Let’s get real for a second: we don’t need a scientist or raw foodist to tell us that chocolate makes us feel good. But we can draw on their expertise to explain why chocolate makes us feel so good. Throughout history, chocolate has been called, “the food of the Gods,” and an aphrodisiac. Chocolate excites not just our taste buds, but our mind, body, heart and soul. I prefer to call my relationship with chocolate a “connection” rather than an addiction, but either way, what is it about chocolate that makes it so enticing?
Let’s talk about the science. What happens in our brains when we indulge our chocolate cravings? First of all, any pleasurable experience begins with the neurotransmitters in our brain. In that little piece of sweetness you will find tryptophan, an amino acid that releases endorphins, the same chemical reaction we experience from sex. The other chemical in chocolate, phenylethylamine, is a stimulant released in the brain when people fall in love. There is also theobromine, which affects the nervous system in a similar way to caffeine. Lastly, the endorphin anandamide (from the Sanskrit word for ananda meaning “bliss or delight”) mimics the chemical THC in marijuana, activating similar receptors in the brain, however, you would have to eat at least 25 lbs of chocolate to achieve the same high from chocolate.
Nutritionally, chocolate is high in magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, which help to reduce stress hormones in the body. As a vasodilator rich in antioxidants and flavonoids which improve heart function, chocolate literally makes us feel warm, flush and happy. Then there is validation through connection to soul. The emotional connection to a bite of delightful, rich, happy-hormone producing piece of chocolate is unique to each of us. When you combine the blissful reaction in the brain with the explosion of pleasurable sensations inside the body, it sure sounds like a recipe for an aphrodisiac.
A note on quality: not all chocolate is created equal. If you’re looking to romance your Valentine this season, the stuff from the drugstore is not the love potion you seek. There are three main concoctions in which to indulge: chocolate, cocoa and, my favorite, cacao. The antioxidant-rich cacao comes from cacao beans that are first roasted, then crushed into bitter-tasting cacao nibs. The nibs can be crushed into a paste known as chocolate liqueur. When the liqueur is melted, the process begins to create different qualities of chocolate. Cocoa is similar, but processed in a different way than cacao. In the processing of cacao, the butter fat is removed by pressing, but cocoa is heated up, which causes the theobromine to become caffeine. In addition to this, unhealthier additives are often added to create cocoa powder, such as hydrogenated oils, refined sugars and artificial flavors. Chocolate is the end product that most of us know and love. It is made by taking the cocoa powder and adding cocoa butter back in, along with other additives, to create the creamy texture for chocolate candy.
I’m all for spreading the love of chocolate around, except to your dogs and cats. Yes, it’s true. Our furry friends do not metabolize theobromine well and it can be toxic for them. But does all this science of chocolate and its effects on the brain and body really matter? If chocolate makes you feel good, I say eat it. If you really want to impress your love this Valentine’s day, try making your own. I love to make my own because I feel an even stronger energetic connection when I’m eating it in its most healthful, raw form.
Here is a basic recipe. Feel free to change it up by adding orange zest, chipotle pepper, ginger, cinnamon, almonds, hazelnuts, espresso, or whatever your heart desires.
Inspired by Shakti Life Kitchen
Healthy Cacao Chocolates Recipe
1 cup cacao butter
1 cup cacao cacao powder
1/3 coconut oil
1/3 cup sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup, or honey or 15 drops of stevia)
Pinch of Himalayan salt
Melt coconut oil and cacao butter in double boiler, stir in sweetener and cacao powder. Add spices of choice 1 tsp at a time to flavor, pour into mold and freeze 15-20 min. Enjoy!
— Jenny Mons, CHHC, AADP
Jenny Mons is a certified holistic health coach inspiring clean eating and healthy lifestyle choices through workshops, clean eat, and transformation programs. Most importantly making healthy lifestyle choices clean, simple, and fun.