“I have this theory that chocolate slows down the aging process…. It may not be true, but do I dare take the chance?”   – Katherine Hepburn

Chocolate heart with Love printCan you show love without using chocolate?

Chocolate, cacao. It was considered the food of the gods and used in some way by everyone when the Spanish first discovered it in Mesomerica. Its use began much earlier in the pre-Columbian era. Their term was xocoatl – “sho-co-a-tel”. Originally it was a drink and much more bitter than we commonly taste today. It has been found to have been mixed with corn meal, chili peppers and water with no sugar added. (Sugar was unknown to this part of the world back then.) Then it was wiped into a spicy frothy beverage and used in royal and religious ceremonies and celebrations. Ancient excavations are finding plots of cacao trees in people’s backyards as the cacao seeds were used as money by the common people. It was also used as offerings to the gods and payment to rulers (taxes and tributes). Actually because the regions that the Aztecs ruled did not have optimal growing conditions for cacao and they obtained it by trading with the Maya for this rare and valuable substance. Such was their appreciation for xocoatl!

After the Spanish brought this treasure back to Europe it was still considered a symbol of wealth and power and usually limited in use to the royal courts for about 100 years. Here experiments with adding other spices to the mix began happening, cinnamon, for instance, and sugar.

So from the beginning it has held a special place in our lives, a place of ceremony and value. Looking at it as an herb, dark chocolate has healthy ingredients that are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants remove free radicals from our system. These destructive molecules are implicated in heart and other diseases. Good chocolate has a higher level of cocoa butter and vegetable fat. This is where the healthy phenols reside. European chocolate is known to require a minimum of 35% cocoa solids in its plain chocolate whereas in the US we require 15% so you  want to consider the source.

“I do recommend a piece of good-quality dark chocolate as a healthy snack . . . It is a source of polyphenols, the same type of antioxidants found in red wine, and the fat it contains is stearic acid, which doesn’t affect cholesterol levels. The latest good news for chocolate lovers comes from a study indicating that flavonoids in chocolate are good for your heart. These compounds reduce the stickiness of platelets, cells that play an important role in blood clotting. By eating a 1.5-ounce milk chocolate bar, you get the same amount of these protective compounds as in a 5-ounce glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.” – Andrew Weil, M.D.

Chocolate contains large amounts of the same beneficial plant chemicals that now have burnished the reputation of tea. In fact, just one ounce of chocolate has about as much of these plant chemicals as a cup of brewed black tea. One large, ongoing study of the benefits of exercise found that men who eat chocolate in moderation live longer than those who eat none. – University of California-Berkeley Wellness Letter

Now back to the original question “Can you show love without using chocolate?” Answer “Why should you avoid it?” Show someone you love that you care. The bitter flavor goes to the Heart in Oriental medicine and the phenols actually protect it in Western medicine. Of course, following the Buddha way, all things in moderation. Have a sweet, healthy and lovely Valentine’s Day.