Chocolate is the food of LOVE – and many other health benefits too!

Do you buy chocolate for your loved ones on Valentine’s Day?

Ever stopped to wonder why?  Interestingly there is some health-related reasons why this may have become a tradition.

I wonder how many of you LOVE chocolate but try not to eat it because you think it is not good for you?

Well, I have good news for you – the right type of chocolate has many health benefits and may even enhance our feeling of romance and love!

When did our love affair with chocolate begin?

The delights of chocolate were first discovered in the form of a hot beverage (yes Hot Chocolate came first!) made from roasting and grinding up the beans from the cacao plant and mixing with spices and honey, approximately 4000 years ago in Mexico! They regarded cacao as ‘food of the God’s’ due to its health benefits, especially in lifting moods, and their belief it was an aphrodisiac, so it was reserved for rulers, priests and warriors. 

So how is Chocolate is made?

The beans from the cacao plants are harvested and fermented which develops flavour, they are then dried in the sun before roasting, after which the hull is removed and the inner nib is extracted. It is these nibs that contain cocoa solids and cocoa butter that create ‘liquor’ that is turned into chocolate, or the cocoa butter is removed and then ground into a fine powder.

According to Cadbury’s one cacao tree produces approximately 1000 beans a year which yields only 1lb of cocoa.

I’m often asked the difference between cacao powder and cocoa powder and it is that cacao powder is ground from beans that have not been roasted and so retain more nutrients. Cocoa is made from cacao beans that have been roasted.

Chocolate as we know it today is relatively new. The first chocolate factory in America opened in 1765 and milk chocolate was not invented until 1875!

How is chocolate connected to LOVE?

The Mayan’s had chocolate sipping ceremonies at weddings, the Aztec’s used it as an aphrodisiac, and we now follow suit and show our love by giving gifts of chocolate especially on Valentine’s Day. There is some science behind this tradition because Chocolate contains PEA (phenylethylamine), a chemical that is released in the brain when we fall in love instigating the feelings of euphoria and bliss. 

Other health benefits of Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate, which in my book is anything 70% plus, is full of nutrients with health benefits. It is a source of:

Iron – important for making new red blood cells which carry nutrients and oxygen around the body.

Magnesium – known as the ‘relaxant’ physically in muscles and mentally reducing anxiety and stress. It helps digestion and helps to increase energy production.

Manganese – assists with the production of hormones, and activates certain enzymes including those which metabolise food, helping to control appetite. It also helps the body to absorb B vitamins and vitamin E.

Copper – a mineral that triggers iron to form haemoglobin and increases the body’s energy production. It also helps regulate heart rhythm and reduces premature ageing as well as assisting with healing of wounds.

Antioxidants and Flavanols – rich in these beneficial compounds shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improving circulation, reducing blood pressure and supporting the production of red blood cells. They have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects particularly in relation to brain and digestive health.

Theobromine – this phytonutrient is a mild stimulant which can improve focus, concentration, cognitive function and even feelings of calm. Studies have shown it may also help reduce blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol levels. However, for some people over consumption may cause nausea and headaches and it is not good for pets!

Caffeine – another mild stimulant found naturally in chocolate which can elevate mood and energy boosting serotonin and endorphins.

To reap the benefits of these wonderful nutrients we want to be choosing a high-quality dark chocolate and enjoying it in small amounts, savouring it for the pleasure and nourishment it brings us. 

Head to the recipe section of my website for my Chocolate Bark Recipe.  Recipes – Time to Nourish. ENJOY!