these three beverages changed drinking habits, social customs and led to the creation of places of public discourse where one could share information, news and gossip. The desire for chocolate,the first of these three beverages to arrive in Europe. coffee, and tea led also to the creation of material objects required for the preparing, serving and drinking of these beverages.

The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement championing reason and the rights of man (i.e. men with property) to a prosperous and free life; espousing reason in science, reason in religion,  promoting liberty and tolerance,  legitimate government (as eventually exemplified by the US Constitution), the separation of church and state, fraternite’, the questioning of absolutism and authority, of the Church, of nobility, of absolute monarchy.  The Enlightenment dominated the world of ideas in Europe and the Americas from the latter half of the 17th century through the 18th century.

At first chocolate was an expensive drink, confined to the Spanish court and nobility. But it spread to Italy in 1606 when Antonio Carlotta discovered chocolate in Spain and took some to Italy.  From there chocolate spread to Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  Chocolate had already reached France arriving in Bayonne in the Aquitaine by Sephardic Jewish merchants fleeing the Inquisition.  Chocolate consumption advanced in France through royal marriages.  In 1615, Anne of Austria, age 14,  the daughter of Philip III married Louis XIII, also age 14.  She brought chocolate as an engagement present. Louis XIV married Infanta Maria Theresa, the daughter of Philip IV of Spain.   It was said that Marie Theresa had two passions, being as fond of chocolate as she was of her husband.  The Duchesse d’Orleans said of the Infanta “the queen’s ugly black teeth came from her eating too much chocolate”.  As Chocolate was promoted as a medicine for its digestive qualities and prized as an aphrodisiac, one can understand her passion. The praises are sung of chocolate in Antonio Colmenero De Ledesma’s “Chocolate: or an Indian Drinke.  (You can listen to the poem on LibriVox, I believe it was translated by Wadsworth)

The vertues thereof are no lesse various, then Admirable. For, besides that it preserves Health, and makes such as drink it often, Fat, and Corpulent, faire and Amiable, it vehemently Incites to Venus, and causeth Conception in women, hastens and facilitates their Delivery: It is an excellent help to Digestion, it cures Consumptions, and the Cough of the Lungs, the New Disease, or Plague of the Guts, and other Fluxes, the Green Sicknesse, Jaundise, and all manner of Inflamations, Opilations, and Obstructions. It quite takes away the Morphew [discolored skin], Cleanseth the Teeth, and sweetneth the Breath, Provokes Urine, Cures the Stone, and strangury [urinary infection], Expells Poison, and preserves from all infectious Diseases. But I shall not assume to enumerate all the vertues of this Confection: for that were Impossible, every day producing New and Admirable effects in such as drinke it (sig. A4r).


Over the course of the 18th century,  chocolate consumption grew from 2,000,000 to 13,000,000 pounds in Europe.  There was an enormous human cost to this growth in consumption- Slavery. Slavery enabled the production of sugar, the addition of sugar to chocolate, and to tea and coffee to make these beverages palatable and flavorsome.

By the mid- 17th century chocolate houses were common in Paris for the aristocracy, for whom chocolate was exalted as a beverage. Coffee houses were popular in Paris where 380 were established by 1720.

In 1657 a Frenchman opened a shop on Queen’s Alley in Bishopsgate Street in the east of London’s Business District, where he sold chocolate which was advertised as a West Indian Drink. Coffee houses had come to London 5 years earlier, competing with chocolate shops. There were 82 coffee houses in London by 1663, 500 by 1700. Chocolate in London was at first,associated with popery and idleness (I.e. France and Spain) so to create a market, pamphlets and broadsides touting the health benefits, as previously mentioned,  were published and distributed.  Coffee and chocolate and tea  as beverages were the antithesis of alcoholic drinks, heightening one’s awareness, pleasurably, rather than dulling one’s senses.

In appearance coffee houses also were different from taverns or pubs.  Often decorated with bookshelves, mirrors and good furniture.  The custom was to leave one’s social differences at the coffee house door, there being a custom for anyone who begins an altercation, to atone for it by buying coffee for all present.Coffee houses were well ordered establishments that promoted polite conversation.  All a reflection of The Enlightenment which honors Rationalism.  The popularity of coffee/chocolate houses was a reflection of a growing upper and middle class.

The coffeehouses functioned as a place for discussion  for writers, politicians, businessmen, philosophers, scientists; lively places for rumors, gossip and news and sometime unreliable information.  People frequented several coffee houses choosing ones that reflected their interests. Coffee or chocolate houses were often associated with a particular interest or political viewpoint where one would find pamphlets and broadsides displayed.  Sometimes a patron would hurry from one coffeehouse to another to share news of a major event.

Coffee houses for businessmen centered near the Royal Exchange; politicians near St. James and Westminster; near St. Paul’s Cathedral for clergy and philosophers

“All accounts of Gallantry, Pleasure and Entertainment shall be under the Article of White’s Chocolate-house, Poetry under Will’s Coffee-house, Learning under…Grecian, Foreign and Domestic News, you will have from St.  James Coffee-house.”

Richard Steele, the editor of  The Tatler, used the Grecian as his office.  Coffee houses were also used as one’s mailing address, as there was no street numbering or regular postal service.   The Grecian was most associated with science, as members of The Royal Society, Britain’s Scientific Institution flocked there.  Sir Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley were said to have dissected a dolphin on the premises. The Marine near St. Paul’s was where sailors and navigators, merchants and seamen realizing that science could improve navigation and commercial success.  Jonathan’s was frequented by stockbrokers and jobbers, who eventually broke off and formed the London Stock Exchange. Garraway’s was less reputable, a home for auctions,financial speculation and bad paper.

The literary minded first went from Will’s where the poet John Dryden had gone, then moved onto Button’s where Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift were.  Edward Lloyd’s coffee house opened in 1680 as a meeting place for ship captains, ship owners and merchants. It evolved into the Society of Lloyds,(Lloyds of London).

Miles coffee house was a meting place known as the “Amateur Parliament” Pepy’s commented that the debates he heard at Miles,

“were the most ingenious and smart, that I ever heard, or expect to hear, and bandied with great eagerness, the arguments in the Parliament were but flat to it.”

Coffee houses were also controversial as they functioned as centers of political discussion and informed political debate. This made for a striking contrast with coffee houses in France.  The Abbe’ Prevost when visiting London, declared that coffee houses were the seats of English Liberty.

In France, coffee houses were a means of keeping track of public opinion, where there were strict curbs on press freedom .  Coffee houses in Paris were stuffed with spies and one who spoke ran the risk of being sent to the Bastille. Ironically, it was at the Cafe de Foy that the journalist and politician, Camille Desmoulins roused his countrymen with the words “Aux Armes Citizens” on July 12, 1789.  The Bastille fell two days later and the French Revolution had begun.

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie and Coe, Michael. “The True History of Chocolate”. Thames and Hudson. London, England. 1996. Print.

Mintz, Sidney W. “Sweetness and Power”. Penguin Books, New York, N.Y. 1985. Print

Kiel, Kenneth F. and Ornelas, Kriemhild Connee. “The Cambridge World History of Food”. Cambridge University Press. 2000. Print.

Martin, Carla. 2017 AAAS E119 Lecture Videos and Notes

Google Images Samuel Pepys Painting

Benhamou, Rebecca, “The Time of Israel Thanks Sephardic Jews for Chocolate 500 Years Too Late”. The Times of Israel. 2013. online.

“Coffee-Houses The Internet in a Cup” The Economist. 2003. On line