The creamy sensation of melted chocolate is an enticing thought. Rich and luxurious with each and every bite, the sweet flavor fills your mouth—and hopefully doesn’t melt in your hand. This feel-good treat has many therapeutic benefits, and it also is believed to elevate sexual desire as an aphrodisiac—although it only contains small amounts of a mild mood elevator called phenylethylamine. The smell of chocolate actually may relax you by releasing endorphins.
Processed chocolate, especially milk chocolate, is high in calories because it is made with sugar. However, the treat also contains protein, riboflavin, calcium and iron, and is chock-full of flavonoids, which are naturally occurring compounds found in fruits, vegetables, red wine and tea. The cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that also is found in olive oil and may raise high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, otherwise known as “good cholesterol.” Adding nuts, such as almonds and peanuts, increases the nutrient content of the treat as well.
In the kitchen
Chocolate often is the key ingredient in many sweets, from drinks to cakes and everything else in between. Dipped fruits are popular, such as chocolate-covered strawberries, and ice cream sundaes look naked without a little chocolate syrup. Spas around the world include chocolate on their dessert menus. Royal Parc Evian in Evian-Les-Bains, France, features Guaraja Chocolate Cream—a rich baked cream served with grated white chocolate. The Chocolate Chip Cookies found at the Golden Door in Escondido, California, use prune purée as a nutritious alternative to butter. Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah, offers clients No Butter Brownies to satisfy their cravings. Or drizzle Nonfat Chocolate Sauce from Rancho La Puerta Spa Resort in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, to enhance any dish. See the recipe for Cocoa Seared Scallops With Burnt Orange Sauce, courtesy of The Spa at The Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania.