Astronauts take this little indulgence to space, lovers kiss and makeup with a chocolate and the threat of withdrawing the chocolate privilege propels optimum performance among children. Chocolate dates back to the time of the Aztecs when cocoa beans were so prized that they were used as currency. The Aztecs consumed chocolate in the form of a sweetened drink, which was believed to increase wisdom, boost energy and have a powerful aphrodisiac action.
Christopher Columbus introduced the rest of the world to the goodness of cocoa beans in the 15th century. It is now a human pleasure that few can deny.
However, much to the chagrin of chocolate lovers researchers have been doing a flip-flop on this ultimate comfort food for over a decade. We begin the week on a happy note because we've just read that chocolate is fantastic for our heart, brain, skin and what not, but before we can tuck in the rich, dark collection over the weekend, another set of researchers tell us to keep our hands-off the luxury bars.
There is utter confusion over which variety of chocolate and how much is good or bad for the heart. We try and make sense of the conflicting data that is piling.
What is better - dark or white chocolate? Till recently only dark chocolate, with a cocoa percentage of around 70 per cent or more was considered good, now even white chocolate is said to be good for the heart.
Does it have anti-inflammatory properties? Yes, chocolate contains a type of antioxidant which can help stimulate blood flow by demolishing free radicals which cause disease.
Can it boost brain function? Chocolate is one of the richest natural sources of magnesium, a mineral essential for brain health, and also contains caffeine. Eating just a small amount can help boost concentration and alertness. A key chemical compound in chocolate, theobromine, has a stimulant effect on the brain similar to that of caffeine.
Is it good for skin and hair? Yes, it is. The flavonols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage. Also hair.
Can it help lose weight? A small square bite can give you the I-am-full feel, eventually reducing the amount of food you eat in your next meal.
Does it make you feel good? Yes, chocolate is a mood-enhancer and a romance-inducer.
However, chocolate should be consumed in moderation. Here’s why. It contains sugar, which increases risk of heart diseases.
Besides, dark chocolate contains more caffeine, which can result in a fast heart rate, anxiety, depression and difficulty sleeping.
The feel-good hormone that the process of eating chocolate begets, may go off production, which, in turn, results in an addiction of sorts – looking for chocolate fixes to reproduce that feel-good feel.
Exercise caution while consuming chocolate. Don’t over-indulge. Also, do not fall for reports that glorify chocolate as a cure-all – for autism, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, ageing and what have you.
Before you indulge make sure the chocolate has a low sugar content and prefer a dark chocolate over white. Above all, moderation is the key and do keep in mind your age and weight.