How Chocolate Works

Chocolate and You
Wonder if she's tempted to lick off that chocolate face mask?
Wonder if she's tempted to lick off that chocolate face mask?
Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

Because our love of chocolate is so strong, we've started using it in some unusual ways. Just a few quirky chocolate products on the market include chocolate-flavored toothpaste, chocolate-scented perfume and chocolate facial products. Chocolate toothpaste sounds like a great idea for kids who don't like the strong, minty flavors of adult toothpaste or the other flavors of kids' toothpastes, which seem to be limited to things like fruit and bubblegum. Some studies have shown that cocoa extract may be even better at fighting cavities than fluoride.

Personally, I don't understand wanting to simply smell like chocolate without eating it, but chocolate health and beauty products are a growing trend. Not only do they incorporate the aromatherapy aspect (with the smell of chocolate possibly lifting your mood), but some people believe that the antioxidant properties that might make chocolate healthy could also reduce wrinkles and sun damage. Chocolate does contain vitamins and minerals, and cocoa butter is a moisturizer present in lots of different beauty products already. There's not much proof on whether a chocolate facial is better for you than any other kind, but it just sounds decadent to put chocolate on your body instead of in your belly.

But let's get back to the real reason why you're reading this article -- eating chocolate. Since we love it so much, it shouldn't surprise you that numerous studies have been conducted on chocolate's impact on us. It definitely has some mood-elevating benefits, thanks to the theobromine, caffeine and other compounds (including one that's similar to the high-inducing chemical in marijuana) that make us feel alert, euphoric, and happy. Despite its Valentine's Day association, though, it's not been proven to be an aphrodisiac. There's also evidence indicating that it may be good for us in other ways -- compounds called flavonoids can decrease your risk of heart disease and other illnesses. Here's the catch, though: only if you eat small amounts of very dark chocolate.

I don't know about you, but when I next savor that spicy bite of boutique chocolate or just scarf down a square of milk chocolate, maybe I'll think about it differently -- how it grew on an ugly little tree somewhere near the Equator, the people who may have harvested it and all of the complicated processes it went through before winding up in my greedy little hand.

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