It’s Sunday morning 11:30 AM in New York city the day of hurricane Irene’s anticipated mega catastrophe. The anticipation for the past 48 hours was a tornment paralyzing the entire city and our souls. Everything appeared (although on the surface we all were very cool) dark, depressing and very scary as this was described, according to the news and several warnings, to be “possibly the biggest destructive force of nature of our times.”
The “destruction” however, was not bad after all. Thank God. We survived the hurricane! Someone up there really likes us, or, as the ancient Greeks used to say, “the Gods are favoring us.” We are in New York city after all, and our elegant skyscrapers act as modern-day cathedrals, as magical connectors with the divine, forever pointing up towards the sky quietly inspiring us to reach towards our higher purpose. It’s a magical feeling!
While watching the constant bombarding of “warnings” all over the news, of “how bad things could possibly get,” and “the worst case senarios,” my usually upbeat, possitive mood plummeted — my energy level was at the lowest… what was I to do? Reach for the chocolate of course! Dark, rich, decadent chocolate. Instant gratification! It worked! I began feeling like my usual self again. This made me wonder: what other foods can produce the same effect? After a little research, here is what I discovered:
Hipocrates (460 BC – 370 BC) an ancient Greek physician who founded the Hyppocratic School of Medicine and who is the father of Western medicine , was the first to suggest the healing power of food. But, it was not until the medieval ages that food was considered as a tool to modify temperament and mood.
As modern scientific methods in neuroscience emerged, investigators began to examine the role of diet to health, including mental well being. As science advanced we learned that the foundation of brain activity is food. What we eat creates brain chemicals, the basic units of brain action. From the array of nutrients in a meal, proteins in the brain called enzymes conduct chemicals in a balanced proportion. There is a relationship between food and the balance of brain chemicals. These chemicals are:
seratonin – enhances calmness and sleepiness and erases depression,
norepinephrine – makes you energetic and focused, and,
endorphine – causes “natural high” because it creates a sence of euphoria.
LIST OF MOOD ENHANSING FOOD:
Whole grains, bread and pasta, oatmel, shell fish, seafood, pultry, salt, grean leafy vegetables (especially spinach), dairy products, leggumes, avocados, tomatoes, beets, peas, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, oranges, blueberries, bannanas, pineapples, plums, passion fruits, pomegranates, green tea, coffee, sun flower seeds, brazilian nuts, walnuts and dark chocolate (70% dark chocolate to ensure maximum benefits.)
A few people would frown after popping a square of decadent chocolate into their mouths, but it’s not just
because it tastes good. Chocolate causes the brain to release endorphins and it can boost serotonin levels — also, it contains compounds like phenylethylamine that act as mind stimulants. A recent study from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) finds that eating chocolate may lead to 33% lower risk of heart disease (with its antioxidant and anti-inflamatory properties lowering blood pressure and improving insulin resistance.)
Growing up in Northern Greece, I remember that my mother always kept a beautifully decorated porcelain box full of fine chocolates “for the visitors” as our home was always open and welcoming. Well, that little box had plenty of visits…from me!
The euphoric effects of chocolate are beautifully depicted in one of my favorite films:Chocolate (2000), with Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp and Lena Olin.
It is an oscar-nominated film where Juliette and her daughter open up a chocolate shop in a small French village (1959) and she shakes up the rigid morality of the community with her cocoa remedies — that her pharmacist father had discovered in one of his adventures in Central America. Unrefined cocoa with a pinch of chili was used in ancient Mayan sacred ceremonies. The people from the Maya civilization believed that cocoa had the power to unlock hidden desires and to reveal destinies. Chocolate is a recurring motif in the film — one that is used to draw secrets and stories out of people. Juliette’s character serves her magical spicy hot chocolate with a pinch of chili flakes causing everyone to feel love and to be delightfully elevated and permanently transformed.
It is a beautiful modern-day fairytale with a beautiful message, ‘We can’t go around measuring our goodness with what we don’t do, with what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and whom do we exclude. We have got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.” This film will definitely elevate your spirit and it will absolutely make you fall in love with Johnny Depp…if you are not in love with him already…
HURRICANE HOT CHOCOLATE RECIPE (try it it will give you a lift!)
2 cups of organic milk (whole, or 2% fat)
3 oz. bar of dark, organic chocolate (grated)
honey (to taste)
2 tb spoons cocoa powder
1 vanilla bean
crushed red chili pepper flakes (to taste)
a pinch of salt
Heat all ingredients until chocolate melts, stir, strain and serve. Add a bit of whipped cream and “delicious” is something you can expect!
Well, no one was anticipating the drama and the interruption of our routines in New York City that hurricane Irene caused. I must say, this event was productive — inspiring me to make all these chocolate discoveries and sharing them with you, and, further verifying my belief that nothing ever happens by accident. I was really anticipating that this time my post will be about Aristotle and his influence on Alexander the Great…but, I like this element of surprise.
I am leaving you with a sweet scene from Chocolate…a chocolate kiss…
…Until next time…stay well…