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Or “what people might say”

We’ll confess convincing many women that chocolate is NOT something they actually need is a “hard sell.” For many of us the sweetest moments are those that require licking the remains off our fingers. Chocolate is not only comfort food with a capital C, we’re convinced it’s one of the five required food groups. Whether it comes in a gold Godiva box, a yellow Whitman’s Sampler, a shake, a hot fudge sundae, or Coco Puffs, we find unrelenting satisfaction in devouring every bite. Some of us were beyond disappointed when our kids suddenly realized “the gremlins” we blamed for the disappearance of Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Easter candy were the Mom they loved and trusted!

Guilty as charged, we’ve hoarded it, hidden it, and frequently fibbed about it. “Who ate the last” anything chocolate, strikes fear in our hearts at being found out. We have stooped to such degrading behavior as eating uncooked chocolate chip cookie dough. In fact, there was such an epidemic of that tactic, some ice cream manufacturers got smart and offered it in their products.

What is it about chocolate? Is it the only form of hedonistic indulgence we can allow ourselves without fear of ruining our lives? OK-it can wreak havoc with our complexions, waistlines, and metabolism but those are minor inconveniences. It’s decadence with a big D and perhaps the only luxury item we can afford. It’s no accident that many a chocolate treat has been named, “Death by Chocolate.” There are those among us who do look upon chocolate as something “to die for.” It’s not all bad news any longer…. mercifully, if we wait long enough, we’ll discover any number of vices are actually beneficial and chocolate has finally gained the status of something more noble than the recreational drug of choice it was once labeled! Just look at the facts. From:

Chocolate ... The #1 food craved by women across North America. And it’s second only to pizza among men. Some people swear they're addicted to it. In fact, North Americans spend $8.9 billion (US) per year on chocolate and consume nearly 5.5 kg or 12 pounds per person each year. Is chocolate the "food of the gods", an indulgence, or a necessity of life?

The history of chocolate traces its roots back to the Aztecs. During Emperor Montezuma’s reign, cocoa beans were so valuable that they were used as currency. Cocoa, prepared as a chocolate drink, was believed to impart wisdom, provide great energy and have aphrodisiacal powers. Montezuma greeted explorer Hernando Cortez with gold, silver and cocoa, and Cortez brought Montezuma’s special drink recipe back to Spain. The Spaniards added hot water, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, and the drink became all the rage among European nobles. It then became so popular in France that chocolate houses, much like today’s coffeehouses, appeared. Later, the Swiss made the most refinements to cocoa, creating the processing system still used today. The Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus, christened the chocolate plant Theobroma cacao, Latin for "food of the gods".

Chocolate has exceptional nutritional qualities, being a high-energy food in a small volume. It not only contains carbohydrates, fats, and vegetable proteins, but also has large quantities of potassium and magnesium, some calcium and sodium, and vitamins A1, B1, B2, D, and E. Chocolate contains a number of other substances in small, but effective, quantities:

Theobromine, which stimulates the central nervous system, facilitates muscular exertion, acts as a diuretic and appetite stimulant. Caffeine, which increases resistance to fatigue, intellectual activity, and watchfulness. An average size chocolate bar contains approximately 6 mg of caffeine, compared to 100-150 mg in a cup of coffee. Phenylethylamine, which is the chemical released in our bodies when we fall in love and is chemically similar to amphetamines, therefore acting as a psycho-stimulant. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid that increases the production of serotonin, an anti-depressant and natural stress-reducer. In fact, a decrease in serotonin levels in the brain may trigger cravings for starches, sweet foods and chocolate. Endorphins, natural opiates that are released by the brain in increased amounts when eating chocolate, thereby elevating one's mood and reducing pain. Phenols,which are also found in red wine, tea, fruits and vegetables, and may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Catechins, which are antioxidants that may help protect the body against cardiovascular disease and possibly cancer, are found in substantially higher quantities in chocolate than in black tea. Anandamide, which mimics the effects of marijuana by acting on the same brain receptors, resulting in a very mild "high". Plus, chocolate has two ingredients that inhibit the natural breakdown of anandamide and hence may prolong the feeling of well being. Do these facts tempt you to learn more about chocolate? Then check out these websites:

10 Reasons Why Chocolate is Good for You

And other irresistible sites for the true chocoholic include: - An excellent site, with a newsletter, chocoholics club, and lots of recipes.

The M&M;'s Factory - How many red ones are in a pack, really?

Finally-from the pundits and poets:

The rules of chocolate ~ If you've got melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly. ~ Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices & strawberries - all count as fruit, so eat as many as you want. ~ The problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the shop in a hot car. The solution: Eat it in the car park. ~ Diet tip: Eat a chocolate bar before each meal. It'll take the edge off your appetite and you'll eat less. ~ A nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories in one place. Isn't that handy? ~ If you can't eat all your chocolate, it will keep in the freezer. ~ But if you can't eat all your chocolate, what's wrong with you? ~ If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves. ~ Money talks. Chocolate sings. ~ Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger. ~ If not for chocolate, there would be no need for control top tights. An entire garment industry would be devastated. ~ Put "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you'll get one thing done.

An old man and a young man worked in office next to each other. The young man had noticed that the older man always seemed to have a jar of peanuts on his desk. The young man loved peanuts. One day while the older man was away from his desk the young man couldn't resist and went to the old man's jar and ate over half the peanuts. When the old man returned the young man felt guilty and confessed to taking the peanuts. The old man responded "That's ok since I lost my teeth all I can do is lick the chocolate off the M&Ms.;"

"Chocolate" and "Age"-- Poems by Rosemary Kothe

Dark chocolate
rolling around
on eager tongue
slowly, slowly
until a sorrowful swallow
leaves you in limbo
as you deliberate
upon a second truffle --
One taste is not enough!

Rosemary Kothe is a retired Buffalo school teacher and the host of several reading series in Western New York. The Writer's Den Homepage

“Chocolate is no ordinary food. It is not something you can take or leave, something you like only moderately. You don’t LIKE chocolate. You don’t even LOVE chocolate. Chocolate is something you have an affair with.” Geneen Roth (“Feeding the Hungry Heart,” 1982)

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