If God had wanted women to be perfect, he wouldn’t have invented chocolate.
Creating a food as sumptuously soothing, as voluptuously velvety as chocolate was a rotten trick to play, especially on us nutritionists who are supposed to abstain at all times – apart from Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Birthdays, Unbirthdays and er… I’m sure I’ll think of something.
There is no end to our wickedness where chocolate is concerned. We shamelessly turn out our partners’ pockets, not for signs of infidelity but the tag-end of an antique chocolate bar. And are prone to making rash promises if only he will go out to replenish our dwindling supplies at all hours and in all weathers. Real heroes always comply, just like the chap in the famous Milk Tray ad, for there is no greater fury to behold than a woman deprived of her favourite chocolate.
But is it good for us, can we delude ourselves that candy is dandy? The cocoa bean contains several important minerals including magnesium, copper, zinc and iron. Women suffering from PMS are notoriously deficient in magnesium and often can’t control their cravings for chocolate at that time. It also contains phenylethylamine, a potent stimulant which produces a sense of euphoria, lending some credence to the view that chocolate is an effective aphrodisiac.
In addition, it’s an excellent source of flavonoids, a group of plant chemicals with powerful antioxidant properties. Flavonoids reportedly decrease the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which is a major risk factor for heart disease. The oxidation of cholesterol contributes to a build-up of arterial plaque and may clog up our arteries. Flavonoids can slow down the process and help to strengthen the walls of blood vessels themselves.
Chocolate manufacturers are naturally keen to emphasize all the positive aspects when promoting their heavenly confectionary. However, given that their products are also choc-a-bloc with sugar as well as saturated and hydrogenated fats, they are being quite irresponsible. These ingredients only serve to increase dietary risk factors for heart disease and obesity, not to mention PMS. Always look at the labels: products containing a minimum of 70% or more cocoa solids are the healthiest. Whenever cocoa is listed after sugar and fat, it is best avoided.
The Aztec Emperor Montezuma (1480-1520) said chocolate is “the divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.” Perhaps God knew what he was doing after all.
© 2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, First Published Brighton Argus 2004