Los Beneficios del Chocolate Amargo Orgánico

“Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food” – Michael Levine

This quote got me thinking…What did the Mayans know about chocolate and why was it so important? If you study their ancient culture, you quickly see that the Royals and Priests used in it many ceremonies and recipes. They even used it as a currency to trade with and it wasn’t only reserved for the rich and powerful, it was readily available to everyone.  In the tombs of their deceased rulers, they included cacao beans and various vessels and utensils associated with cacao consumption.

The Mayans were so fond of chocolate that they not only gathered cacao beans in the forests, they also learned to grow the trees in their gardens. Even Mayan groups living in the Yucatán, where the climate wouldn't support a tropical rainforest, apparently found ways to grow some cacao trees. The Mayans also had extensive trade networks that helped ensure steady supplies of cacao throughout Mesoamerica, even in areas too cool or dry for cacao trees to thrive.

Did these ancient people already know about the positive effects it chemically had on the brain? Chocolate or “God Food” as they called it, was constantly part of their daily lives, as they believed it was given to them by the God’s. In fact, cacao is still used to this day, in not only Mexican cooking, but in ceremonies throughout Riviera Maya, which are conducted by the Shaman’s of the region.

Let’s look at the wisdom and teachings of the Mayan culture, which they passed down from, generation to generation, and try to understand the following about cacao;

  • What happens to our brain when we eat a piece of dark chocolate?
  • How can we use cacao to improve our health?
  • Should we consume it on a daily basis?
  • How much, is a beneficial amount?

Most people have probably heard that exercise releases endorphins in the brain and this is what makes us feel happy and healthy. But did you know that chocolate does the same thing? However, endorphins are not the only brain chemicals linked to chocolate consumption. Together with dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin these four neurotransmitters form the quartet that is responsible for our happiness and they are all released when we eat chocolate. Hence that warm and joyful feeling it gives us.

What Exactly Are Neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are the molecules that transmit signals between neurons. The amounts of particular neurotransmitters we have at any given time can have a great impact on our mood.

Happy neurotransmitters such as endorphins can help to reduce stress and lead to feelings of euphoria. Eating chocolate increases the levels of endorphins released into the brain, giving credence to the claim that chocolate is a comfort food. The endorphins work to lessen pain and decrease stress.

Another common neurotransmitter affected by chocolate is serotonin. Serotonin is known as an anti-depressant. One of the chemicals which causes, the release of serotonin is tryptophan found in, among other things, chocolate.

A unique neurotransmitter released by chocolate is; Phenyl-ethylamine. This so called, "chocolate amphetamine" causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels leading to feelings of excitement and alertness. It helps to increase mood and decrease depression.

Another interesting compound found in chocolate is the lipid anandamide. This is unique due to its resemblance to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a chemical found in marijuana. Both activate the same receptor which causes the production of dopamine, however, it would take twenty-five pounds of chocolate to achieve a similar high to that of marijuana.

Is All Chocolate Created Equal?

At this point, it is very important to mention that not all chocolate is created equal. As tasty as some of those supermarket chocolate bars are, and while they are certainly strategically placed for you to easily pick-up as you wait at the check-out counter, I am not talking about that type of sugar filled, low quality chocolate.

To truly have the health benefits of cacao, you must eat chocolate that has a cacao content of at least 70% or above. The darker the better and if you can tolerate the bitter taste of 100% cacao, then your body will reap even more of the benefits. Finding an organic raw cacao product is a must, and luckily Mexico offers some of these high-quality, small ranch, chocolate producers.

Why dark chocolate and not milk chocolate?

Dark Chocolate (70% to 100%) is loaded with nutrients, soluble fibre and minerals, such as iron, magnesium and zinc. It is also a powerful source of anti-oxidants, which may help to lower the risk of heart disease. ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbance capacity” it is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods. Raw, unprocessed cocoa beans are among the highest-scoring foods that have been tested. Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others.

Here are some other health benefits of dark chocolate:

  • Protection from Disease-Causing Free Radicals
  • Potential Cancer Preventer
  • Improved Heart Health
  • Good for Overall Cholesterol Profile
  • Better Cognitive Function
  • Blood Pressure & Blood Sugar Aid
  • Anti-oxidant Rich Superfood
  • Potential Vision Booster
  • Anti-inflammatory Properties

How often should I eat chocolate?

Like everything that tastes good, moderation is key when it comes to consuming chocolate. It is best to choose dark chocolate with as few ingredients as possible and limit it to one small square per day, which you should slowly suck on. A study of nearly 20,000 people, followed over a period of eight years, concluded that those who ate an average of 6 grams (0.2 ounces) of chocolate per day had a 39 percent lower risk of a heart attack or stroke.

How Best to Consume Cacao?

  • Use Cacao Nibs or Raw Cacao in a breakfast bowl, smoothie or a homemade ice-cream.
  • Cacao Powder can be used in vegan treats, coffee, smoothies, homemade ice-cream, baking, Chia pudding, coconut cream or Greek yogurt.
  • Dark Chocolate bars are great for shaving flakes onto baked goods, smoothies or homemade ice-cream.
  • Melt it to make sipping chocolate, with Stevia Leaf Powder or Stevia Leaf Drops to sweeten and add cinnamon or spices to your liking.

CONCLUSION

It seems to be true that eating chocolate can chemically create positive effects on the brain by increasing feelings of euphoria, as well as decreasing stress and pain. And when taken in the correct quantities and percentages, it can be a heart healthy food source, which certainly means it has earned its place at the top of the ORAC scale, as an anti-oxidant rich treat for all to enjoy.

For a selection of high quality Organic Dark Chocolate made in Mexico, check out our store and start making those healthy food choices today.

Remember…YOUR PATH TO HEALTH STARTS HERE…a small change today can mean a big impact tomorrow.

Healthy Options Market...helping you begin your journey to a healthier new you, with the best superfoods and health products that Mexico has to offer.

The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Healthy Options Market. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright. They are solely intended to spark discussion and the thought process behind issues pertaining to general health, wellness and are for sharing knowledge and information on research only. They are not medical advice. Always seek the advice of a Professional Healthcare Provider when making any decisions regarding your health.

Research Links:

https://malleys.com/blog/link-between-chocolate-endorphins-in-the-brain/#:~:text=Endorphins%20are%20not%20the%20only,fuzzy%20feeling%20it%20gives%20us.

https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/food-facts/history-of-chocolate1.htm#:~:text=It%20appears%20to%20have%20been,had%20a%20god%20of%20cacao.

https://serendipstudio.org/bb/neuro/neuro04/web1/kcoveleskie.html

https://draxe.com/nutrition/benefits-of-dark-chocolate/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324747

https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-much-dark-chocolate-should-i-eat-to-live-longer-2223572

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-americas/history-of-chocolate