Valentines Day Mastication

While chocolate is a shoe-in for a Valentines Day sweetener, it is also drug, a pick me up and a ‘functional food’.

Functional foods were a buzz word about a decade ago but now seem to have been absorbed into the health food vernacular. By example, a functional food would be yogurt containing a culture such as acidophilus bifidus. The probiotic ab culture provides added health-giving benefits over and above the healthy goodies inherent in yogurt, like the calcium.

But chocolate is riding high on medical research that is being perpetuated by chockie manufacturers who can now praise the health benefits of chocolate imbibing. Flavanols found in chocolate and cocoa have been found to promote blood flow to parts of the brain.  If you grab a ‘SmartChocolate Bar’ in the US they have been impregnated with the likes of Gingko Biloba, Green Tea, Guarana, Ginseng and St. John’s Wort. Yee hah – they’re not even waiting for the flavanols to kick in!

In the ‘drug’ stakes chocolate naturally contains the mood lifting Phenylethylamin and Seratonin both of which can be found in the human brain.  When we are experiencing emotions such as happiness or passion it gets released into the nervous system, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and often giving a feeling of exhilaration. Hence the craving for chocolate – it’s not about the taste necessarily.

I had a friend you used to proudly wear a faded T shirt emblazoned with a skull below which was the slogan: “death before decaf.”  In my view the same could apply for carob, an ersatz substance I’ve always seen as ‘hippy chocolate’. Sure it has less caffeine than chocolate (did I mention caffeine ..?) and more fibre – but who cares. I’ve seen nothing that supports any quantum leap in health benefits for carob. If it goes into my mouth it had better shape up – carob doesn’t! Give me the caffeine and all those other side effects …and the taste and mouthfeel of real chocolate!

But the big news – and especially in time for Valentines Day – comes out of New Zealand. An enterprising lady has produced chocolate imbued with ‘Tongkat Ali’ or ‘Eurycoma Longifolia Jack’, that apparently is a Southeast Asian botanical that is supposed to stimulate male testosterone production. Allegedly “it takes three days to build up to optimum effect…just perfect for a long weekend”.  Long weekend?  Who said anything about a “long” weekend…or is that another benefit?

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