Today, about 40% of women and 15% of men say they could not live without chocolate.
In the highly developed Aztec civilization, chocolate was literally money or gold. They traded cocoa beans. Goods could be bought for a hundred cocoa beans. The court tax was 12 cocoa beans. The Aztecs knew how to appreciate the value of chocolate. The chocolate drink was enjoyed by their warriors, the rich and the clergy. They believed that chocolate gives wisdom and prolongs life.
Today, science has partially proven these facts. The Aztecs used chocolate in the rites of the fertility goddess Xochiquetzal. Their ruler Montezuma took large amounts of chocolate every day. But many centuries later, the famous seducer Casanova did the same. Before meeting with his friends, he would definitely take chocolate.
Chocolate is a plant product. The cocoa beans that are the main ingredient in chocolate grow on the Theobroma cacao tree. These trees grow in tropical areas. In Greek, the word theobroma means “food for the gods.” That is why it is often said that the gods are immortal, and chocolate prolongs life. A study conducted among 8,000 respondents showed that people who take chocolate live longer than people who never eat chocolate. Chocolate has this positive effect because it contains flavonoid, a substance that has an antioxidant effect. Chocolate flavonoids reduce the amount of bad LDL, cholesterol and thus protect the heart and lower blood pressure. They also show an effect on slowing the growth of cancer cells. But if we overdo it with chocolate intake it is possible that we will increase our body weight at the same time which can burden the heart. Sugar and various flavors are often added to chocolate during processing, and milk is added to milk chocolate.
This is why dark chocolate is best because it has the most cocoa and it contains the most flavonoids. White chocolate is not really chocolate because it does not contain cocoa. It contains cocoa butter which is added to all chocolates just to achieve a better consistency and solubility at body temperature. Therefore, it dissolves in the mouth, which increases the pleasure of consuming chocolate. However, not everything is so simple, today we know that chocolate contains over 300 substances. Many of them have different effects on our brains and emotions.
The key substance is phenyethylamine. It is also called the “substance of love” or “chocolate amphetamine” (because amphetamines cause euphoria). Most phenylethylamine is metabolized in the body, but some still reaches the brain where it affects the increase in the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is released in the pleasure centers, and the highest concentration is reached during orgasm. Montezuma and Casanova seem to have known these facts much earlier than they were discovered by science.
Phenylethylamine from chocolate affects arousal, because we feel better, we better accept stimuli, which leads us to beautiful feelings and euphoria. Some drugs for depression are similar in effect because they inhibit monoamine oxidase (MAO inhibitors) and thus prevent the degradation of phenylethylamine. From this it is clear that chocolate can have antidepressant action. Chocolate contains anandamide, a substance that is an endogenous cannabinoid and is found in the brain where it causes positive feelings. Chocolate also contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is an important factor in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a role in the development of positive emotions and pleasure.
Consumption of chocolate increases the amount of endorphins in the brain that play a role in increasing the threshold of irritability to pain. What was painful for us is now better tolerated, or no longer bothers us. Some mood-enhancing substances have also been found in chocolate. They belong to a group of alkaloids about which not much is known yet, except that the same substances can be found in beer or wine. Chocolate is rich in the mineral magnesium, the lack of which increases the intensity of the premenstrual syndrome.
This explains the increased desire for chocolate in women “on those days of the month”, but hormones also have a role to play. As many as 91% of women have the greatest desire for chocolate in the second half of the cycle, so the desire is greater in the afternoon and early evening. Chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine, but for comparison we can say that a cup of cocoa contains 20 mg of caffeine, while a cup of tea averages 40 mg and a cup of coffee 115 mg of caffeine.
Chocolate is not addictive, it tastes extremely good, has special aromas, melts in the mouth and that is why we like to eat it often.