You can’t think of Valentine’s Day without talking about chocolate.
And I love talking about the benefits of chocolate.
Chocolate has lots of natural health-enhancing ingredients — like those other favorites, coffee and red wine.
Chocolate has caffeine, phenylethylamines, endorphins, catchins, phenols and anandamide.
Say what? You probably don’t know of these chemicals, but for certain you experience their effects every day.
Caffeine increases wakefulness and some intellectual activity. A chocolate bar has 6g or one-twentieth the amount of caffeine as does a cup of coffee.
As for phenylethylamine — these are natural chemicals released by the brain when you fall in love. That explains Valentine’s Day chocolate gifts.
Endorphins are chemicals that reduce pain and elevate one’s mood, something we can use on short cold, winter days.
Catchins are antioxidants, which may protect against cancer and heart disease and are also found in black tea. Additionally, chocolate contains phenols, found in red wine and vegetables.
Lastly, there is anadamide, which gives a mild natural “high” — by attaching on the same brain receptors as marijuana does. So, eating chocolate is a better — and legal — option to “inhaling.”
Not enough good reasons to overcome the guilt of eating chocolate? Here’s another one: A group of scientists at Johns Hopkins was studying the effect of aspirin on the stickiness of blood and the effect on platelets. Individuals who were eating or drinking caffeinated drinks, grapefruit juice, wine or chocolate, were excluded because these foods are known to have an effect similar to aspirin in thinning the blood and preventing a heart attack.
Chocolate is certainly not a substitute for aspirin, yet it has similar properties. More studies will continue to look at these benefits.
The reason chocolate gets a bad rap among nutritionists is all the added “goodies” that go along with it: the sugar, caramel, nuts, marshmallows and the calories. Also, not all chocolate is healthful. Dark chocolate is more beneficial than light or milk chocolate. For some reason, milk prevents the absorption of healthy chemicals, robbing the chocolate and cocoa of its benefits. So when you choose chocolate, choose it with 80 percent dark chocolate (most candy bars have only 20 percent).
Now the bad news…those 12 pounds of chocolate we eat per year translate to 80 calories per day with 4.5g of fat…Ugh!
So eat in moderation — but without guilt.
Happy Valentine’s Day