If Only Chocolate Grew on Trees
…or does it?
…By Fern Gavelek –
Mmmmmm……chocolate! Many people consider it one of the major food groups. And with good reason—it not only tastes good, but makes you feel good while boasting health benefits.
The botanical source of chocolate is cacao (pronounced ka-cow); the tree’s genus, Theobroma, is derived from Greek theo (god) and brosi (food), meaning “food of the Gods.” Theobromine, a stimulant, is an alkaloid of the cacao bean that’s used medicinally as a vasodilator (widens blood vessels), heart stimulant and diuretic.
No longer just a guilty pleasure, chocolate possesses cacao flavonoids with potent antioxidant capability. Increasing evidence confirms cacao’s ability to inhibit the oxidation of bad cholesterol (LDL) by 75 percent. These flavonoids have also been linked to immune system health.
With all these attributes, it seems like everyone should be growing cacao in their backyard and whipping up a batch of chocolate once a week. Right? The reality is, first, that cacao grows best at about 20 degrees north or south of the equator, and Hawai‘i is at the far northern edge of that range. Furthermore, concocting chocolate from cacao is a measured, multi-step process.