by David Eisen
Valentine's Day is many things to different people- a chance
to start new relationships, rekindle old ones, or remind that
special someone how wonderful they really are. Others feel it
is just another "Hallmark" holiday where they are expected to
do something for unknown reasons. Regardless of your
hopes, expectations, or reservations about Valentine's Day,
chocolate has long been a favorite gift for lovers.
Since the days of the Aztecs chocolate has been used as a
gift. Today a box of luxurious quality chocolate says a
thousand "thank you's", "good luck", or "I love you". Chocolate
can be given as a way of saying "congratulations", "I am sorry"
or "get well soon". On Valentine's Day chocolate clearly says "I
LOVE YOU!" Chocolate is more than food, it not only fills your
belly but also makes you feel soooo good. Elaine Sherman
wrote "Chocolate is heavenly, mellow, sensual, deep, dark,
sumptuous, gratifying, potent, dense, creamy, seductive,
suggestive, rich, excessive, silky, smooth, luxurious, celestial.
Chocolate is downfall, happiness, pleasure, love, ecstasy,
fantasy ... chocolate makes us wicked, guilty, sinful, healthy,
chic, happy." What more could you want to say to your lover
on Valentines Day? Even the scientific name for the tree from
which chocolate is derived, Theobroma cacao, translated from
Greek, means "food of the gods".
Why does chocolate evoke so many feelings and emotions for
us? Chocolate has long been associated with passion,
romance and love. This association may go all the way back to
the Aztecs. They believed chocolate was a source of spiritual
wisdom, incredible energy and elevated sexual power.
Chocolate was widely used as a nuptial aid and was widely
served at wedding ceremonies. The Aztecs did not know
chocolate as we do today; they consumed the cocoa as a
drink. Reports indicate that the Emperor Montezuma
consumed large quantities of the drink every day and always
fortified himself with a cup before entertaining his harem. The
explorer Cortes reported to Carlos I of Spain that chocolate is
"... the divine drink which builds up resistance and fights
fatigue. A cup of this precious drink enables a man to walk for
a whole day without food." From the earliest times, chocolate
was considered a substance of power and a source of vitality.
Chocolate has been a subject of study since the first shipment
from Veracruz arrived in Spain in 1585. But modern science
has made some interesting findings that may help explain our
lust for quality chocolate. Chocolate contains organic
substances known as alkaloids. The most important of these
substances is theobromine, which works as a stimulant to the
kidneys. Stimulants in chocolate also affect the central
nervous system, with effects similar to caffeine, which is also
present in chocolate. A chocolate bar may contain as much as
200 mg of theobromine but only about 25 mg of caffeine.
Another important substance found in chocolate is
phenylethylamine, which is part of a group of chemicals known
as endorphins. Endorphins have an effect similar to
amphetamine and are found naturally in the human body.
When endorphins are released into the bloodstream, the
mood is lifted and feelings of positive energy are reached.
The sensation known as "runners high" is caused by
endorphins released during exercise. Phenylethylamine levels
in the brain have also been linked to "falling in love". One
more chemical found in chocolate is seratonin. Seratonin is
known for its calming properties. The presence of these
chemicals may explain the multitude of feelings chocolate
Debra Waterhouse, author of Why Women Need Chocolate,
conducted a survey and found: 97% of women reported
cravings, 68% of which are for chocolate, 50% would choose
chocolate over sex, and 22% were more likely than men to
choose chocolate as a mood elevator. These findings could
easily be interpreted as a result of how chocolate makes us
feel. I don't know why more women choose chocolate than
men, for I am a man and I love chocolate.
Critics would say that the benefits of eating chocolate are
small when compared to the sugar and fat contained in a
chocolate bar. The best chocolate, dark chocolate with high
cacao butter content has no added fat, as well as a high
percentage of cacao solids and correspondingly less sugar.
Although chocolate will never be considered a health food
based on its nutritional value, it is still good for you! Good for
your heart and soul-anything that helps relieve stress and
makes you feel so good must be.
Receiving a nicely wrapped box of chocolates causes a sense
of anticipation. The pleasure of unwrapping the box, the
sensual smell, lifting the soft seductive papers, the look of the
smooth dark chocolates. When it finally passes your lips and
starts to instantly melt filling your mouth with exquisite
pleasure. The taste and smell flood your senses with
overwhelming ecstasy. Eating it slowly, taking time to enjoy
and savor every bit. What better way to start off an evening of
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