Happy Easter! I couldn’t let this occasion pass without doing a blog on chocolate. There is an awful lot of things said about the health benefits of chocolate, most of which are put out by the confectionary industry themselves…surprise surprise, so the main question we need to ask is how true ARE these statements??
First though, lets have a brief history lesson!… The Origin of Chocolate. Chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean so obviously it is a natural product and was first harvested by the Mayans (from Central America) well over 2000 years ago, from the cocoa tree. It was believed it had a ‘euphoric’ impact on the body’s senses and was favoured by Emperor Montezuma of the Anzacs before he visited his harem!
The invading Spanish saw this and believing chocolate to be an aphrodisiac took it back to Europe where it was allegedly taken up by Giacomo Casanova no less and since then it has become part of the mating ritual.
In regard to the origin of the Easter egg, this actually goes back to pagan times where it was a symbol of the rebirth of the earth, this was then adopted by early christians who took it as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. Initially painted chicken eggs were used but over time were replaced by chocolate ones. Of course recently, as with many things commercialisation has taken over and chocolate egg are now big business.
So, getting down to business, why do we like chocolate so much? Basically it’s the taste and the pleasurable feeling we get of it melting in our mouths, much like comfort food. It is for this reason that there is the chocolate connection with sex – in fact an Italian study done of 163 women showed that those who had chocolate showed a higher sense of desire, arousal and satisfaction from sex – supposedly due to it having something called theodromine, which increases your serotonin levels and reduces anxiety..much like sex does!
So…is it actually good for us…well the answer is yes and no. The positives are:-
- it contains anti-oxidants, from flavonoids found in fruit, vegies & coco beans, these help fight of free radicals which age us & damage our well being.
- supposedly improves function of blood vessels which assists with hypertension (study done by American Society of Hypertension 2004), particularly in the older population
- theobromine may elevate your serotonin level (the happy hormone!)
- May lower the hormone ghrelin (hunger hormone), even smelling it can do it (allegedly).
- the above only applies to dark chocolate (NOT milk or white which are more popular)
- contains Xanthine, similar to caffeine which can cause ‘jitters’
- contains PEA ( phenylethylamine) similar to amphetamine
- often has a high sugar & fat content – not good for weight loss
- contains preservatives, additives & emulsifiers (toxins)