Belgafiles: Facts and misconceptions about Belgian chocolate
Belgian chocolate lovers rejoice – it's all good news. Paul Morris discovers and debunks myths about chocolate in Belgium.
It appears there are many misconceptions about Belgian chocolate, according to the Chocolate Museum in Bruges. Below are some Belgian chocolate facts you may not know about the dark stuff. If it's all true, chocoholics should be dancing in the cobbled streets. Here we reveal everything you need to know about Belgian chocolate.
> In bygone days chocolate was served to ladies of nobility during mass.
> The church banned the consumption of chocolate at one time because it was deemed to be an aphrodisiac (see Madame Du Barry, Moctezuma and Casanova below).
> The Aztec ruler Moctezuma drank up to 50 cups of spiced cacao every day, especially when he planned to visit his harem.
> Mrs du Barry gave her lovers drinking chocolate, so they could keep up with her.
> Casanova often used chocolate and champagne.
> There are more than 800 different constituents in chocolate.
> Chocolate does not raise your cholesterol level. A third of the fat in cacao butter is oleic acid, an unsaturated fat that is generally known as a cholesterol reducer. Cacao butter also contains saturated fat, but research has shown that around 40 percent of it is stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on cholesterol.
> Chocolate contains antioxidants (eg. polyphenols), which help prevent heart disease and cancer.
> Diabetics can put chocolate on the menu, and there are also many sugar-free chocolates; the intake of simple sugars (such as glucose and sacharose) should, however, be restricted and spread throughout the day to avoid unexpected rises in the blood sugar level.
> Chocolate does not cause liver failure and good-quality chocolate is digested within 30 minutes, unless consumed after a heavy meal.
> Chocolate does not cause constipation; on the contrary, it stimulates contraction of the muscles in the intestinal wall and promotes the intestinal transit.
> Chocolate is not addictive. Research has proven that while chocolate does contain substances related to substances in cannabis, you would have to eat 11 kilos of chocolate every day to get the same effect!
> Chocolate does not cause dental tooth decay. Like so many foodstuffs that contain sugar, chocolate can exacerbate existing tooth decay if your dental hygiene is not up to scratch. But cacao also contains substances that combat tooth decay, including tannic acid, which contains polyhydroxyphenol, phosphates and fluorine.
Belgian chocolate facts
A range of studies continue into the benefits of chocolate, with results suggesting that good chocolate – with a cocoa percentage of 70 percent or more – can:
- be beneficial for the heart, circulation, cholesterol and brain;
- can reduce the risk of stroke;
- provide minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium – for example, 100g of good dark chocolate provides almost 70 percent of recommended daily iron.
More specialised tests have led to further announcements that chocolate can also help weight loss (one square of chocolate on the tongue before eating supposedly suppresses appetite), improve insulin sensitivity, that is to say dark chocolate in moderation can hinder the onset of diabetes, and reduce stress in expectant mothers – and even produce more smiley babies.
At the very least, chocolate reportedly makes you feel good. It contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical your brain creates to release feel-good endorphins.
Madame Du Barry
She was a courtesan and the last official mistress of Louis XV. After the king's death, she was condemned to death for offering financial aid to émigrés who had fled the French Revolution. Just before her excution, it is claimed she said: "One moment more, Mr. Executioner, I beg you!" Or could that have been "one chocolate more"?
During his reign, the Aztec Empire reached its maximal size. It seems, rather unjustly, that nowadays 'Montezuma's Revenge' is a term used in Mexico for the diarrhea visitors often develop. Although all that cacao he ate ensured that he never suffered from constipation.
In his often racy Story of My Life, Casanova states: "I decided to put myself in a position where I need no longer go without the necessities of life: and what those necessities were for me no one could judge better than me..." Clearly we now know one of the bare necessities was chocolate.
Reprinted with permission of Belgafiles.
Paul Morris is a writer, editor and content strategist. Belgafiles.com aims quite simply to cover everything you need to know about Belgium, from cycling the streets of Brussels to Antwerp's strangest museum. Published 2012; updated 2017.
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