I'm a freelance writer living on the Sunshine Coast.
Published March 8th 2015
For many people, eating chocolate is a daily love affair. Some chocaholics swear they can't live without it. Others only partake occasionally with the odd chocolate dessert or celebration cake. There's no denying chocolate is indulgent and stimulates the senses. It is also considered by some to be an aphrodisiac. Why? Because chocolate is known to contain two brain chemicals: tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, involved in feelings of pleasure; and phenylethylamine, a chemical involved in the neurochemistry of love. So chocolate, it seems, is also nature's antidepressant. If eating chocolate alters our brain chemistry and puts us in a good mood, that would explain why my mother-in-law is always grumpy! She doesn't like chocolate!
Apart from being a mood elevator, I'm sure you are wondering if there are any other health benefits to eating chocolate? The answer is yes. Dark chocolate is good for your cardiovascular health. The flavanols in dark chocolate have antioxidant properties. But not all chocolate is good for you. Stuffing your face full of chocolate truffles isn't wise if you are watching your weight. Research shows raw chocolate/cacao is a superfood because it has one of the highest levels of antioxidants (about 10% of flavanol antioxidants to be exact). Eating raw cacao contains the maximum nutrition and health benefits compared to heavily processed chocolate. It also has the effect of suppressing your appetite. So forget snacking on sweet milk chocolates. If you want to feel good and lose weight at the same time, sprinkle some raw cacao in your smoothie instead. Chocolate also contains theobromine - a chemical that has a similar, but lesser, effect to caffeine in the human nervous system. Theobromine acts to widen the blood vessels and is used to treat high blood pressure. The scientific name of the cacao plant (Theobroma cacao) literally means "food of the gods." Which gods you ask? The Aztec gods!
Absolutely nothing compares to the taste and texture of good quality couverture chocolate. In fact chocolate is so special that the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors mention cocoa beans used by the Aztecs as a form of currency to pay taxes. Of course we are all grateful to Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortés, who first discovered and brought the Aztec cocoa beans to Spain in 1528. Since then, chocolate has become a quintessential part of Spanish life, later influencing Italy and France. Now everyone around the globe is enjoying the magnificence that is chocolate. Just look at the supermarket shelves in the confectionary isle and you will see row upon row of tempting, mouth-watering chocolate blocks. Every type of chocolate is now available including nut-free, dairy-free, organic, vegan, and raw. Forget gingerbread houses, I would much prefer building a chocolate house or two ... make that a chocolate city! Or what about my own chocolate Easter parade floating down the hall atop my son's motorised Christmas train. Now there's an idea for Easter!
I'm sure you remember eating too many chocolate Easter eggs as a kid? Hmmm, that was an interesting lesson in the need for moderation! Easter eggs are fun for the kiddies and who can resist a cute chocolate bilby? But for adults, nothing hits the chocolate spot like a visit to a chocoloteria or chocolate bar. There are many small chocolatier shops sprinkled all over this wide, brown country. But the four most well known in Australia are San Churro, Max Brennar, Lindt Chocolate Cafe and Oliver Brown. My favourite is San Churro. What an extravagant and sensuous experience it is to visit one of these chocolate shrines:
For about $4 you can even pick up a healthy cacao bar to treat yourself the next time you shop at Coles, who stock Green & Blacks and now Willie's Cacao.
The newest chocolate shop to open on the Sunshine Coast is 16 Degrees Chocolate at 9/21 Sunshine Beach Rd, Noosa Heads.
Here you will find mouthwatering handmade chocolates, delectable fudge, coffee, hot chocolate, cacao tea, and gourmet lunch platters.
With the huge array of chocolate and cacao products on the market today, I'm sure you'll agree that chocolate is more than a treat. It's a way of life. The best thing is, you don't have to wait for Easter to enjoy a tantalising, mood-enhancing, cup of dark, rich, couverture chocolate. You can visit your favourite chocolate cafe all year round!