The good news about chocolate

March 18, 2013

Chocolate, Dental, Health, Recipes, Skin

Chocolate satisfies our cravings because it stimulates the secretion of powerful endorphins that produce a pleasurable sensation similar to what a jogger feels after running several miles.

Chocolate satisfies our cravings because it stimulates the secretion of powerful endorphins that produce a pleasurable sensation similar to what a jogger feels after running several miles.

by Stan Kalson  — 

Cacao, the plant that is the source of chocolate, originated with the Olmec Indians around 1500 B.C. Cacao products have been winning fans since the Aztec leader Montezuma introduced the first chocolate beverage to the Spanish conqueror Cortez, who subsequently took it to Spain.

The Mayans and Aztecs used cacao in a royal chocolate drink, Xocolatl, which later became the European elite’s popular beverage. While the original drink was rather bitter, the Spanish made a few creative innovations — using sugar instead of chilies, and adding cinnamon and vanilla. Chocolate candy, as we know it today, didn’t appear until the 1800s.

What makes chocolate so tempting? Chocolate’s allure, of course, lies in the taste — a deliciously rich creation that satisfies the most intense craving. Chocolate satisfies our cravings because it stimulates the secretion of powerful endorphins that produce a pleasurable sensation similar to what a jogger feels after running several miles.

Chocolate also contains serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts as an antidepressant. Other substances in chocolate, such as theobromine and phenylethylamine, also have a stimulating effect; however, scientists still are not sure how all the chemicals in chocolate work together to alter our moods.

With so many benefits, it’s unfortunate that chocolate has developed a bad reputation within the health community. Confirmed chocoholics have been told that indulging in chocolate cravings will lead to rotting teeth, acne and weight gain. However, scientific investigations have disproved some common myths about the dangers of eating chocolate.

Chocolate itself doesn’t cause acne, but the added sugar and additives in processed chocolate might worsen acne. Chocolate is not a threat to healthy teeth. While some cocoa and chocolate products contain sugar, they also have properties that counteract sugar’s tendency to produce the oral bacteria that eventually lead to dental decay. In fact, researchers at the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, New York, have concluded that milk chocolate is one of the least likely snack foods to contribute to tooth decay, since it contains phosphates and other minerals.

Chocolate contains a number of nutrients. High in potassium and magnesium, it also provides vitamins B-1, B-2, D and E. As for calories, no one is going to claim chocolate is a diet food, but researchers have found that the flavonoids in cocoa powder contain diverse beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants. Cacao beans contain more than 300 chemically identifiable compounds, making it one of the most complex food substances on Earth.

However, the flavonoids in unprocessed, non-alkalized and non-lecithinized dark chocolate may help maintain health by protecting cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Look for this purer form of chocolate at your favorite health food store.

Here are some indulgent healthful chocolate recipes for you to try at home:

 

Chocolate Cream Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart almond milk
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 6 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (with 70 percent cocoa solids)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Use blender to mix the ingredients. Heat on stove, stirring constantly to prevent lumps and sticking, until thick. Remove from stove and cool slightly before pouring into a pre-baked pie shell. Place in refrigerator to chill and set. Serve plain or with whipped cream.

 

Chocolate Custard

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups almond milk or organic cows’ milk
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (with 70 percent cocoa solids)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup whey powder
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Instructions:

Beat eggs in blender, add honey and beat again. Mix all ingredients but raisins at slow speed. Place a few raisins in each custard cup and pour mixture to fill cups; place dishes in a pan with 1/2 inch of water; bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Insert a knife into the custard — it is done when knife comes out clean.

 

Refrigerator Chocolate Fudge

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (with 70 percent cocoa solids)
  • 2 tablespoons whey powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

Instructions:

Cream coconut oil, honey, vanilla and salt until smooth. Add the remainder of ingredients. Press in flat pan. Chill to harden. Cut in squares.

 

Stan Kalson is the founder and director of the International Holistic Center, Inc. and has been active in the Greater Phoenix holistic community for 28 years. www.holisticresources.org. 

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 1, February/March 2006.

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