The benefits of chocolate, myths and a poem
By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
“Chocolate symbolizes, as does no other food, luxury, comfort, sensuality, gratification, and love.” ― Karl Petzke, food writer
Many of us would agree with the chef-author’s feelings on chocolate. To us, it is everything that he says it represents. Chocolate is indulgence, satisfaction and the ultimate in comfort food, regardless of the packaging or form it comes in. Think of chocolate cake, chocolate mousse.....I do not think I need to go on.
Chocolate, for some, can be sinful fodder that raises calorie and weight levels. Yet it remains a symbolic gesture of love that anyone who receives will appreciate.
Other than it being sinfully delicious, what is the sinful draw of this near perfect food? This dessert is rich not only in calories but in its history. It has health benefits that may surprise you!
The story of chocolate
The history of chocolate
Many of us will be familiar with Cacao, the Spanish term for chocolate. Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica. Chocolate, fermented roast beans otherwise known as theobroma cacao, can be traced back to the mokaya and pre olmec people. Evidence of cacao beverages dates back to 1900 B.C.
The delicious beans played an important role in the religious and royal events of the Aztecs. Cacao seeds were presented as offerings to the Gods and chocolate drinks were served during ceremonies. The people of the areas conquered by the Aztecs were ordered to pay them the cacao they grew as a form of tribute.The Europeans sweetened it with sugar and milk, turning it into the delightful dessert that we know today. Briton John Cadbury, of Cadbury Chocolate fame developed the emulsification process that turn these beans into the delicious cocoa bars known so well all over the world.
With the industrial revolution came many changes to the process of chocolate making. Cocoa butter gave the hard, sweet candy new life. As more new machines were produced, people began consuming chocolate worldwide.
Chocolate might have been a mesoamerican invention, but West Africa produces two thirds of the world’s chocolate today.
The surprising health benefits of chocolate
Many mums will restrict their kids to having only a certain amount of chocolate. Taken in small amounts, these sweet beans give our health surprising advantages. In many studies conducted on this sweet treat. consuming dark chocolate in healthy amounts can be very good for us.
Lessens the risk of stroke
A Swedish study to determine the association of chocolate consumption and the risk of stroke, performed by Dr. Susanna C Larson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, began in 1997. 37 103 men who consumed chocolate had their chocolate eating habits determined with a baseline study questionnaire. Cases of those who had a first stroke were extracted from the Swedish Hospital Discharge registry.
In the ten years that followed, 1995 incident cases of stroke were ascertained. It was found that the same gentlemen who had a larger intake of chocolate had a lower risk of stroke.
In a similar study on women, it was found that women who took in more that 45 grams of chocolate a week had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke that their other counterparts.
Chocolate lessens the strain on the heart.
Chocolate boosts good cholesterol (LDL) levels. It also diminishes high blood pressure, diminishing the risk of heart disease.
Researchers in Australia have found that eating 100 grams of dark chocolate a day can reduce the risk of heart disease. The secret of chocolate’s success? Flavonoids and metabolites that are the bodies needed antioxidants.
Chocolate keeps one full.
Eating a few bars of chocolate is enough to fill the tummy. Because it is rich in fiber, this can be for an extended period of time, so revealed Dr. David Katz, founder of Yale University’s Prevention Research Centre in a post on Huffpost. Those who eat it may have significantly lower BMI or Body Mass Index, a measure of height relative to weight.
According to another study from Copenhagen, dark chocolate fills the tummy better than milk!
Chocolate reduces the risk of diabetes.
Regularly eating chocolate reduces insulin sensitivity, as was found by a small Italian study in 2005. In a meta analysis of seven studies, including one which followed over 114 000 people, those who ate dark chocolate experienced a 31 per cent lower risk of heart disease.
Chocolate protects your skin.
f you have heard that chocolates darken one’s skin color, then it could be time to debunk the myth. The flavonoids in chocolate actually prevent UV damage!
Chocolate reduces cough.
Professor of respiratory pharmacology, Maria Belvisi of the National Heart and Lung Institute in London maintains that chocolate does not contain the side effects of codeine, usually used to treat coughs. Instead, it contains the chemical theobromine, which reduces the activity of the vagus nerve and produces chocolate’s feel good effect.
Chocolate boosts the mood.
