Chocolate is a
The holiday season is over and finding chocolate will get more difficult. My wife is dieting and what chocolate she purchases is well hidden. I am a chocoholic, so I admit to no chocolate purchases, no hiding places. Just a few weeks ago, midway between Thanksgiving and Christmas, chocolate was everywhere: On the kitchen counter, there on the coffee table, in the freezer, next to the hot tub, on both sides of the computer, behind my ear...Even my mouse pad was chocolate--a thoughtful gift from an enabling daughter. First bite out of the pad and the efficiency of the mouse was curtailed, two bites and it was worthless. When the mouse doesnít work, I donít work. When not working I eat chocolate and so the story goes.
Besides being a chocoholic, Iím a health freak, hence this column. So now I begin to contrive and fabricate the story on how chocolate became a healthfood. Did you know chocolate is grown globally in tropical areas. It was discovered in America, but fully 60% of it comes from West Africa, the land of chocolate colored people and cocao beans, black is truly beautiful. I once purchased seeds in a market on Guadaloupe. Then crushed the seeds into some whole milk, added a couple spoonfuls of sugar and simmered the decoction to the thickness of maple sirup. It was marvelous. Next day I was constipated. Health tip number one: chocolate may be a delicious treatment for diarrhea. Itís the tannins. So when the Mexican trots hit, a dark, bitter chocolate bar is my "Hail Mary". Three tablespoons of cocoa powder stored in a film cannister may help you shorten a bout with Poncho Villas revenge. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar to the cocoa. Salt or sugar keeps cocoa from clumping when stirred into hot water. The salt and sugar also provide electrolytes. Anyway, dump salt, sugar and cocoa in twelve ounces of hot water. Stir. Consume. If diarrhea persists see a physician.
Chocolate May Help Prevent Cancer
Eat a 40 gram bar of milk chocolate and get about 300mg of polyphenols. These polyphenols are cancer fighting antioxidants. Dark chocolate contains double that amount. And cocoa powder has about 1200 mg., more health protecting antioxidants than green tea and garlic.
Cocoa contains procyanidin monomers and dimers powerful antioxidants. Chocoholics love their dark chocolate and their dark chocolate loves them (7).
Ancient Heart Medicine
The methylxanthines in chocolate: theobromine and caffeine are diuretic, cardiotonic vasodilators, that is they dilate coronary arteries and stimulate cardiac muscle performance. Mayan and Aztec traditional medicine practitioners used raw cocoa powder in decoction to treat congestive heart failure and angina.
Chocolate may be a mood elevator. Consumption stimulates the central nervous system. Abusive consumption may cause overexcitablility, sleep disorder and a racing pulse.
So how much is too much. A one pound box in one sitting is too much...I know.
Ravings About Chocolate Cravings
Formula for abuse: Jim desires pleasure. Pleasure need leads to chocolate craving. Sight, followed by: smell, taste and mouth feel of chocolate pushes Jimís brain opioids over the top. Jim experiences pleasure. Pleasure is short lived when Jim sees mountain of "to do tasks" piled around computer. Jim lifts mouse off mouse pad. Chocolate pad disappears in three bites. Serotonin levels increase. Pleasure returns. Without mouse pad "to do tasks" looms ominously. Emotional craving escalates into binge eating. Thrashing around inaccessible places in the house Jim trips over Jillís secret cache of chocolate. He gorges himself. Jill comes home from terrible day with supersaturated hormone crazed adolescent students. Goes quickly to chocolate stash. Catches Jim with brown face. That night Jim and Jill stagger stupified from one chocolate bar to another, embracing their co-dependence.
Cyclical Disorders Bow to Chocolate
Chocolate abuse is associated with seasonal cravings. Shorter days of winter may lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Less daylight leads to more melatonin and less available serotonin in the brain. Consider that women on average produce less serotonin than men then they will be more effected by conditions that reduce serotonin. Lack of serotonin causes fatigue and induces cravings for carbohydrates and chocolate. A similar mechanism is at work during the menstrual cycle. In the follicular phase, estrogen levels and serotonin levels are up...Mood is stable. During ovulation there is a luteinizing hormone surge and an increase of endorphins. Mood stays stable or becomes more positive. Then comes the luteal phase, a surge of progesterone and estrogen. Serotonin levels sink, endorphins disappear. Premenstrual syndrome symptoms emerge. A woman may experience withdrawal from the missing endorphins. She may be irritable. Her thymus is not functioning up to par. Cramps. Cravings for sweets, fats and chocolate are induced. What to do? Eat milk chocolate and exercise. In a test by Michener and Rozin(1), milk chocolate reduced craving more effectively than white chocolate, cocoa capsules and placebo. Abstaining from chocolate produced the worst results, craving did not decrease. So what helps? Experts say: When PMS gets you down get outside in the light, peel the wrapper on that chocolate bar and enjoy your walk...A chocolate a day helps keep the blues away. Also, eat small frequent meals, exercise, initiate mind-body interventions: aromatherapy (try lavender), meditation (count your breaths while walking), massage and long showers. (2)(3)(4)(5)(6).
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Hereís a savory recipe that has chocolate as a central ingredient.
This is a variation of the chocolate sauce from the book: Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, Doubleday.
-2 T. chocolate (cocoa)
Note: this is a "deep recipe" and if you donít have everything it will still be great. Create!
Preparation: Grind sesame seeds and almonds, then blend into wet ingredients. In a separate pan cook chiles (remove seeds from chiles first) until soft, pour off let cool (pour cold water over to hurry process) and blend chiles to puree. Back to the pan add vegetable broth to pureed chile. Squeeze garlic into vegetable broth. Mix sugar, chocolate and other dry ingredients before entering them into hot broth. Stir in clam juice and red wine. Simmer for 25 minutes until flavors are infused. Use as a sauce to bake or marinate chicken, duck, seafood.
Also use as a marinade for vegetables and meats before grilling or roasting.
GRAVY OPTION: Thicken with flower or corn starch to make a Mayan gravy for meats and vegetables.
(1) Michener, W. and Rozin, P. Pharmacological versus sensory factors in the satiation of chocolate craving. Physiological Behavior 56: pp. 419-422, 1994.
(2) Dye and Blundell: Menstrual cycle and appetite control: Implications for weight regulation, Human reproduction 12 pp 11421151, 1997.
(3)Dye et. al., Food craving during the menstrual cycled and its relationship to stress, happiness of relationship and depression, J. Affective disorders 34 pp 157-164, 1995.
(4) Meuninck, J., Theobroma cacao L. Physicianís laptop reference, Meuninckís Media Methods Inc. 1999.
(5) Meuninck, J., Chocolate. Diet for Natural Health Database, Meuninckís Media Methods Inc. 1999.
(6) The Craving brain, INR Seminars, Chocolate, Addictions, mood and appetite...
(7) Kilham, C. Coffee and Chocolate the new health foods; Herb Blurbs. Herbalgram 47: p21. 1999.