Dark Chocolate, your health and your love life may all be linked! Talk about a fun research project. The San Antonio Public Library Foundation asked me to research a book on chocolate for one of their Literary Feasts fundraisers. It’s called Chocolate a Healthy Passion by Shara Aaron and Monica Bearden. Looks like my favorite food-dark chococlate-that I thought was a sinful indulgence is actually good for you.
I also discovered that chocolate has a fascinating past. It’s origins go back to the Aztec and Mayan civilizations—not only was it a desired drink but the cacao beans were traded as currency. Even back then chocolate was revered as an aphrodisiac…maybe even the Viagra of their time…
Montezuma used to drink it out of gold cups before he visited his wives. Supposedly, 50 goblets a day! He must have been a big guy.
The Spanish explorers made their way to Mexico in the early 1500’s and discovered the appeal of chocolate. They served it at parties back then at the end of a meal like we would drink a port or brandy.
The allure of chocolate spread, and Europeans started carrying it back to the Old World where they mixed it with sugar cane. Chocolate became known for its powers of seduction. You know how rumors start! Chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac grew in the royal French court. Can you imagine drinking a goblet of chocolate right before ‘bedtime’? And just as Leonardo was driven to paint the Mona Lisa, the silky delicacy is said to have inspired erotic art and literature.
One of the Popes back in the 1500’s actually declared that drinking chocolate wouldn’t break the communion fast because he said it tasted so vile… hmmm.
For centuries people believed chocolate ‘put you in the mood’ for love. They weren’t far off the mark. In fact, a compound in chocolate called phenylethylamine (PEA) may actually do just that. It releases natural feel-good chemicals called endorphins in your brain. PEA is released by the brain when people are falling in love. BTW, PEA is also found in red wine.
Don’t eat this stuff if you don’t want to get pregnant! Well, there’s more to it than that. Old World and New World people believed chocolate was a cure for impotency and that it enhanced fertility and pregnancy. One of the ancient king’s doctors wrote that chocolate ‘excited the veneral appetite’…love that medical jargon, don’t you! Another writing suggests chocolate be given to women in labor – that it helps the delivery process. Like when we’re screaming for the epidural a bar of chocolate sounds good! NOT!
For years, many of these old civilizations believed there were healthful benefits to eating chocolate. This country was actually late in buying into that belief. For years, chocolate here was treated as an indulgence – something that wasn’t really good for you because of all the sugar and fat in it but something that was okay in moderate amounts.
Not anymore. More and more research has come out about the health benefits of chocolate…dark chocolate.
Some science to back this up. The sensory experience of looking, smelling and tasting a rich chocolate can release serotonin in the brain…the feel good hormone that imporves your mood. One study even supports the idea tha dark chocolate may act as an anti-depressant. The compounds found in chocolate that affect mood are there in very small quantities, so it may just be the entire experience of eating, smelling and tasting.
Ever lose your keys? Try a daily dose of cocoa. Apparently, cocoa promotes blood flow and may enhance brain function according to several new studies. A Harvard Study even indicates the cocoa flavonols may be helpful in treating dementia.
An ongoing study at Harvard indicates eating cocoa and dark chocolate may reduce blood pressure. Over a long term eating daily doses of cocoa or chocolate may even protect against heart disease. They actually believe eating chocolate may strengthen your immune system.
And last but not least, one study in Germany shows women who consumed a high flavonol cocoa drink for two weeks had better moisturized skin. They said the cocoa flavonols protected the skin from UV damage, improved blood circulation to the skin and improved the overall appearance of the skin.
According to the studies, the more cocoa or higher percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the greater the flavonoid content. DARK chocolates have the most – love it! I am now adding cocoa to my coffee every day – for real!