I like it cold. Usually, somewhere in the refrigerator door, there lies in wait a bar of dark chocolate, sometimes with a hint of orange in it or chopped almonds. It marks a moment — tearing off just a square or two daily so that it lasts — of pure happiness, a moment of anticipation come to realization. Chocolate can have such power.
Throughout history, chocolate has been linked to great things. Cacao beans have been considered (and still are by some) to be gifts from ancient gods. The beans have natural aphrodisiac qualities, as well supposedly the ability to give warriors strength. The beans were so valued in ancient times, they were even used as currency.
And, of course, nowadays, we know that some of these exalted characteristics are not altogether myth. Cacao is possibly the most antioxidant rich food on earth. It’s also chocked full of minerals and vitamins. It does, indeed, possess the natural chemical phenylethylamine, nicknamed PEA, which is said to promote feelings of attraction, excitement and euphoria, and it has other various stimulants that promote mental happiness as well.
But, the truth is that the reasons chocolate makes us happy are much, much simpler.
Reason #1: Raw, Unadulterated Flavor
To put it short and sweet, chocolate tastes fabulous. But, to get more complicated about the whole thing, we could break it down. Check-out (store bought) candy bars are likely drawing in fans with spiky levels of sugar, unwanted fats and very little actual cacao. Some dark chocolates have sugar, but many still deliver the beneficial levels of chocolate. Lastly, we can look at raw varieties, like cacao nibs and cacao powder, and they provide the goods in a truly chocolaty way, complete with all the health benefits, but lacking the processed junk we don’t want.
So, what should we do?
- Make ourselves some delicious raw treats and make the most out of the chocolate we buy. Maybe start with these 20 superfood vegan recipes made with raw cacao, including mousse, brownies, fudge, candies and truffles.
- Buy a cacao with the highest percentage of cacao possible, (preferably over 85 percent), when opting for store bought chocolate bars. It can be a little more expensive, but the higher the ratio of cacao to the other ingredients in the bar, the more health benefits you and/or your lover will get (and the less unhealthy additions).
Reason #2: Tickling and Teasing the Brain
Sure, there are all sorts of chemical ways of exploring chocolate that would suggest that it makes our brains react to it in deeper, biologically positive ways. For example, there is the aforementioned phenylethylamine, with its secret powers equated to the feeling of falling in love. There have also been studies that show it has anandamide, similar to marijuana’s THC (though drug-free, no worries). And, there are more natural chemicals in chocolate that act like a sedative and also aid in function at the same time. These may all have some sort of influence on us, not to mention the magnesium and iron this amazing food has. However, there have been no official studies proving chocolate actually changes our body chemistry through these attributes. Rather, there exists a placebo effect, and that — chemically speaking — is how chocolate makes us happy.
Whatever the case, we agree it’s a blissful food to enjoy, no matter what the scientific evidence says.
So here are some ways to eat chocolate to dedicate our love for this amazing food:
- These ten chocolate cakes are any easy way to bring about smiles all in a healthy way. After all, doesn’t cake make us all just a modest slice happier?
- Two words: Hot chocolate. Especially on these crisp winter’s days, perhaps snuggled up with someone. But, be sure to experiment with lots of herbs and spices, citrus zests or even seasonings like red pepper.
Reason #3: Hugs and Kisses All Around
Now, the true pulling power of chocolate, without a doubt, is the people who provide us with it. Nothing says “I care,” dare I say “I love you,” like showing up on a doorstep with a box of dark delights or a delicious morsel of something-something waiting on the pillow or a collection of bite-sized, lip-smacking vanilla chai truffle cupcakes to share with ya lover. And, if said chocolate is prepared by loving hands, well, isn’t that all the better?
So, how should you prepare for your valentine?
- Bite-sized. One of the great delights of a box of chocolates is the mystery, all those tasty varieties to sample. So, try this great collection of truffle recipes for creating an awesome handmade, homemade box of chocolates..
- Hint of chocolate is also another guaranteed winner, a tantalizing tease coating the likes of strawberry with Mexican hot chocolate or say tiny chocolate covered raisins. A little chocolate can go a long way.
So, our advice this Valentine’s Day is to check out all of our favorite chocolate recipes here at One Green Planet, so you can make that someone special something special and reap the rewards.
Maybe that chocolate will make you happy even before the first bite, if you know what we mean.
Lead Image Source: Ames Lai/Flickr