hether it’s Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or just a friendly visit; chocolate has long been the hallmark way to say, “I love you.” Chocolate is always there to make you feel better after you’ve had a rough day. It warms you up from your taste buds to your toes. So what is it about chocolate that makes it such a comforting staple in almost every household?
A RICH HISTORY
Chocolate has been a high-profile food for centuries. The decadent, creamy food that we think of melting in our mouths has come a long way from its origin. Historically, chocolate was consumed as a bitter drink mixed with other spices by Olmec, Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Chocolate’s effects on ancient civilizations were so powerful, they actually mistook it for a mystical and spiritual food. Also, chocolate became known as a symbol of luxury and aristocracy. Due to its high popularity, it was even used as currency. It wasn’t until the invention of the cocoa press that separates the fatty cocoa butter from the roasted cocoa bean that it became the luxurious treat we know and love today.
As a woman who reaches for the rich chocolate cake over the cherry pie on the dessert table, I began to question if maybe our ancient ancestors were on to something when they categorized chocolate as a “spiritual” food. Do I ever feel my spirits lift more than when I take that first bite of a creamy truffle or a fork-full of chocolate cake? What do I crave more after a rough day—a glass of red wine and piece of chocolate or a bowl of steamed broccoli? Eating chocolate really can be an all-consuming experience.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE TASTE
In fact, there’s scientific reasoning behind the mystical, euphoric effect chocolate has on the human race. Science and medicine blog, “Speakeasy Science,” describes how chocolate’s chemical compound consists of a plant alkaloid called theobromine, which has a similar effect on the brain as a cup of coffee. That explains the little jolt of happiness or pep in our step we get when we eat a bite of chocolate. Not only does theobromine act as a stimulant in humans, but it is also in the same plant alkaloid families as poppies—that’s right, opioids. No wonder chocolate seduces our mood and relieves stress within the first bite.
A CANCER-FIGHTING TREAT
Don’t worry if you’re starting to stress about your chocolate habit; it’s not close to a drug addiction by any means. Chocolate actually has a lot of health benefits. Dark chocolate is incredibly antioxidant-rich. It’s full of magical things like polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins that protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. It’s worth a mention that the closer you can get to raw, unprocessed cocoa beans, the higher the antioxidants. Although milk chocolate is a fantastic treat, you won’t find as many antioxidants in it as you would a 60 percent cacao dark chocolate bar.
Overall, chocolate’s history is as rich as its taste. Next time you break off a piece of chocolate or sip a warm cup of cocoa, take the time to appreciate that you are indulging in something that used to be so luxurious that it was actually used to buy things.
- Get back to chocolate’s roots with this traditional Aztec Hot Chocolate.
- Add a little spice with these habanero brownies.
- No time for baking? Try these no-bake brownie truffles.
- Think outside the mug with this honey lavender hot chocolate.
- An untraditionally salty-sweet snack, try chocolate dipped potato chips.