Nutrition Articles

Chocolate: A Not-So-Guilty Pleasure

A Love Affair with Good Reason

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For years, you’ve tried to break it off. You’re certain this relationship is wrong, even sinful. But try as you might, you just can’t end it—your willpower inevitably crumbles, and you always go back for more.

We’re talking of course about your love affair with CHOCOLATE— that dark seducer even more likely to attract as you're surrounded by heart-shaped displays. Long thought to be an aphrodisiac, chocolate has been inextricably linked to Cupid and lovers since it was discovered among the ancient Aztecs and carried to the Old World.

The New World likes it too: the United States is the second largest importer of cocoa beans (second to the Netherlands), importing about 18.5% of the world's cocoa. While 75% of chocolate purchases are made by women, the tables are turned during the days and minutes before Valentine's Day. $1 billion worth of chocolate is sold for this holiday—75% of it purchased by men.

But, whether you’re the giver or receiver, just how sinful is chocolate? The Aztecs and their neighbors, the Mayans, believed chocolate transmitted knowledge and power to those who consumed it. While there’s no evidence to support that idea, there is mounting evidence showing some health benefits to eating it in moderation. Studies have found that dark chocolate helps prevent heart disease and cancer, and has also been shown to improve mood by boosting the brain chemical serotonin. Some even consider chocolate an effective diet food, claiming that a chunk of chocolate before meals diminishes your appetite.

Made up of about 300 chemicals—some of which in theory have mood-altering effects – chocolate contains negligible amounts of the stimulant caffeine, as well as theobromine (which stimulates the heart and the nervous system) and phenyethylamine (an amphetamine-like substance said to simulate the feeling of falling in love). A University of Michigan study says chocolate causes the brain to release b-endorphin, a naturally occurring chemical similar to opium, which dulls pain and increases your sense of well-being.

Chocolate contains a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals that the body needs, including potassium, sodium, iron, fluorine and vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E. In fact, researchers at Harvard University believe chocolate may help people live longer! A study tracking older men found that those who ate chocolate lived almost a year longer than those who didn't.
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About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Member Comments

  • I love the suggestions for pairing chocolate with nutrient rich foods! My favorite is green apples and dark chocolate; so yummy! :]

    Sam - 4/25/2009 5:13:52 PM
  • Thank god! I love chocolate! - 4/24/2009 10:46:46 AM
  • Actually, chocolate doesn't cause acne--that's a myth. But remember that chocolate isn't a "health food" it's still a treat, so enjoy it in moderation! :-) - 6/19/2008 12:38:38 PM
  • VAMPRESSAYEKA
    awesome. i am a chocoholic. though it causes many pimples. it tests so good. now its good for you too. makes you live longer? thats great. the afterworld will have tro wait a bit! - 6/19/2008 11:22:32 AM
  • BLUSTARR93
    yay! i now have a verified reason to eat chocolate. whopee!!!!!!!!!!!
    ! - 5/11/2008 10:24:55 AM

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