Discover the many ways to be enticed by chocolate’s magic
Just by its Latin name suggests—Theobroma cacao or “the food of the gods”—chocolate has held our love and fascination for centuries as a substance that transcends mere deliciousness. In its purer forms it is bitter but pleasantly so, with a rich, earthy but floral perfume, and grows luxuriously creamier the paler it gets. Unlike vanilla or caramel which can be just a one-sided sweetness, chocolate delivers complexity as its profile changes depending on how it is prepared. Simply, our love for it is evident by the global consumption of cocoa beans is around 3 million tonnes per year.
Now Valentine’s Day approaches, the certainty looms that it will be up in everyone’s faces once more. Yes, we know chocolates isn’t the most groundbreaking of gifts and one might even dismiss it as a tad expected. Although, think about it: has anyone breathed a word of complaint when gifted with a lovely bit of this magical stuff? Nope, not one. An abundance of chocolate has never hurt anybody. In fact, it is preferred because in that case all of it is simply stored in the fridge for a later date as the best insurance against a bad day.
But what is it about chocolate that we love it so?
Mood & food
Chocolate seems to be innately created with a formula for attraction. Amino acids in cocoa were found to trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, two neurotransmitters that regulate mood. In other words, eating chocolate produces feelings of pleasure, ease, as well as a desire to have more. If anything, these are akin to feelings of infatuation, giving the association between the two things some weight.
And because the typical forms of chocolate that we encounter generally involves sugar—such as candies or desserts—the effect is actually multiplied, as sugar is similarly capable of spiking serotonin and dopamine levels, lending to a very elevated pleasure when having such treats. But this is the point where caution must be raised as high levels of sugar may lead to a vicious addictive cycle. Taking excessive amounts of sugar out of the equation not only lets chocolate’s more refined nuances in flavour shine, it also helps its natural benefits to stand on its own.
A little square a day…
When Guinness Book of World Records named Jeanne Calment the oldest person ever, there was plenty of wonder over her diet which. Calment proudly announced that she lived long and well by eating plenty of olive oil and 2 pounds of chocolate per week.
So, is chocolate the real fountain of youth? Researchers are quick to point out that there are more things at play besides the centenarian’s appetite for the dark stuff. But with what chocolate can offer for your health, indulging in a bit every day seems like a good idea.
To start, cocoa—the solid, non-fat component of chocolate—contains flavonols. This chemical has been noted to reduce blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow, and so contributes to lower heart disease and stroke risks when taken in the long run. Flavonols, as antioxidants, are also capable of fighting off inflammation and protect against cellular oxidation, which are a factor in some types of cancer. Additionally, because chocolate stimulates the reward and pleasure centers of the brain, eating it enhances mental functions by reducing stress and improving mood, memory, and cognition.
These benefits may sound pretty good but they are mostly derived from the dark part of chocolate. Other additives such as dairy, sugars, and unhealthy fats can pretty quickly make the treat rather unhealthy. Read the label to see if a bar or product contains 70% cacao solids or higher to get the most nutritional value from this superfood. This means that milk chocolate or white chocolate, delicious as they are, do not belong in your daily chocolate rations. Eating no more than an ounce of chocolate each day is the general recommendation. 
Beyond the bar
The main lesson is one shouldn’t just stick to store-bought candies and cakes if the goal is to benefit from having chocolate, either for yourself or if treating someone with it. The good news is there is a great number of recipes out there that explore dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and raw cocoa nibs. We’re listing down a few ideas that one should include in your mindful eating repertoire.
Morning drink: Hazelnut Mocha Latte
Ingredients: ¾ cup Borges Natura Hazelnut Drink, 2 tbsp. dark chocolate chips, ½ tbsp. espresso powder, ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp. vanilla extract, liquid stevia to taste
Procedure: Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. As it reaches a simmer, add the chocolate and whisk until it melts. Add in the other ingredients, whisk briefly until combined and serve hot.
Perfect gift: Chocolate & Olive Oil Truffles
- 455 grams 60-62% dark chocolate, chopped finely
- 11 tablespoons (155 grams) unsalted butter, chopped finely
- 2/3 cup (145 grams) Borges Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 pinches of fine sea salt
- About 1/3 cup (30 grams) pure cocoa powder
- Zest from 1 orange
- Prepare an 8 x 8 in. container by lining it with foil.
- Combine the chocolate, butter, olive oil and salt in a glass or metal bowl. Set this bowl over a pot of barely simmering water (without the water touching the bowl’s bottom), and let the chocolate melt, stirring gently until everything is smooth and uniform. Pour into the prepared container, cover with foil, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Put the cocoa powder in another bowl. Invert the chilled chocolate on a clean chopping board and cut it up into small squares. Toss the squares in the cocoa, then top with orange zest. Keep refrigerated until serving.
Decadent dessert: Chocolate Chia Pudding
- ¼ c Chia seeds
- ½ c Coconut Milk (canned)
- ½ c + 2 Tbsp Borges Natura Almond Drink (can be swapped for other variants)
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ¼ c Cocoa powder
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. Cacao nibs
- Chopped fruit (e.g. banana, berries)
- Except for the cacao nibs, put all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir well to combine. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then stir again before spooning into individual serving cups or ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap.
- Chill for at least 1 hour until overnight. When serving, top with pieces of chopped fruit and a sprinkling of cacao nibs.
A guideline for adapting recipes with chocolate is to see if you can replace any dairy (milk or cream) fully or partially with a plant-based milk that aligns in flavour with the other ingredients listed. For example, hazelnut and coffee go well with each other. Additionally, if sugar is called for, see if it can be swapped with sweeteners like stevia, monk’s fruit, coconut sugar, or pure honey—the first two are non-caloric sweeteners, while the latter are indeed forms of sugar, but have nutritive contents that are worthwhile.
It might take a bit more energy to come up with ways to balance eating chocolate for your health, but all the extra effort simply means one cares a little bit more. And doesn’t that make things a bit sweeter as well? Figuratively, of course.