American Chocolate Week

Everyone has a sweet tooth of some sort. It really gets down to business in the fall, with the onset of halloween chocolate goodies, followed by a couple of months full of holiday treats. Not long after that comes our Valentine's Day love affair with all things chocolate, which, of course the Chocolate Easter Bunny returns in April.

But what about March? Green beer on St. Patty's Day just won't soothe the sweet cravings.

Don't worry, there doesn't have to be a chocolate drought. That's right - the third week of March is "American Chocolate Week." All over the States, chocolate stores are having sales and giveaways; many factories that are usually closed to the public will open their doors during this week to give free tours and samples.

But don't get on that treadmill until you hear this: Eating chocolate every day can be ... healthy?!

We've long since known that chocolate contains those healthy things called antioxidants, but now, researchers have discovered a long list of other potential health benefits.

A recent study in the Netherlands showed that eating the equivalent of one-third of a chocolate bar every day could lower blood pressure and also reduce the risk of death by up to 50%.

Chocolate also contains three chemicals that are good for your brain, and can make you feel better.

  1. Anandamine: can extend your feelings of happiness and make you laugh more often.
  2. Phenylethylamine: raises blood pressure and blood sugar levels just enough to make you more alert, and gives you that "love" feeling.
  3. Theobromine: similar to caffeine. It causes relaxation, but also acts as a stimulant by increasing your brain activity.

All that in a piece of a chocolate bar? Yup - and eating dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate will give you an even stronger effect. Some companies, such as Mars Inc., are starting to take note of these new studies and market healthier products.

But don't let the hype completely fool you. Chocolate can be healthy - if kept in moderation. Eating too much of the good stuff (as with all good stuff) can lead to obesity, which causes more health problems than all the chocolate in the world could combat.

So when the Easter Bunny comes to town, maybe ask him to leave a carrot or two in amongst the chocolate? After all, there's still another six months until the Halloween sugar-rush starts again ...
EOT;