Chocolate – Food of the Gods

Chocolate shoe
Click on any of the images in this post to enlarge them

Chocolate is no ordinary food.
It’s not something you can leave, something you like only moderately.
You don’t ‘like’ chocolate. You don’t even ‘love’ chocolate.
Chocolate is something you have an affair with.   Geneen Roth, Feeding the Hungry Heart

Where it all began
Chocolate started life in the Amazon rainforest around 4000 years ago. Dull pods hiding their buried load of cocoa beans hung from ancient trees that 17th C naturalist, Linnaeus, aptly named Food of the Gods.

Cocoa bean pods

Cocoa bean pods

The Aztecs and Maya Indians used these beans to make a frothy drink that they used both as a stimulant and restorative. Sometimes they fermented it, and used it for fertility rituals. (What’s changed?)

Finally in 1503, Columbus brought cocoa beans to Europe.  Soon after, Cortez realised they were a great currency to exchange for Aztec gold, so he got plantations going. Money it seems, does grow on trees.

And that wasn’t the only time they were used as money….there was a time you could get a courtesan with 12 cocoa beans, and with 100 beans you could own a slave.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate

How come a bitter powder made from these unremarkable seeds has us under its spell? Everyone (well, almost everyone) knows you can’t live without good chocolate. That sometimes, you even have to rush out late at night to get some.  Could it be our bodies’ innate intelligence knows what’s good for it?

No more guilt
Because, the results are in.  Research shows that chocolate is good for you.  Guilt begone and rejoice!

Happy hot choc

Happy hot choc

There’s no shortage of studies to prove the point and that’s not surprising – can you imagine turning down the chance to run such a study?

And I bet they have volunteers falling over themselves trying to join. Tough job, but someone has to do it I guess.

What’s so good about chocolate?
It makes you feel good…. Fills you with serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’….. Reduces anxiety.
Casanova knew all this,and drank it before bedding his conquests. Who needs science?

Double antioxidants

Double antioxidants

It engages all our senses – taste, touch, smell, sight, sound. And the better the quality, the more this is so. You really do get what you pay for.

What’s the science say?
You can find reputable studies on Pubmed, which show cocoa or chocolate:

  • reduces total cholesterol
  • limproves gut microbe activity
  • is full of antioxidants and flavanoids
  • helps lower blood pressure and enhance blood flow
  • mimics the psychoactive effects of cannabis – lessens pain
  • seems to lower heart disease rates among those who eat it

But make sure you’re getting chocolate that’s at least 75% cacao solids, or the sugar and fats will probably outweigh ANY benefits.

Read the labels
The difference between brands can be huge, in both cocoa and chocolate,  (and most other things for that matter) so don’t assume they’re all the same.  It’s time to stop listening to the advertising, and start reading the labels.

The table below shows a supermarket brand compared to 2 good quality organic brands…..and notice how all of them differ – 300% more sodium and 200% more fat in the No brand, while Organic B has much more protein and minimal sodium. That matters!

100g Cocoa No brand Organic raw A Organic raw B
Protein 18.8g 17.8g 26.8g
Sodium 474mg 160mg 5mg
Total Fat 21.6g 10.7g 11.1g

Chocolate as Art
There’s a whole other side to chocolate that isn’t often on public view.  Professional chocolate makers and high-end chefs battle it out for supremacy at events such as Salon du Chocolat.

Held every 2 years in Paris, the cream of the crop work at making high art  from chocolate. It is totally breath-taking to see them in action, and then to see the finished pieces.Take a look at some of the possibilities below.

  • All sorts of chocolate
    All sorts of chocolate

So however you look at it, chocolate’s pretty enjoyable.  But make sure you appease those chocolate gods – and only eat the best.  Quality wins over quantity every time.

Hot Chocolate anyone?

Hot Chocolate anyone?

 


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