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The history of chocolate is intriguing and somewhat dramatic. Among the earliest people to discover the health benefits of chocolate were the Maya and their predecessors—the Olmec culture, in approximately 1,500 B.C. For the ancient Mesoamericans, chocolate wasn’t just a favorite food—it also played an important role in their religions, social interactions and economics. Over several hundred years, chocolate has come full circle.

 Most of the modern world currently views chocolate as an exquisite tasting—though unhealthy—food to be indulged only on occasion. But health conscious consumers are learning that dark chocolate, devoid of some of the unhealthful ingredients usually paired with it in confectionary products, posses some impressive health properties.

Until the 1500s, no one in the Old World knew anything at all about the delicious cacao drink that would later become a huge hit worldwide. Spain’s search for a route to riches led its explorers to the Americas and introduced them to chocolate’s delicious flavor.

Virtually all the cocoa consumed in the world was in some form of beverage up until the 1850s. Joseph Fry, one of the big names in the chocolate industry, began experimenting with cocoa powder to make paste. He found that if you mix cocoa powder and sugar with cocoa butter the result was a pliable paste that became a precursor to the chocolate we are accustomed to today.