Why does everybody love chocolate?

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Chocolate. It’s everywhere right now as the shops try to tempt you into buying all sorts of delicious goodies in the lead-up to Easter. With so many temptations around, let’s look at why we love chocolate so much.

Falling into the same category as tea and my mum, chocolate has this magical ability to make me feel better when I’m feeling stressed or down. Obviously part of this comes down to the fact that chocolate is just amazing – but there’s also a scientific backing to it.

Along with the well-known antioxidants of dark chocolate, chocolate contains something called theobromine. This helps us to relax, and increases our serotonin levels, thus improving our mood. Together with tea and coffee, chocolate falls into the category of “safe psychoactives”. This refers to things that we consume which have an effect on mood and well-being, but without the harmful effects of drug addiction and abuse.

“Chocolate cravings are driven by the taste and feel of chocolate”

Chocolate relaxes, it enhances our mood, and it lowers our blood pressure. Due to a bronchial relaxation effect, it’s even been shown to have an effect in helping people with asthma and preventing coughing.

But for all its biochemical effects, an interesting study on chocolate suggests that it’s not just the effects that we crave, but in fact chocolate cravings are driven by the taste and feel of the chocolate itself. And of course, we’re not the only ones who love chocolate.

Dogs also love chocolate, as anyone who’s had a dog and chocolate in the same room will know. Some readers will remember the Oreos advert 10 years ago or so. A young boy sits eating his Oreos. He pulls apart the sandwiched chocolate biscuits and dunks them into a glass of milk as his golden labrador, Jack, watches on hopefully. The advert finishes with the boy saying to Jack, “Mum says chocolate isn’t good for dogs, but you can have the rest of my milk.”

Well Mum is right – chocolate isn’t good for dogs. The theobromine content, which causes us to relax, is in fact toxic to dogs. And the smaller your dog, the harder it’ll hit them – just like with child and adult drug doses. The highest rates of chocolate poisoning occur around festive seasons when chocolate abounds, so keep it out of reach as you exchange chocolatey gifts this Easter.

Whether Easter has religious significance for you, or whether it is just a time with family, it’s little wonder that chocolate has found its way into our traditions.

“As with most fine things, chocolate has its season. There is a simple memory aid that you can use to determine whether it is the correct time to order chocolate dishes: any month whose name contains the letter A, E, or U is the proper time for chocolate.” ~Sandra Boynton

 

Further Reading

The relevance of theobromine for the beneficial effects of cocoa consumption

Health Benefits of Methylxanthines in Cacao and Chocolate

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