National Chocolate Ice Cream Day

Did you know that when you grab a scoop of chocolate ice cream you're about to enjoy one of the most historic desserts of all time? One of the first ice cream flavors, even before vanilla, was chocolate and on June 7th we celebrate this delicious treat! 

Chocolate has been popular in the United States since the late 19th century. However, the Olmecs of southern Mexico were probably the first to ferment, roast, and grind cacao beans for drinks and gruels, possibly as early as 1500 B.C., said Hayes Lavis, a cultural arts curator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. “The Olmecs undoubtedly passed their cacao knowledge on to the Central American Mayans who not only consumed chocolate, they revered it. The Mayan written history mentions chocolate drinks being used in celebrations and to finalize important transactions”, reports

The Olmecs, Mayans and Aztencs however, were not adding the sugar and fat to their chocolate and consuming it in the ways we do today. There have been thousands of years linking chocolate to positive health effects. These positive claims include lowering blood pressure, having high nutritional value, protecting your skin from the sun, reducing your risk of heart disease and improving brain function. These all sound amazing and we LOVE chocolate. Unfortunately, much of these claims are linked to the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree and NOT the modern day chocolate bar, or sadly, our beloved chocolate ice cream. 

An example of these claims can be found in The National Library of Medicine. They concluded from a study that, “Chocolate and cocoa flavanols have been associated with improvements in a range of health complaints dating from ancient times, and has established cardiovascular benefits. Less is known about the effects of chocolate on neurocognition and behaviour...Habitual chocolate intake was related to cognitive performance, measured with an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests. More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance.” The findings of the study showed that people who regularly ate chocolate had higher performance in memory, visual-spatial organization, reasoning, and scored higher on mental state examination as well.  

The biggest reason for these findings is that cocoa products and chocolate have been recognized as a rich source of flavonoids, mainly flavanols, and potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents which established benefits for cardiovascular health. While the studies are proven, the problem remains that the amount and kind of chocolate you would have to eat to get these antioxidants and flavanols is excessive and chocolate remains a sweet, a candy, a treat. You should not go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat and much of the chocolate and chocolate ice cream on the shelves is not part of a healthy diet.

Avoiding foods that increase your blood sugar levels and drive insulin resistance can help keep you healthy and reduce your risk of future diabetes complications as well as maintain a healthy weight. It can be healthy to enjoy a scoop of chocolate ice cream every now and again, but if health benefits from antioxidants is what you’re looking for, eat more fruits and vegetables. These have far less calories and fat and you need to eat less of them to get the same amount of antioxidants.  

When you’re craving a chocolatey treat, like a bowl of chocolate ice cream, try small amounts of high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. It might give your heart some benefit, and it generally has less sugar and saturated fat than milk chocolate or other kinds of chocolate.  If you’re interested in making your own healthy chocolate frozen treats there are many options including making your own healthy chocolate ice cream, Chocolate Keto Brownies, or frozen, dark chocolate covered banana bites by cutting a banana into bite sized pieces, coating each side with your choice of nut butter, dipping into dark chocolate and freezing them! Each of these are still in the same theme of national chocolate ice cream day and honor the more traditional, less sugary bitter dark chocolate taste.

Today on June 7th, share a scoop with a friend or loved one, and think back on the amazing history behind each natural food we still enjoy to this day. Remember that a balanced diet and regular exercise are two invaluable parts of a healthy lifestyle and remember to love your body. As Charles M. Schulz said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” For more information about healthy snacking or desserts, join our free diabetes support group: Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together.