love and chocolate
There has been, foe hundreds of years now, a great mystique attatched to the relationship between love and chocolate, but there is a scientific basis for it.
In Greece the name for chocolate is ‘food of the gods’ and few would disagree that there is something angelic about it even if it does have a darker side. Who can permanently resist the temptation of its bitter sweet taste as it melts slowly over the receptive tongue and taste buds?
There are many who can ignore the possible ill effects of obesity, acne or nervousness simply because there is a silent feeling that chocolate has genuine aphrodisiac properties. Cassanova is said to drunk it every night before going to bed but the use of cocoa for love began at least 2,500 years before him.
‘Nature’ magazine featured an article in which they told of chocolate traces being found in ancient Mayan pots dating back to 600BC by the laboratories at Hershey foods in the USA. A study commissioned by Cadbury foods found that this food has the same effect on the brain as falling in love. Is it any wonder that Aztecs worshipped it?
The name of the ‘Theobroma cacao’ tree from whose seeds chocolate is made literally means ‘divine snack’. Aztecs and Mayans prized these seeds so much that were used as currency and their god Quezacoatal was, among other things, given the title of ‘Chocolate-protector-on high’. It was they who began crushing the beans and boiling them in water to create a drink.
It was the 16th century Spanish invaders who first introduced the beans to Europe as a great new delicacy. Herman Cortes sent three chests of beans, with instructions, to Emperor Charles V in 1520. Cortes himself recognized the health and stamina benefits though he personally didn’t care for chocolate.
You need to realize that this was not a sweet treat in those days. The Aztecs and Mayans would add to the natural bitterness by putting chillies in with it. It was used very much as a spice by them and sprinkled on most foodstuffs. Savory Mexican ‘Mole’ bitter chocolate sauce is still served today with chicken, meat and fish, a direct descendant of ancient Aztec recipes.
It was the Europeans who began adding sugar to the beans in the 16th century and the resulting sweet brew became very popular in just a few years. Though it was expensive to buy, its energizing reputation soon had Cocoa plantations being established in the tropical empires of the European powers.
Chocolate as a solid food first came about when people began adding it to ice-creams and cakes in the 1700’s but it was a century after that before chocolate confectionery came into being. Powdered beans were compressed into moulds after sweetening but the resulting ‘chocolate truffle ‘ type of confection had a very short shelf life.
It was 1825 before Dutchman Coenrad Van Houten came up with the means of extracting the fatty essence of the cocoa bean and thus paving the way for solid bars of chocolate to be produced. Over the next fifty years the process was ever more refined until, in the 1880’s, Rudolph Lindt of Switzerland began adding extra cocoa to achieve the glossy product that we know today.
It was around his time that his fellow countryman Daniel Peter found the secret of an alternative to dark chocolate by simply adding condensed milk to the mix during manufacture. Milk chocolate came into being just like that and accounts for over half of all chocolate consumption nowadays.
The beauty of chocolate really is the temperature at which it melts. At 36 degrees C it’s only one degree less than body temperature. That’s why it melts so slowly in the mouth and also the reason that it can be stacked safely on the market shelves. The real question parents ask is just how good or bad the stuff really is from a health perspective.
Most chocolate bars today average around 35% content of cocoa but experts seem to agree that the more cocoa butter there is in there the better it is for you. 70% content bars will be very dark and bitter but studies have shown that that they contain chemicals called flavonols that lower blood pressure and thus reduce the risk of hear disease or unwanted clotting as in the Deep Vein Thrombosis experienced by some air travelers.
Chocolate is thought also to boost production of ‘mood’ chemicals like seratonin and dopamine which produce short but intense feelings of genuine well being. It’s as well to remember too that the things in chocolate that are fattening are the additives used to sweeten it and not the cocoa butter itself. Acne is definitely not a direct result of eating chocolate.
It seems clear that there are definite medical benefits to be gained from eating chocolate because it genuinely does make you feel good naturally. No doubt that simple fact is what led to so many stories appearing about its potential as an aphrodisiac. If you feel good about yourself hen your sexual performance will reflect that and what more proof could you then need?
Like so much else in life that has a tried and tested history going back over thousands of years, cocoa has gained a reputation that it thoroughly deserves. Eating chocolate in moderation is not only a boost to your health but a great way of feeling good. You only need a little to feel extremely satisfied, and in that mood anything becomes possible.
Love and chocolate seem to go hand in hand. Is it any wonder?