Most women love chocolate. We love it so much, we eat 11 pounds of it per year. It’s on the top of our list for almost every holiday. Our husband or partner knows we are easier to live with when we have chocolate around. I have to admit that I have one or two pieces of quality chocolate every day. I really emotionally crave it at times. It is on my survival list for emergencies. Can you image being cooped up in your house for days without chocolate? I think my husband would opt out. Even though I don’t overdo it, is it really a good food or one we just love with fat and calories? Here is a guide to help you decide for yourself.
Where Does Cocoa Come From? Two thousand years ago in tropical rain forests, natives discovered the cacao tree and its beans. This has led to a 2,000-year-old love for chocolate and all the wonderful candy, cakes, and cookies that go with it. But ancient warriors didn’t eat it as a desert. They gave it to their men to give them energy and stamina. What did they know, that we are just discovering?
What Is Cocoa? The cocoa beans come from a large seed pod found on the cocoa tree. The tough outer husk is first removed; the cocoa beans are released from the inner husk, then cleaned, and broken up into cocoa nibs. These nibs are ground up to make the chocolate liquor. There is no alcohol in this product. Cocoa then is made into chocolate.
Why Do We Crave Chocolate? Science through research is discovering both physical and emotional reasons. Let’s look at some recent research.
Blood Vessel Relaxation Effects: Cocoa flavanols helps the body to release nitric oxide, found in the inner lining of blood vessels that helps normalize blood flow through the arteries and relaxes blood vessels.
Methylxanthines: Found is cocoa and research shows it has a positive effect on cognitive function.
Antioxidant Qualities: Cocoa has been shown by scientists to contain flavonoids that act as antioxidants against disease. One cup of cocoa contains three times the antioxidants compared to one cup of green tea. Green tea has less calories and fat, so you have to keep that in mind.
Why Does Chocolate Make Me Feel Better? Cocoa contains phenylethyamine, theobromine, theophylline, tele-methylhistamine, and Serotonin which are all mood enhancers. Phenylethylamine works as a upper. Theobromine is a mild antidepressant. Some women feel calmer after eating their chocolate. Other women feel more alert and focused. It gives them energy without caffeine jitters.
Sexual Arousal: In 2004, independent Italian researchers conducted a study of women, their chocolate habits, and their libido. The research study concluded that women who ate chocolate, had more desire and enjoyed sex more than women who ate no chocolate. Since sex drive is affected by stress and nerves, eating chocolate that is a mood enhancer, could certainly have an effect. It also affects your irritability with your partner as well. When chocolate is in the house, my spouse and I fight less. I find it evens out my mood when upset and stressed. I rarely eat more than a portion amount. That is usually 4 scores of chocolate for most bars.
Good For Your Heart and Blood Pressure: New research shows that cocoa flavonoids and stearic acid lowers LDL (bad cholesterol); decreases platelet activation leading to clot formation; lowers blood pressure; and supports healthy cardiovascular function. The Marrs Company has invested many thousands of dollars on private research in respect to the health benefits of cocoa. There have been both lab studies and some human studies on the effects of cocoa.
Does Cocoa Contain Caffeine? According to several science-chemistry sites, chocolate does not contain caffeine but theobromine, The two have similar effects in the body, but are very different as well. This is where the confusion comes in. It is assumed that chocolate contains caffeine. In reality it is the theobromine that is causing the effects. You will find that mis-information in many articles.
What is theobromine? Theobromine is a strong stimulant found in the cocoa bean. Cocoa beans were used by Spanish armies to fuel their energy during battle. Both caffeine and theobromine are metabolized in the liver. Theobromine is much gentler than caffeine with some great mood benefits. Theobromine has a gentle non-addicting effect on the body which is mild and gradual. The effect of theobromine is long lasting, remaining in the blood stream for 6 to 10 hours. It makes you feel better acting as a mild antidepressant. It stimulates the muscular system, cardiovascular system and acts as a mild diuretic by stimulating the kidney. Theobromine does not cause allergy reactions or headaches generally, as caffeine does. It is much better for the body than caffeine. High quality chocolate may contain some significant amounts of theobromine. Many websites declare chocolate contains a little caffeine but this is not supported by many scientists using chemical tests. It is because of the theobromine that they conclude that. Some chocolate bars are enhanced with caffeine but caffeine is not naturally found in the cocoa bean. There is caffeine in the husk which is removed.
What Our Family Would Observe: My husband would tell you that if I eat three or four squares of chocolate, I am easier to live with. I notice also that it does settle me down. It only works for me if I eat the high quality chocolate.. Junk chocolate does little for my mood or craving. I learned that a long time ago. I also am satisfied with a small amount of the product.
Is Chocolate Really Healthy? The problem is that you don’t eat a cup of cocoa powder. You eat it in the form of chocolate cookies, bars, or other deserts. These contain calories, sugar, high fructose sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, fat, and milk. Much of the chocolate you buy may only contain 15 percent cocoa solids. Cocoa also contains acrylamides, a carcinogen that has been shown to increase cancer in rodent studies. So much of the chocolate is junk with no real health benefits at all.
Keeping Down The Damage: I f you love your chocolate then learn how to pick the best chocolate for the health benefits. Keep in mind that the calories and sugar will bust your diet and goals of weight loss if you overeat. 120 calorie pudding cups are one alternative to a 240 to 350 calorie desert. Buy a chocolate bar, break it in half and freeze the rest of it. Make your own cocoa bar with whole grains, and home ground cocoa. An example would be oatmeal, nuts, and cocoa. Another way to get the cocoa without the junk is to buy the cocoa beans then grind them up in a coffee grinder yourself. Add the ground cocoa powder to organic or raw milk, pure vanilla, and honey or stevia. Adding nutmeg to the mix also tastes great. It gives you the real benefit of the cocoa. Buy chocolate bars that state the amount of cocoa in the bar. There are bars that are 70 to 85 percent cocoa.
The Difference Between Cocoa Products:
Chocolate Liquor is made from grinding the center of the cocoa bean into a liquid.
is fat extracted from the chocolate liquor;
Cocoa Powder is made by pressing the fat out of the chocolate liquor, creating a solid product that is processed to reduce acidity. Acidity makes the chocolate bitter. This Dutch process gives a powder that tastes better and blends well in shakes.
Products Containing the Highest Cocoa Content:
Unsweetened Chocolate is solid liquor chocolate used in baking and bitter;
Bittersweet chocolate contains 50 percent chocolate liquor; Used in baking. It’s a little less bitter.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate contains a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor; Used in chocolate chips. A few of these in yogurt can really be satisfying.
Dark Chocolate contains chocolate liquor plus cocoa butter, vanilla, and sugar; Dark chocolate comes with various percentages of cocoa solids. They contain from 15 to 80 per cent cocoa content. Read labels so you get the highest cocoa content. With most women, this form of chocolate will satisfy your cravings more adequately.
Poor Choice Cocoa Products:
Milk Chocolate is only 10 percent liquor chocolate with 12 percent milk solids, cocoa butter, vanilla, and sugar; This will give you little health benefits and often will not relieve cravings.
White Chocolate has no cocoa solids just cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. White chocolate gives you little health benefits and is really junk chocolate. Since it contains no cocoa solids, it gives none of the heart benefits and health benefits below. This kind of chocolate should be on the bottom of your list.