This is Your Brain on Chocolate

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Simply uttering those three syllables gives your taste buds a sense of anticipation. A feeling of pure satisfaction ensues once you indulge in it, and the experience concludes with an endorphin-induced relaxation of your being. Breathe in, savor in it, and breathe out…


Cacao Seeds (cocoa)

Cacao Seeds (cocoa)

The spectrum of hues and shades that the delicate, ground cacao seed creates when mixed with water or cream is truly opulent. Okay, so some people don’t like chocolate. If that’s the case for you, keep reading and use your newfound knowledge to benefit those who do.

Although, on a serious note, why do people like, yearn for, crave, and even love, chocolate?

Well for one, chocolate releases endorphins into your body which counteracts depression and reduces stress, which then in turn makes you, well, happy.

Medical chocolate? Ad from The California Miner's Almanac, 1864

Medical chocolate? Ad from The California Miner’s Almanac, 1864

In 2011, Dr. Gary Wenk stated in a Psychology Today article that chocolate contains the marijuana-like chemical called anadamide, which has pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. According to Wenk, migraine sufferers benefit from eating dark chocolate because the trigeminal nerve responsible for the pain aspect of a migraine is directly affected by it. Chemically, the anadamide in chocolate affects the brain and body in a positive and advantageous way, though, a generally more obvious way that chocolate can benefit a person’s well-being is the joy one feels when giving it to, or receiving it from, another person.

“Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”
                          – Forrest Gump in “Forrest Gump” (1994)

Whether you’re on the giving or the receiving end, happiness is undoubtedly brought into a person’s life when they’re handed a box of chocolates. During the holidays, making melt-in-your-mouth treats is not only a cheaper alternative to store-bought gifts, but it’s something you can personalize for its recipient, and is something (most) everyone will indulge in and enjoy.

Photo: Karl Etters

Photo: Karl Etters

After years of experimenting with various techniques, this year I decided to compile my top ten favorite chocolate bark recipes to share. Personally, I’m the darkest of the dark chocolate person – 60% cacao or higher. Conversely, I’m indifferent toward milk chocolate, and I really don’t care much for white chocolate. What type of chocolate person are you?

Top Ten Chocolate Bark Recipes for the Holiday Season

1) Salted, Seedy Chocolate Bark via Bon Appetit
(Pumpkin, hemp, & sesame seeds, sea salt, & dark chocolate)

2) Pomegranate Coconut Chocolate Bark via Paleomg
(For those on the Paleo Diet: coconut, pomegranate, & dark chocolate)

3) Almost-Famous Peppermint Bark via The Food Network
(Candy canes, peppermint extract, & white chocolate)

4) White Chocolate Holiday Bark also via The Food Network
(Cranberries, pistachios, & white chocolate)

Photo: Karl Etters

Food & Wine Dark Chocolate Bark (#5)
Photo: Karl Etters

5) Dark-Chocolate Bark with Walnuts, Ginger and Dried Cherries Recipe via Food and Wine
(Walnuts, ginger, cherries, & dark chocolate)

6) Magic Mint Chocolate Bark via Very Best Baking
(Dark chocolate & mint chips, almonds)

7) Holiday Chocolate Bark with pretzels and pistachios via ABC Local
(Pretzels, pistachios, & milk chocolate)

8) S’mores Chocolate Bark via Big Girls Small Kitchen
(Marshmallows, graham crackers, milk & white chocolate)

9) Tropical Chocolate Bark via Big Girls Small Kitchen
(Dried fruit: papaya, pineapple, mango, coconut, cashews, puffed rice, milk & white chocolate)

10) Chili Chocolate Bark Recipe via The Spice House
(Crushed red pepper, chili pepper, sweet paprika, cinnamon, & unsweetened chocolate)