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Chocolate

24 November 2012

Whiskey chocolate brownies? Yes, please!

Ok, it’s been a long time coming, but here’s finally my post on chocolate. And, to no surprise perhaps, I will approach the subject scientifically.

But before we dwell into the amazing scientific properties of chocolate (and there are many, believe me), let me just state – for the record, if you like – that I love chocolate. I just adore it. I will try to not let that affect my judgement when writing this post. I will fail.

Chocolate myths

First, let us get some myths out-of-the-way: chocolate will induce headaches and migraines. It also ruins our complexion by giving us numerous spots. In addition, it affects our sex drive by acting like an aphrodisiac. It will fill us up with the ‘love drug’, causing the consumer to become ‘loved up’.

None of the above is true. Chocolate, instead of being the cause of migraine attacks, actually reduces them. And no links have been found between chocolate and bad skin. If anything, sugar seems to be the bad guy there, so by eating dark chocolate you will reduce the risk of sugar-induced spots. And no, chocolate doesn’t act like an aphrodisiac or love-drug. Even though it contains some small amounts of beta-phenethylamine, it will be metabolised into inactive compounds before reaching our blood stream in anything but trace amounts. Sorry.

The chemistry of chocolate

I’m SO drooling right now.

Chocolate, as in the ground-up mass of the fermented and roasted seeds from the cacao plant, contains no sugar. It does however contain a delicious cocktail of organic compounds that have a range of pleasant effects on us.

First we have the previously mentioned ‘love drug’ beta-phenethylamine. Unfortunately it’s not present in high enough concentrations to give any effect, but it’s nice to know that it’s there.

Then we have both tryptophan and serotonin. Tryptophan is known as the ‘drowsiness drug’, and affect our sleepiness. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter directly manufactured in the body from tryptophan. Drugs that raise the level of serotonin are used to treat depression, anxiety disorders and social phobias, so if we were to get high enough concentrations of serotonin and tryptophan from chocolate, it should work as an anti-depressant, even though this has yet to be verified.

Add to that theobromine, which is known as a blood pressure reducing drug. It is also known to prevent coughing better than codeine. In addition, Theobromine acts as a mild stimulant, and should work particular well together with coffee.

Chocolate also contains anandamide (the ‘bliss drug’), which works in a similar way to the psychoactive compound THC found in cannabis.

Better than love?

Ah, milk chocolate; dark chocolate’s creamier cousin.

It’s been shown that letting chocolate melt in your mouth gives you a higher levels of pleasure than kissing. The after effects also lasts for several minutes longer.

So perhaps there’s something to this aphrodisiac myth after all? Is there something in chocolate we don’t know about yet?

Well, no. That’s unlikely. More likely is the possibility that the act of eating chocolate in itself is responsible for the pleasure. The taste and texture in combination could be responsible for the prolonged effect.

So the custom of offering a box of chocolate to the object of your affection is probably just what it looks like: giving something people seem to like to the one that you like. Can’t hurt, can it?*

Chocolate’s evil twin – the white ‘chocolate’

White chocolate is an abomination and should not be allowed to be sold. At least not as chocolate. I’m sorry, but there it is.

I mean: just look at it! Bleurgh!

First it’s the appearance of it. White chocolate looks like something left in the windowsill all summer and then rediscovered in the autumn, all pale and sun damaged. Appetising? I don’t think so.

Then we have the smell. It smells more like butter than chocolate, and who’d like to eat butter? No one, that’s who.

And for the taste? It just tastes of sugar and milk. Not like chocolate at all.

And finally the chemical content: being manufactured from cocoa butter and no cocoa solids (I told you it smelled like butter, didn’t I?), it contains none of the ‘happiness’ compounds found in chocolate proper.

Intellectual stimulant

But let us end this post on a positive note, washing away the dull and boring taste of that white ‘chocolate’.

All you need to do is to eat some dark chocolate.

