Rich, smooth, creamy and delicious. Chocolate. Bet you’ve eaten some lately. More than some for many of you. Much more. It’s Easter, and what would Easter be without chocolate? So today, some information on glorious, glorious chocolate.
The word chocolate comes from the Aztecs of Mexico, and is derived from the Nahuatl word xocolatl which is a combination of the words, xocolli, meaning bitter, and atl, which is water. The Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. But they didn’t have sugar, and they used chocolate as a beverage. A bitter, nasty one. Go figure.
Several types of chocolate can be distinguished. Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining chocolate with sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. “White chocolate” contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids. Chocolate contains alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have some physiological effects in humans, but the presence of theobromine renders it toxic to some animals, such as dogs and cats. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Dark chocolate has recently been promoted for its health benefits, as it seems to possess substantial amount of antioxidants that reduce the formation of free radicals.
Another chemical chocolate contains is a tiny amount of a psychoactive substance called anandamine, which happens to be one of the neuro-transmitters used within the brain for signalling between nerve cells. anadamide activated the same type of receptors in the brain that respond to cannabis. This might account for the widespread belief among cannabis users that chocolate enhances the effects of their drug, although it has be said that the amounts of anadamide in chocolate are so small as to make this doubtful.
Is chocolate an aphrodisiac? Many people think so, and while the case is unproven, it is known that chocolate is a suitable companion to sex. The mild buzz from the caffeine and theobromine can certainly be an enhancing factor for many. What is known is that chocolate has health benefits in general. In recent years a large body of scientific evidence has accumulated which shows that eating dark chocolate reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The reason why is that dark chocolate contains large amounts of flavonoids. Convincing evidence from more than 130 published studies indicates that flavonoids in chocolate can significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. One analysis estimated that eating 50 grams of dark chocolate a day could reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 10% or more.
Another fact you can use to defend your ingestion of large amounts of chocolate this Easter is that chocolate eaters scored higher on measures of psychological and emotional well-being; they rated themselves to be happier, less lonely and with a more positive outlook on life than those who did not eat chocolate.
So now that we can justify eating it, what’s the best way? Well, not chewing it, sadly. To get the full on chocolate experience you need to let it melt in your mouth. You see, chocolate just happens to melt at body temperature, which unleashes the complex flavors and aromas of several hundred chemical components of cacao. The flavors can take several minutes to unfurl and develop fully. Chewing chocolate is like gulping good wine without stopping to taste it. True chocolate lovers exhale through the nose to get the maximum experience.
So, instead of devouring that chocolate bunny ears first, try taking a bite and letting it melt in your mouth and get the full experience.