Chocolate as an aphrodisiac

Love is in the air

choc hrtTo the ancient Aztec’s, chocolate was much more than a comfort food or a treat, it was considered a sacred food and a powerful aphrodisiac. The emperor Montezuma was thought to be particularly fond of chocolate and its ability to boost his prowess amongst the women in his harem. The Spanish went on to introduce the humble cacao bean to Europe, were it was then prized for adding stamina and strength to all activities, including those of pleasure.

Well fast forward to modern times, and we now have scientific ways of proving or otherwise these claims about chocolate. There are active chemicals in chocolate that could be responsible for its famous aphrodisiac qualities.  Chocolate contains tryptophan, which is a precursor to our happy hormone serotonin. Serotonin is also involved in sexual arousal and libido. Another chemical in chocolate is phenylethylamine, which is a stimulant similar to amphetamine. This chemical is released in the brain when people fall in love.  Anandamide, which translated means internal bliss, is another constituent found in chocolate. This happy little chemical interacts with the cannabinoid receptors and gives us a feeling of euphoria and bliss.

happy chocResearchers have looked into these chemicals in an attempt to find a link between them and chocolate’s reputation as a love drug. The results have been disappointing and perhaps the active ingredients are in insufficient amounts to have a big impact. While research has not shown any strong physical effects on our arousal from chocolate, it is thought that it may be an emotional response, which can be harder to measure in standardised tests. Many people report feeling more happy and uplifted when they eat chocolate. However, the positive affect may be due to previous experiences and memories of eating chocolate that were associated with happy feelings.

If you are going to indulge your loved one in the gift of a little chocolate, then stick to good quality chocolate and preferably make it the dark variety. Quality chocolate is higher in real food ingredients, has less sugar and artificial flavours. Aside from the possible effects on libido and feelings mentioned above, dark chocolate contains many health benefits. It is high in antioxidants and polyphenols that have been shown to lower blood pressure and insulin levels and can help keep blood sugar levels stable. It has also been shown to have anti-ageing effects and improve circulation, memory and brain function.

The other benefit of rich, dark chocolate varieties is that most people do not overindulge compared to the sweeter milk chocolate types! Choose varieties that are at least 70% dark chocolate for the most active ingredients and also try to choose fairtrade and organic varieties to support cocoa farmers and be eco-friendly. If you would like a healthy, paleo chocolate recipe check out my Chocolate Walnut Brownies.

benchIn any case, finding a way to share and celebrate your love for someone, beyond food is also a good idea! Last year, I bought my partner an apple tree to plant as a special gift that keeps on giving! Massages, baths, roses or a romantic beach or nature walk can all be special ways to share this day of celebrating love.

Happy Valentines Day!