by “ChefNurse” Ellen Minier, MSN, PMHNP-BC
Chocolate, often referred to as “the food of love” has been a Valentine’s Day staple since the turn of the century when Richard Cadbury is said to have designed the first heart-shaped box of chocolates. Long before then, the Aztecs and Mayans recognized that the cacao bean was quite potent and powerful. The Aztec ruler Montezuma was reported to drink 50 cups of a concoction made with cacao and spices to prepare himself for managing his harem of 600 women.
Historically, chocolate has been consumed and loved for thousands of years, but science has more recently revealed the appeal behind this dark, delicious substance. Chocolate consumption at least five times weekly has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of arterial plaques, and reduce the risk of heart disease by 57%. Even more surprising is the effect of chocolate on brain health
Dark chocolate consumption can improve depression, boost mood, and improve cognitive function such as memory, focus, and attention. Eating dark chocolate boosts production of endorphins, which bind to the opiate receptors in the brain, causing a feeling of euphoria. Tryptophan, a chemical building block of serotonin, which is another component of chocolate also helps boost mood and lead to feelings of happiness and well-being. It is reported that people who eat 1-2 ounces of dark chocolate have 70% less chance of reporting depression than those who don’t.
The flavonoids in chocolate are said to be responsible for increased blood flow to the brain, which in turn contributes to improved memory and attention span. Improved problem-solving skills and improved reaction time are also benefits of increased blood flow to the brain. People over 65 years of age who consume foods high in flavonoids such as chocolate have improved scores on cognitive exams. Caffeine in dark chocolate also plays an important role in focus and attention, and dark chocolate contains only about 60 mg of caffeine per ounce, which is relatively low compared to a cup of coffee. Enjoyed mindfully and in moderation, chocolate is a food that can be a wonderful benefit to both your heart and your brain.
Please enjoy the following simple recipe for a delicious liquid truffle infused with the warmth of ginger. Make it for someone you love!
From my heart to yours,
Dark Chocolate and Ginger Liquid Truffle for Two
3.5 ounces (about ¾ cup chopped) 70% dark chocolate
¾ cup heavy cream
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon crystalized ginger, finely chopped
In a small saucepan, gently heat the heavy cream and sliced ginger, swirling pan occasionally-do not boil. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Chop dark chocolate into small pieces and place in small bowl.
- Strain the warm cream mixture into the chopped chocolate, discarding the ginger slices and let stand for one minute.
- Whisk the cream and chocolate together until the mixture becomes homogenous.
- Serve in small demitasse cups and top with chopped crystalized ginger.
Enjoy with someone you love!
“I have been fortunate enough to have had 2 careers in my lifetime – psychiatry and culinary arts. I obtained my degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University in 1998 and worked as a chef for many years. When I became a mother, I was inspired to go back to school and began my path to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Even though I left the professional world of cooking behind, I still absolutely love creating delicious and beautiful meals for my friends and family. I am so excited to share with you how food and mental wellness are connected to one another.”