Word Wisdom: Chocolate – MooseJawToday.com
The latest inspiring column from Reverend Dr. John Kreutzwieser
As I write this column, I am finishing some of the Christmas chocolates I have received from Santa in my stocking. One of my favorites is the chocolate coated ginger. Chocolates are often given as gifts for various occasions. A quick internet search reveals many potential benefits of chocolate: improved cognitive performance, linked to a lower risk of stroke, healthy skin and, as an added bonus, consuming chocolate makes you feel better. Even the Mayo Clinic claims that chocolate appears to reduce risk factors for heart disease. The flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage involved in heart disease. Studies indicate that dark chocolate is more beneficial for your health than milk chocolate. Unfortunately, most commercial chocolates contain ingredients that also add large amounts of fat, sugar, and calories.
The word “chocolate” entered the English language from Spain. Spanish “chocolate” is derived from Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) in central Mexico. Chocolate, an alteration of chikolatl, comes from a combination of chikolli (which means hook) and atl (which means water). This describes the beater used to make chocolate from cocoa beans and water. The word “chocolate” in English dates from around 1604 to describe a drink made by mixing ground roasted cocoa beans with water. Cocoa is a fatty seed from a South American evergreen tree that is found in pods containing 30 to 50 beans each.
In the distant past, chocolate was a revered bitter tasting drink that provided a caffeinated kick, whether hot or cold. Evidence was found around 1500 BC. in Central and South America, the drink version, not a sweet treat. In Mayan societies, chocolate was often served with every meal. It was a thick frothy drink mixed with chili peppers or honey. The Aztecs even used cocoa beans as a bargaining chip. Spain began importing cocoa beans in 1585. Eventually, Europeans added cane sugar, cinnamon, and other spices to flavor the bitter drink.
In 1828, Coenraad van Houten discovered a way to treat cocoa beans with alkaline salts to make powdered chocolate, called “Dutch cocoa”. JS Fry created the chocolate bar in 1847 from a paste of sugar, chocolate liqueur and cocoa butter. In 1876 Daniel Peter added dried powdered milk to the mixture to create Swiss milk chocolate. Still, the product was still hard to chew. It was not until 1879 that Rudolf Lindt aerated the chocolate mixture, giving it a melt-in-the-mouth consistency.
A study in 1966 showed that chocolate caused the release of endorphins in the brain, making people happy. Chocolate contains several compounds associated with chemicals that improve mood in the brain. One is phenylethylamine, a natural antidepressant and one of the chemicals your brain produces when you fall in love. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in small amounts in chocolate, is linked to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of happiness. But most of these compounds are only present in small amounts in chocolate, and scientists say they’re probably almost completely digested before they reach the brain. Rather, it may be the experience of eating chocolate and satisfying a craving for food that releases endorphins and “feelings of happiness” more than the contents of the chocolate itself.
The Washington Post ran an article, “Why Chocolate Really Is The Secret To Happiness” by Simon Cotton in 2014. He wrote, “The fatty triglycerides in cocoa butter can stack in six different ways, each resulting in a point different fusion. Only one of these shapes has the correct melting point of about 34 degrees, so it “melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” Crystallizing the chocolate to give this shape is the product of very meticulous chocolate engineering. Perhaps the happiness factor lies in the pleasure of the melt-in-the-mouth experience.
As this Covid pandemic continues on and on, we all need a little bit of happiness to deal with the constantly changing rules and restrictions and regulations. Why not have some chocolate?
Columnist John Kreutzwieser loves to search for words and writes this weekly Word Wisdom column for Moose Jaw Express / MooseJawToday.com. He is interested in the use, origin and relevance of words for today’s society. Greek and Latin form the basis of many words, with ancient Hebrew highlighting the use of words.
John would like to know if anyone is genuinely interested in a relevant word that they could possibly research for an upcoming column. If so, please send your inquiries to [email protected] Words will be selected according to relevance and search criteria. We cannot confirm that all words will be used.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.