Into Well Being, PC

Noel John M. Carrasco, M.D., FAAP

Pat Murphy Carrasco, BSN, MFA, CMHT

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Health Food That Is Food for The Gods

07 February 2007

By: Noel John M. Carrasco M.D.

An Historical Passion for Chocolate

The literal translation of the name given to the chocolate tree Theobroma cacao. The word Cacao appears it may be from the Mayan (Yucatec) word chacau haa meaning hot water or chocl for hot. Chocolate from a Maya word chokola'j meaning ' to drink chocolate together' (always a nice thought) , as early chocolate was consumed in beverage form.

Steeped in historical associations, many would agree it still is a gift of the Gods from South America. Chocolate is an exotic, aromatic, flavor with medicinal values derived from the seeds (beans) of the pod-like fruit. Its' history goes back to the precious beverage 'xocoatl' used by the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs as far back as 1500-400 BC, who considered that the beans came from paradise and would bring wisdom and knowledge. The Spaniards brought it back to Europe in 1544.

Casonova credited Cocoa for his famed charm, never left home without it. Lending it the association as a choice food on Valentines' day. Myths and tales have been spun around it. There are few foods that people feel as passionate about, and for many just the thought evokes a pleasurable response.

Health Benefits

It has become the world's most favorite food, loaded with potent plant phytochemicals. Cocoa helps counteract lactose intolerance by actually blocking the bloating and cramping experience by increasing the enzyme activity of lactase by 500-600%. It is full of more than 400 substances such as , the highest level of plant source polyphenol antioxidants, the same as found in grape skins (which inhibit free reactive tissue/cellular damaging molecules). Vitamins (vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin), minerals [Potassium,Magnesium,Cooper,Calcium, and Iron], weak stimulants (caffeine, and theobromine), Tryptophan, Seratonin, Phenylethylamine (related to amphetamines), and anadamide are also found in cocoa . These last three ingredients are neuro psychoactive compounds associated with good feelings and our ability to stay alert, as well as pay attention. They stimulate the same reaction in the body as 'falling-in-love'. This may explain some of the pleasurable effects of consuming chocolate.

Some studies have shown that women are more susceptible to the effects of phenylethylamine and serotonin than men. Just the exotic aroma of choclate stimulates the immune systems' production of secretory immunoglobulin A ( an important body antiviral defense).

A cup of hot cocoa is effective for curbing coughs. This elixir of the Gods has also been found to contain stearic acid (a fatty acid) which doesn't affect cholesterol, flavonoids that reduce the tendency of blood to clot. They also decrease the stickiness of platelets , as well as making the blood vessels more flexible, thus lowering the risk of a heart attack.

This doesn't show us yet that dark chocolate (70% at least) eaten on a regular basis would reduce the risk of heart disease. A typical dark chocolate bar contains significantly fewer calories and carbs than milk chocolate. We do know that eating too much can lead to weight gain, which might cancel out any beneficial effects.

Research suggests that chocolate should not be incriminated with causing acne, migraines, or cavities. Though for some it might aggravate nervous tension and anxiety due to the contained stimulants, since it contains high amounts of L-Arginine, it may also upset the balance with another amino acid Lysine which may promote an outbreak of Herpes. Aside from those concerns it is a really a healthy treat.

My preference is a single piece of high quality dark chocolate from Belgium, France, Madagascar, or Venezuela and from domestic brands of 70% or higher. Enjoy, and maybe, together with a significant other, add some eye candy as in the movies, 'Like Water for Chocolate' or 'Chocolat',

One of my favorite recipes: Castillian Thick Hot Chocolate


10-12 oz semisweet dark chocolate grated(if Cocoa powder unsweetened add some raw sugar)

2 1/4 cups water or milk

1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in a little cold water

Heat the grated chocolate with the water or milk in a saucepan. Stir to mix thorughly?When it comes to a light boil, add the dissolved cornstarch. Bring back to a low boil 2-3 times whisking vigorously and removing from the heat each time it starts to bubble to prevent the aromatic mixture from boiling over or burning. Ladle into cups. You may add a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon, some add only a dash of cayenne and a little real whipped cream. You may also try using a mix of semisweet and unsweetened cocoa. Enjoy!

Wishing you Health and Wellness,

Dr. C

If you have found this information helpful, email me at . I offer individual consultations providing the opportunity to be more specific and give you greater detail.

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