July 28 is National Milk Chocolate Day. July is also home to other chocolate-related days, including National Chocolate Wafer Day (July 3), National Chocolate with Almonds Day (July 8) and National Hot Fudge Sundae Day (July 25).
According to the National Day calendar website, chocolate gets celebrated a lot — an average of three times every month. They aren’t official holidays. The mail doesn’t stop running in honor of chocolate, and your bank is still open. But it can be fun to celebrate some of these small, unofficial holidays in your assisted living apartment or community.
To that end, we’ve provided a bevy of information about chocolate and fun tips for incorporating it with moderation into your day.
And if you don’t like chocolate, don’t worry. National Day calendar has plenty of other options, for celebrating your favorite sweet treats.
Historians believe it’s possible that chocolate dates back around four millennia, but it didn’t start as the sweet, sugary treat we know and love today. Early civilizations in Latin America, where the cacao plant is native, were among the first to convert the beans of the plant to a beverage. It wasn’t sweetened with sugar and enjoyed around winter fires, though. The beverage was used in ceremonial rituals and as part of the natural medicines of the ancient cultures.
Later, the Mayans also brewed chocolate, calling it a drink of the gods. They mixed brewed cacao with other ingredients to make a bitter, thick beverage. And by the 15th century, the Aztecs were using the beans as currency while also brewing beverages from them for ritual and refreshment purposes.
It wasn’t until Spanish explorers brought the beans and the beverage habit back to their homeland that sugar entered the picture. Spanish people mixed in sugar and honey to sweeten chocolate beverages. It took a century or two for the beverage to make its way around Europe, but it eventually became popular enough that cacao was grown locally in some places.
In the early 1800s, the industrial revolution moved chocolate from a decadent drink for the western world to something else. It was during this time that chocolate began to be mass produced in bar format and the chocolate candy bar was born.
Cooks and candy connoisseurs among the Bethesda Gardens assisted living community residents likely know that there are many types of chocolate — it doesn’t just come down to milk or dark. Here’s a quick run down of just some of the many types of chocolate you can find.
- Milk chocolate is made with chocolate and milk (and, of course, sugar). The amount of actual cocoa solids in the chocolate depends mostly on where you purchase the chocolate from, but it usually ranges from 10 to 25%.
- Dark chocolate is not made with milk. The creaminess comes instead from fat that comes from cocoa butter. This is typically cooking or baking chocolate and has a cocoa range of 70% or more. But some so-called dark chocolates do have milk or other ingredients, and the cocoa percentage is 30 to 70%; this tends to be the dark chocolate sold for eating because it’s less bitter.
- White chocolate is made with cocoa butter, milk and sugar and no cocoa solids. White chocolate has a lower melting point than milk chocolate and is a favorite for coating treats, such as pretzels.
- Modeling chocolate is melted chocolate combined with other ingredients, including corn syrup. It’s mostly used to decorate pastries or cakes because it can be molded into a certain shape.
- Cocoa powder is the powder form of cocoa solids. It’s used in baking or to make drinks with chocolate flavorings. Cocoa powder alone can be bitter, so you typically have to add sugar to it.
The Mayo Clinic notes that studies indicate chocolate might be somewhat good for heart health, particularly dark chocolate with minimal additives and sugars. But that doesn’t mean you can indulge in constant chocolate and call it healthy. If chocolate has good benefits, they’re best enjoyed in small bites.
Whether you’re ready to celebrate National Milk Chocolate day or just want to enjoy a sweet treat in the assisted living community periodically, here are some tips for adding chocolate to your routine.
- Swap out your cup of hot coffee or tea for a mug of hot cocoa once a week. This can be especially enjoyable during winter months.
- Buy a Hershey’s chocolate bar or other favorite type of chocolate candy. Break the pieces up into single sections and place each one in a pill box compartment. Use an extra pill box, not one you use for your medication. Keep the box in a cool place, such as your assisted living apartment refrigerator. Each day, you can reward yourself with a lovely bite of delicious chocolate.
- Add a tiny amount of chocolate to a healthier snack by buying single-serve dipping chocolates. Dip pretzels, strawberries or apples for a decadent treat.
Posted on Tue, July 21, 2020
by Shawn Deane