I have not always been one of the biggest chocaholic, as I’m sure lots of you are. My taste for chocolate didn’t begin before a friend that wanted to apologies brought me the most delicious Icelandic ‘PIPP’ as he knew I liked peppermint. I was a vegetarian back then and this is where my journey became interlinked with the gorgeous cacao. Today my taste buds have gone towards very dark chocolate, preferably raw chocolate and the little PIPP bar is long gone. I’m sure you can relate to the feeling of comfort or even excitement when you are about to tuck into some delicious chocolates on your own, or sharing it with a friend or loved ones. Then again, most of us don’t even need much to get excited about eating chocolate. We were nibbling and gnawing on it long before research proved that there are profound health benefits in eating chocolate.
But where does chocolate come from, then? The treat that we love so much, chocolate, comes from the cacao tree. These cacao trees are delicate plants that live in the understory of tropical forests and require other, taller trees to shelter them from wind and sun. These petite trees top out at 60 feet tall in the wild (although most grow only 20 to 40 feet high), shielded from wind and sun by hardwoods and other trees that stretch as high as 200 feet.
If you love chocolate, like I do, have you then ever wondered why chocolate can be so addictive, apart from its rich sweet lingering taste? Well, it has to do with your brain chemistry and brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. What are neurotransmitters? They act like messengers or little power-brokers that run around in our brain telling the body what to do. They orchestrate our moods, influence our thought patterns, and affect our energy levels, states of alertness, concentration and drowsiness.
So what does chocolate and neurotransmitters have in common? Chocolate affects the brain by causing the release of certain neurotransmitters, which can actually trigger emotions, one of which is euphoria — perhaps that's why it is so desirable after all.
As we mentioned above, chocolate comes from cacao. Cacao contains over 300 compounds including: protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium. Magnesium helps to build strong bones and is a muscle relaxant associated with feelings of calmness. Cacao is also high in sulfur, which helps form strong nails and hair.
Cacao also contains the chemicals phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical that we create naturally when we’re excited. It also plays a role in feeling focused and alert because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when we are excited or fall in love.
Scientifically, raw cacao has plenty of chemical constituents, such as caffeine, purine, magnesium, theobromine, calcium, riboflavin, salsolinol, valine, xylose, thamine, plus many more.
Theobromine and magnesium are the two mineral constituents that we are going to touch upon.
Theobromine makes up one to 2% of the cacao bean. It is one of the greatest constituents of cacao and in itself considered to be a stimulant. Its effect is caffeine-like and similar to tea. Even though theobromine itself does not have caffeine, the stimulation of the heart and nervous system that it causes acts like caffeine. This ingredient is used to make all chocolate, especially dark chocolate. It is toxic and unsafe to eat for dogs. Why? Because it can cause a cardiac arrest since dogs don’t have the enzymes necessary to metabolise quantities of theobromine in excess of 100-150 mg per kilogram of the dog’s body weight.
Additionally, some people even find that it affects them the way caffeine might affect them at night times. After a few hours of consuming theobromine, it leaves a lasting effect, which decreases liver enzymes by up to 50%. This is a reason why it had been used to treat high blood pressure.
Raw cacao is the number one source of magnesium of any food. This is likely the primary reason women crave chocolate during the menstrual period.
Magnesium is key for relaxation, maintaining and healing of the muscles throughout the entire body. Magnesium fights acid buildup, neutralises toxins, calms sensitivity to pain, quiets nerves, builds strong bones and teeth and is essential for many other functions.
Not only does magnesium play a major role in the body’s energy levels but it is also involved in balancing of brain chemistry, which is important for a healthy, happy outlook on life.
The magnesium found in cacao has many functions in the body and plays an essential role in the breakdown of carbohydrates, protein and fats into energy. It works alongside enzymes in the stomach to produce stomach acid that helps break down your food. Magnesium also plays a great part in bile production in your liver; bile in turn helps digest fats and cholesterol.
A deficiency in magnesium can lead to muscle spasms, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, migraines, osteoporosis, and cerebral infarction. Magnesium may actually be more important than calcium if you are going to consider supplementing. However, maintaining an appropriate calcium-to-magnesium ratio is important regardless.
“You don’t hear much about magnesium, yet eighty percent of Americans are estimated to be deficient in this important mineral and the health consequences of deficiency are significant. One reason could be because magnesium, like vitamin D, serves so many functions it's hard to corral,” says Dr. Jospeh Mercola, medicine proponent and osteopathic physician.
YUUGA Kemistri is running a new Raw Chocolate and Christmas Desserts from 7th November until 31st December 2015.