There’s a surprise in store for us chocolate lovers: we might win the Nobel prize.

Dr Franz Messerli, curious about the benefits of flavonoids found in chocolate, wine and green or white tea, started to plot chocolate consumption against the per-capita share of last year’s Nobel prizes. The result was a surprisingly strong correlation, as can be seen in the graph to the right.

It would appear that if people consume more than 2 kg of dark chocolate per person and year, the likelihood of their country winning a Nobel prize starts to increase.

Chocolate is our friend

Mmm.. Finnish chocolate..

It would seem that not only is chocolate not really bad for us, it’s actually benefitial; it provides several health benefits and well as improving our mental capabilities.

So, rather than being our guilty pleasure, chocolate should be revered as a health food**. Yes, chocolate is indeed our friend.

 

* I guess it COULD hurt if the person you’re giving it to can’t eat chocolate for some reason.

** These finding almost exclusively relate to dark chocolate, not milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contain less sugar and fat, and have a natural shut-down mechanism that prevent us from eating too much of it.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. 24 November 2012 15:28

    YAY FOR CHOCOLATE!

    I think I eat a lot more than 2kg of dark chocolate a year. How many Nobel Prizes can I expect to win, do you think?

    I just ate some NOW and it was LOVELY and it had NUTS and RAISINS in it. (Normally I hate raisins but somehow they really work in this one, I don’t know.)

    I love this. Also, dark chocolate is the best, and you are so right – white chocolate is TERRIBLE. And isn’t chocolate. And makes me really angry.

    Like

    • 24 November 2012 16:12

      Aw, now I’m all jealous! You’ve had some chocolate? I’ve got none. *quiet sobs*

      Like

      • 25 November 2012 02:42

        NO CHOCOLATE? Oh, Andreas. Yet another reason you and I need to live closer to one another. There’s never a time, NEVER, even at my poorest, when I don’t have some sort of chocolate in the house. It’s like air to me. I’d always have chocolate for you.

        Like

  2. 24 November 2012 18:05

    I have a sensitivity to chocolate, so while I can eat milk chocolate in small doses, I can’t eat dark chocolate at all.

    Also, I LIKE white chocolate, even if it’s not really chocolate. So there.

    Like

    • 24 November 2012 18:09

      You like white chocolate? Who are you?

      Although, I guess if you can’t eat real chocolate, white chocolate would be a decent substitute.

      Like

      • 24 November 2012 18:12

        No, I absolutely can’t eat dark chocolate. My mouth (and really most of my lower face) gets swollen and itchy, and my eczema gets worse than usual.

        Same with avocados (which is fairly recent).

        Bananas, apples and vinegars are the worst for me, though. Especially the bananas, I can’t even touch them.

        Like

        • 24 November 2012 18:24

          Aw, that’s too bad! Some kind of allergic reaction, then?

          So this whole post has just been mocking you with its chocolateness?

          Like

  3. blogginglily permalink
    30 November 2012 16:40

    I like butter. I like butter a LOT. Chocolate’s alright.

    Like

    • 30 November 2012 16:51

      What’s wrong with you?

      Like

      • blogginglily permalink
        30 November 2012 18:18

        honestly? I prefer savory to sweet. I’ve never been much for dessert type foods, and when I eat candy, I gravitate toward sour candies vs. sweet or rich candies like chocolates. I like them…I just don’t love them.

        Like

        • 1 December 2012 09:00

          Ok, that I can understand. I’m more into savoury food that sweets as well. Chocolate being the main exception. And then preferably dark chocolate.

          Like

  4. 12 December 2012 19:07

    Well, I’m now going to head to my local to buy me some chocolate… Given that its so good for you and all. No doubt I’ll be posting taunting chocolate photos on twitter again tonight!

    Next time anyone tries to tell me I’ve had enough chocolate, I’m going to point at them, laugh manically and shout HEINAKROON! That should teach them a lesson (literally)

    Like

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