Chocolate. Sweet, smooth, milky chocolate. Just its description can evoke a craving or, at the very least, a fleeting, almost nostalgic dream state. Marketing companies have done much to augment this, but there’s more to our sinful relationship than a gorilla playing the drums to an audio bed featuring the hip n happening tunes of Mr P. Collins esq. (or even the temptuous bath overflow with, “Only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate” stimulating your senses – Cadbury’s really do know their stuff)
So why do we crave chocolate? Well, quite simply, we can look at it from an evolutionary point of view. For millions of years our ancestors sought out sugar-rich and fat-heavy (excuse the pun) foods as human lives were energy intensive and dietarily scarce. To this day indiginous people climb to perilous heights and semi-smoke bees out of their hives to collect the nectarous bounty. Getting stung hundreds of times whilst clinging to a branch 50 feet up a tree is some compulsion. It’s going to take more than 100 years to change this instinct.
To compound our instinctive need for all that’s bad, chocolate also contains a few added extras:
- A goup of stimulant phytochemicals (including caffeine, for many the world’s most addivtive drug) keep you alert…along with the sugar hit.
- The chemical phenyl-ethylamine, whilst causing migranes in those susceptible, has amphetamine like properties that facilitate a rise endorphine levels – the body’s pain killing, love feeling, orgasm having, opiate like helping hand (again, no pun intended) | Source: Wikipedia
Now the small amounts of these chemicals are too small in isolation to cause addiction. I am unaware of
chocolate being a gateway drug nor have I ever seen Louis Theroux visit any chocolate dens in Compton, L.A., asking the inhabitants how much the street value of that Rowntrees Rolo is or even why that last one is so darn important. Jay Z never rhymed about selling “Maltesers and Mars to put rims on my cars” in his early years although, admittedly, Biggy may have been getting high off his own supply. Our brains are, nevertheless, clever enough to pick up on these minute changes to the body’s chemical and hormonal levels and, added to taste and texture, we are likely to repeat the behaviour accordingly. Even WC Fields muses, “I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake–which I also keep handy.” Enough said.
Psychologically then, this explains why chocolate is deemed a “comfort” food. When we are in shock we are given sweet tea, the sugar being the key to calming the brain’s unease. Supporting the “chocolate is addictive / causes cravings” argument however, are the feelings of guilt and regret after a chocolate binge. In the recesses of our minds I think we know that, come noon on Easter morning, Brian’s mum was right, we are very naughty boys / girls:
- Chocolate is calorie dense with twice as much bang for your buck as a Macdonald’s hamburger – 100g provides 526 Kcals against 253 Kcals in the drive through you shouldn’t go to!
- 50% of those calories are from fat with little being the Flora kind. It’s mostly saturated and equipped with a sat nav to make finding your hips, stomach, thighs etc that little bit easier.
- The hefty amount of calories involved are empty. No vitamins or minerals in milk chocolate per Kcal and no fibre at all.
The upshot is what you always knew – moderation. But knowing what to do is different to knowing why to do it, and hopefully the above goes someway to explaining this. Scale it down, treat yourself once a week, perhaps on a Sunday, whilst watching that Pixar movie by yourself.