Chocolate - Junk Food, Health Food or Aphrodisiac?

The 12-step chocoholics program: Never be more than 12 steps away from chocolate! (Terry Moore)

We all know that chocolate has saved our sanity. I don’t have to explain that, do I?

But can it do more?

Chocolate originated in Central/South America (as far back as the Mayans, and possibly further), and the finest chocolate still comes from Venezuela. Cacao beans were so important in South American societies that they were used as currency, and chocolate was considered fit only for the gods (and their representatives on earth).

Dutch and Swiss manufacturers experimented with transforming chocolate from its original use as a beverage into the chocolate bars and candies we know today. Of course, in turning chocolate into the desserts we love, they added sugar and fat to improve the taste. These additions make chocolate a calorie dense food. (Not that I need to tell your waistline that.) Hence, its reputation as junk food.

Recent headlines, however, have suggested that chocolate may in fact be a health food (please, God.) Can it help to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and promote a healthy heart? Cocoa does have the same antioxidants as red wine. There is some evidence that it can lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol. What surprised me most is that candy companies (who fund a lot of the research, so beware) are actually working with drug companies to develop a chocolate based drug with cardiovascular benefits. Personally, I'd just as soon have them say, "Eat a chocolate bar and call me in the morning."

Chocolate does contain substances which have the same effect on the brain as marijuana does. The amount is too small to get you high, but maybe it can improve your mood? It also contains phenylethylamine, which is a stimulant released when falling in love (and if that word doesn't take the romance out of things, I don't know what will). Perhaps the best chemical part of chocolate is that it liquifies at a temperature just below your body temperature, which is why it melts so delightfully in your mouth. Does chocolate really need to do more when it tastes so good?

Well, if it were an aphrodisiac, who would complain? The Aztecs thought it was, which is one reason why Montezuma drank 50 cups of chocolate a day. However, three studies done in 2006/07 found that women preferred eating chocolate over having sex. Which would suggest that the appearance of chocolate on the scene will lead to less sex, not more. (Let’s not tell the guys that or we’ll never get a box of chocolates again.)

Though no link between arousal and chocolate has yet been proven, chocolates have long been associated with romance, and a wise man will remember that. Unless he is a cynic like Ogden Nash: “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.”

Carly Carson


Carol Ericson said...

Thanks for the history lesson, Carly. I do like chocolate, but unfornately, I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate!

Riley Quinn said...

Excellent post, Carly. I've heard of that chocolate is high in antioxidants, particularly dark chocolate. I don't know about the best chocolate coming from Venezuala, though. I just bought some Belgium chocolate this weekend and it is so incredible, it defies description. I think a taste test is in order.