From folklore to hard core science, discover what makes it chocolate a food of love
Chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac is deeply embedded in the history of Western civilization. The Mayans used cacao beans to pay for prostitutes in their early version of whorehouses. (The going rate was around eight beans per woman). And the great Aztec ruler Montezuma was one of the first red hot lovers to tap into the strengths of the aphrodisiac of chocolate. He reportedly consumed as much as fifty cups of a cocoa elixir before heading off to his harem.
The Spanish Conquistadors introduced chocolate to Europe. But it was not introduced as a sexual stimulant. Chocolate was first enjoyed in Europe as a rich, hot drink. Yet text from the seventeenth century show that by the Rococo period, “One obtained strength from chocolate for certain tasks.” The pleasure principal was clearly understood during the Rococo period!
Can the aphrodisiac of chocolate impact hormones?
In the late Twentieth Century, Michael Liebowitz of the New York State Psychiatric institute proved that the phenylethylamine (PEA) in chocolate releases the same hormone as does sexual intercourse. There are those who object that the amount of PEA is too small to produce significant results. But this sweet drug offers hundreds of other chemical compounds. And it’s believed that many of these compounds, not just the PEA, contribute to chocolate’s appeal in the games of love. Unfortunately, chocolate is among the world’s most complex foods. So we may be a long way from understanding all of its effects on the body. (Incidentally, cheese also contains PEA and in far higher doses than are found in chocolate.)
A new kind of health food
But we do know that chocolate contains flavonoids. These antioxidants are from the same “family” as those in green tea and red wine. In fact, studies show that the antioxidant activity in one serving of cocoa is higher than that of either tea or red wine. The darker the chocolate, the more potent antioxidants it contains.
In addition, Adam Drewnowski from the University of Michigan proved that eating this sweet candy of love produces natural opiates in the brain. This provides yet another insight into chocolate’s feel-good reputation.
Further studies at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego illustrated that three of the chemical compounds in chocolate act like THC. (This is the active chemical compound in marijuana.) Like with marijuana, these chemicals spark dopamine production in the brain. Unfortunately, according to research from the National Institute of Mental Health, a 130 lb person has to eat approximately 25 lbs in one sitting. Well, if they want to experience any marijuana-like effects, anyway.
But you need not risk diabetic coma to appreciate chocolate’s aphrodisiac allure. Casanova, the legendary lover, touted the aphrodisiac of chocolate for its ability to provide energy for a night on the prowl. He also understood the allure of creamy, dark chocolate on craving-prone women. (For whom chocolate can turn on the pleasure sensors in the brain.) In fact, the great lothario declared dark chocolate’s sweet, complex and sensual pleasure among the world’s finest aphrodisiacs, second only to Champagne.
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