Secrets of Dark Chocolate
Dr. Linda Karges-Bone
It was used as a currency. It was the stuff of legend and a staple in trade. Pastry chefs make their fortunes with it and mixed with milk, it is the ultimate comfort beverage…chocolate. But did you know that chocolate is actually a brain food? In fact, one nurse who had worked in Germany told me that instead of writing a prescription for mild anxiety or depression, doctors may choose to recommend “mood foods” and daily exercise, and the “mood foods” include dark chocolate. Forget the too sweet milk chocolate, it is good for the taste buds, but it won’t give you a cognitive boost! All of the research on the benefits of chocolate centers on dark, bitter chocolate. Did you know that?
* One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than any other fruits tested, which included blueberries and acai berries.
*There is a National “Chocolate Day” in November and a National Chocolate Ice Cream Day in June?
*Americans eats 11 pounds of chocolate per year, making us only the 8th larges consumer of chocolate in the world. We can’t keep up with our Swiss friends, who consume 21 pounds per year!
*A two-ounce piece of chocolate can be fatal to a dog because it can not digest one compound in chocolate called theobromine. Chocolate can also make some small children sick for the same reason.
*Dark chocolate is an antioxidant that traps free radicals and can help prevent disease?
*Dark chocolate boosts mood with they same chemical found in marijuana? Yep. Minute amounts of cannaboids help you to get that soothing chocolate high!
*Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a chemical related to amphetamines that raises blood pressure and blood-sugar. You may feel more alert and content because of this!
*Chocolate is for “lovers” because it causes your pulse rate to rise, those phenylethylamines again!
*A Harvard study showed that dark chocolate eaters live a year longer than those who do not indulge.
*Heart patients can benefit from the flavenols in dark chocolate that help to dilate blood vessels.
In fact, Dr. Alan Drewnowski at the University of Michigan researched whether or not dark chocolate could trigger the production of opioids in the brain. Guess what? It can. Opioids are those chemicals found in Opium, which trigger feelings of euphoria….feeling really good!
The researchers found that eating dark chocolate releases opioids in the brain, leading to feelings of well being.
So, there you have it. A bit of history and neuroscience about chocolate. How might activity directors harness the secrets of dark chocolate in their work?
- The simple, yet eerily accurate “Chocolate Personality Quiz” featured in the box below is a staple for activity directors and team building professionals. Each participant chooses his or her favorite mini chocolate bar and then the “secrets” are revealed.
- Then, encourage verbal exchange by pairing clients or students and having them describe how the selected chocolate and related analysis “fits” or not.
- Chocolate bars have taken on their own personalities in our culture. Ask participants to “finish the sentence” with the name of a popular chocolate bar. You can even give away a bar as a prize!
- The taste is “Out of this world”…a ________bar.
- This chocolate bar’s name rhymes with spackle.
- Think of the 3 Amigos ________________.
- If you want to turn a bad boy around, give him a ____________.
- Pick up a bar that honors a president’s daughter_________.
- Another word for giggling is a ___________.
- Savor a bar named after a town in Pennsylvania.____________.
- If you are feeling a kind of nutty euphoria it must be an_________.
Answers to Questions:
- Build listening skills and evoke good energy with a chocolate themed book: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. One might read a chapter each day and then wrap up with a special event such as renting a video or DVD of the original movie. Serving hot chocolate or chocolate milk and chocolate cookies could be fun for this event, or if the situation permits, make an excursion of it and take in the new film starring Johnny Depp and make a stop for a fancy chocolate torte or a flavored latte.
- Fill a jar with chocolate eggs and have participants estimate how many are in the jar. Write the guess-timates on slips of paper with individual’s names and then count them out together. This is good for auditory memory. The person who comes closest to the correct amount “wins” the jar to take home!
- Invite participants to create a wrapper for a new chocolate bar that advertises its brain friendly qualities. What textures, tastes, and treats will they put into their creations? You can do this with craft supplies or drawing tools on iPads for the technology touch.
- Build critical thinking skills with another piece of children’s literature that is cunning and useful for stimulating thinking is A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, by the late television “Munster” turned author, Fred Gwynne. This friendly book reminds us of the correct use of homonyms and idioms, a good practice for brains that need some flexibility!
Activity directors look for unique ways to stimulate their participants’ brains and senses and concurrently need strategies to increase their own focus and creativity. Dark chocolate may be that “brain tonic”…accessible, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable…the perfect addition to one’s activity table.
You can use the following “Miniature Personality Test” that harnesses the appeal of tasty, tactile miniature candy bars to get participants thinking about how a particular chocolate bar reveals an element of personality. Put a bag of Hersheys™ Miniatures and a bag of Chocolate kisses into a basket and instruct each participant to select the one kind of candy that is their favorite. Once each person has selected a piece, read aloud from the personality test below. Amid the laughter that is sure to follow, ask participants if the assessments are close to the truth. The results are often surprisingly on target!
A “Miniature” Personality Test
After choosing your favorite miniature chocolate bar, use the following to analyze what the choice says about your personality!
“Krackle”….You are fun-filled, full of life, love to laugh, don’t take life too seriously.
“Mr. Goodbar”….You are a goody two-shoes, always follow the rules, do the “right thing”, strive for approval.
“Special Dark”…. You are a deep, mysterious individual, have many facets which no one person may ever really fathom.
“Hershey Bar”….You are the “All American” type, like baseball, hot dogs, shopping, your mom, and CAN make apple pie!
“Hershey Kiss”…You crave affection, love to snuggle, are nurturing, the touchy-feely type.
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com
For more information:
Human Nutrition Program
School of Public Health
University of Michigan
1420 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Chocolate Manufacturers Association
7900 W. Park Drive, Suite A320
McLean, VA 22102
http://www.education-world.com/a_lesson/TM/WS_candi_chocolate.shtml For more activities
The Science of “Love”: Why We Love Chocolate