Legend has it that in the Aztec paradise there was no more beautiful tree than whose fragrant blossoms culminated in the colorful cocoa fruit and its widely acclaimed beans. This softly shiny wonder crop is said to have grown naturally in the shade of the tropical rainforest for more than 4000 years. And to this day, this so-baptized “divine food” continues to enrapture all our senses, and our minds invariably.
It must be said that chocol’ha , the chocolate drink brewed by the Maya, was extremely bitter. And that exceptional gift to the taste buds was the exclusive privilege of the king and the noble class. They believed that cocoa was a true gift from nature: the secret source and basis for a long, healthy and energetic life. However, some of its unique powers and qualities were instantly lost when the first navigators began to import the bean to Spain by boat. The original c hocol’ha was adapted to European tastes by – of course – adding sugar.
Chocolate – and there is absolutely no doubt about it – is a feast for our brains. But unlike, literally and figuratively, popularly suggested, it is not a panacea for – or against – sadness. According to a study conducted at the University of Minnesota, eating, for comfort or for any other reason, has no statistically significant mood-elevating effect compared to simply the passage of time itself. Yet – as the following examples show – chocolate does affect us in all sorts of areas.
Chocolate, and its enticing aroma
For most people, the almost irresistible appeal of chocolate appears to be neuronally rooted in their emotional brain. So much so that marketing experts informed by brain scientists advise companies to deliberately take advantage of this fact by spreading a subtle chocolate scent in their locations.
- For example, a team of psychologists at the University of Hasselt in Belgium proved that a bookstore could boost its sales by 20% just by diffusing a chocolate-infused perfume every half hour.
- Sooner or later, most stores will have to deal with visually and aurally saturated customers, who are becoming increasingly desensitized to their standard eye-and-ear strategies. Nowadays, the smell of chocolate is a lot more effective.
- Luxury boutiques started putting down and lighting special chocolate scented candles years ago. In this way they create – in a sophisticated way – a very pleasant atmosphere for us and for our mind, so that we spend more time in their showrooms, and actually spend more money there.
Just notice how deadly effective such “smell flirting” is against olfactory naive customers. The underlying explanation for this is both simple and undiminishedly fascinating: the so-called olfactory neuronal pathway, and the nerve cell networks that regulate our emotions, are intimately linked, and intertwined. The smell of chocolate is therefore one of the most prominent stimuli in the realm of emotions.
Chocolate decorates our emotional brain
Chocolate is not the ultimate remedy for depression, nor does it make you live longer, but it does have a lot of benefits. If you want to maximize the natural healing potential of cocoa – including its flavonoids, vitamins and serotonin precursors – it ‘s always better to choose dark, dark chocolate, which also has less sugar in it.
If chocolate captivates you and wraps it around its fingers, it’s not only because of its exquisite taste, but above all because it arouses positive emotions – including euphoria – and evokes memories. Our brains love to ruminate on the good, old, golden times, and coincidentally or not, chocolate often comes to the fore in the theater of our memory:
- Your grandmother’s homemade chocolate cake
- Your chocolate snack after school
- A chocolate birthday cake or treat
- Drinking a hot cup of chocolate milk with your loved one on a rainy afternoon
- Sunny summer evenings on the beach with melting chocolate ice cream on your tongue
- A box of chocolates with strawberries, during a romantic night…
During the most intimate and cherished moments of our lives , chocolate is remarkably often the gustatory guest of honor. Even the pickiest mouths will spontaneously start to water when they remember, or imagine, how (fantastic) it tastes. This is partly due to the endorphins produced by the brain’s reward system satisfying the inside, and partly with the diepgezetelde association between chocolate’s comforting taste experience, and the corresponding incised moments of happiness in our memory saved of.
Chocolate itself contains no ingredients or nutrients that, one-on-one, make sadness disappear. Rather, it is an efficient, expressive, and unerring mediator between positive emotions on the one hand, and our deepest desires on the other.