Don't Worry, Chocolate Won't Harm Your Valentine

      February 15, 2012 12:50

      Tuesday was Valentine's Day, which spells a boom time for chocolate vendors across the nation as many couples went on shopping sprees in a bid to show their partners how much they care.

      As couples exchanged cards, gifts and flowers, one of the biggest beneficiaries of their collective outpouring of emotion was the local confectionary industry, which reaps almost one-third of its annual sales in the month-long period surrounding Feb. 14 each year.

      Chocolate is known as a "comfort food" that gives people pleasure and puts a smile on their faces -- to the extent that some become addicted to it. But scientists say that, even though it contains so-called "feel good" ingredients, the feelings of happiness associated with chocolate are largely psychological.

      From a pharmacological perspective, chocolate contains certain cannabinoids, or psychoactive compounds that trigger receptors in the brain and which are also found in cannabis. But the amount is so small that it is not harmful to the human body.

      Chocolate also contains caffeine, albeit only one third as much as coffee, and theobromine, a bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant that is known to have a relaxing effect.

      Phenolic antioxidants, which kill free radicals and are good for health, are also found in chocolate. It contains some unhealthy saturated fat from cocoa butter -- but our bodies soon convert it into beneficial unsaturated fat.

      If you are mindful of your diet, check the ingredients of chocolate products to figure out the amounts of cocoa and sugar it contains. There is still no need to feel guilty about the occasional indulgence -- or in treating your loved one to the odd box.

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