Alright, we all know this. Chocolate greatly increases our endorphin levels because of the presence of seratonin, the chemical contained in the antidepressant Prozac. It greatly increases our sensations of happiness and a good mood. No surprises as to why people take lots of chocolate when they are stressed or depressed.
In a study conducted by the University of Michigan, chocolate also contains the chemical opoid, which gives a general feeling of well-being.
Chocolate improves blood flow.
Chocolate has blood thinning properties that improve blood flow. In a study by Dietrich Rein et al, which sought to determine if polyphenol rich cocoa modulates human platelet activity, The conclusion was that cocoa consumption suppressed ADP or Ex vivo epinephrine activation.
Chocolate improves vision
After testing the vision of 30 young men and women, researchers from the University of Reading have found that chocolate enables one to see better in low contrast situations. Their thinking skills were also tested after eating dark and white chocolate bars.To avoid influencing the results, researchers did not tell subjects that they were testing their ability of dark chocolate to improve thinking - instead they were told that the study was on different amounts of fat.
The higher flavonoids of the dark chocolate bars enabled them to perform better on the critical thinking tests.
Chocolate makes you more intelligent.
Parents just might love chocolate for this. Participants of a British study given large amounts of flavonoids did better when counting backwards in groups of three because of the increased blood flow to the brain.
Chocolate may help to prolong life.
In a study conducted by Harvard University Researchers in 1999, 8000 men were tracked. Those who ate dark chocolate lived almost a year longer than those who did not, owing perhaps to the antioxidants present in chocolates.
Chocolate keeps us alert.
The caffeine content in chocolate keeps us alert. Phenylethylamine in chocolate also contributes to a feeling of alertness.
Debunking chocolate myths
We all grew up around old wives tales created around discouraging the eating of chocolate. Some of them, however, should be debunked, and studies have proven to do that very well.
Myth 1: Chocolate causes acne
As mentioned before, chocolate could serve to protect the skin. Two studies published in 1969 and 1971 have cast doubt on the correlation between diet and acne.
Myth 2: It is not a health food.
Perhaps the presentation of it as a dessert casts doubt on chocolate being a health food, but dark chocolate is proven to have higher antioxidant levels than blueberries. In its natural state, it is proven to have high levels of magnesium, chromium and iron, according to Dr. David Wolf.
Myth 3: Chocolate makes you fat
With added sugar and milk, it comes as no surprise that chocolate has been accused of being the leading cause of weight increase. However, studies have shown that chocolate actually keeps us thin.
Myth 4: Dark chocolate is the best kind
It is, but the dark chocolate you eat has got to contain at least 70% of cacao before it can be considered as having health benefits. Healthier chocolates are ones that have been minimally processed.
Myth 5: Chocolate causes tooth decay.
Researchers have found that chocolate stops the spread of mouth bacteria. The World Health Organization has highlighted fermentable carbohydrates as causing tooth decay. Chocolate contains these, but the cocoa butter helps to protect the teeth against the growth of bacteria by coating it.
What does chocolate represent?
Chocolate represents much of the positive in life. These representations have made them ideal gifts since time immemorial.
Chocolates are always present at times when we are supposed to be enjoying ourselves. They are the hallmarks of any festive occasion and the mark of enjoyment. It reminds people to indulge!
Sensuality and romance
Chocolate has always been thought of as an aphrodisiac and is regarded as the stimulant of the senses. They have always been Cupid’s Arrows at Valentine's Day.
Chocolates mean happiness! Remember the presence of seratonin and opoid that boost the sensations of joy.
A chocolate poll!
How do you like your chocolate?
What is an epulaeryu?
An epulaeryu is a poetic form that features a favorite culinary delight, and because this is about chocolate, I have decided to include one here. The author Joseph Spence combined the Latin word “Epulae” for feast with the Japanese word Ryu or form. Hence we have the epulaeryu.
The epulaeryu has 33 syllables. The first line has seven, the next 5, the third seven, the fourth five and so on in this order:
The last line that contains only 1 syllable has to end with an exclamation mark, highlighting the poets penchant for that particular food. Here is my epulaeryu to chocolate.
If I have not convinced you to go on a chocolate binge, I hope that I have brought about a taste for simple , short poetry. Here’s to all chocolate lovers!
Original work by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
All rights reserved
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