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Why women love chocolate
The nights are drawing in and there’s little more comforting than a rich, warm mug of hot chocolate to ward of an autumnal chill — certainly not if you’re a woman. Ahead of National Chocolate Week, ANNA MANSELL spoke to the experts to find out why girls just love chocolate. . .
WE all know the feeling; a bad day at work, had a row with your fella, or your hormones are on the rampage.
If there’s one thing sure to settle the nerves and make everything seem better again it’s our dear friend chocolate.
At its best, it’s rich, dark and smooth — like a dream man. Yet while our love of cocoa might be something of a female stereotype, there is scientific explanation for women’s cravings.
Lower levels of serotonin — responsible for feelings of well-being — and a dip in the mineral magnesium are both listed as reasons why pre-menstrual women may crave chocolate. Chocolate contains magnesium and natually boosts serotonin levels in the brain.
As chocolatier Paul Morris says: “Women don’t love chocolate, they need it — well, that’s what my customers tell me.”
Paul is perhaps East Lancashire’s top cocoa expert, running the Chocolate Cafe in Ramsbottom, a major contributor to the town’s annual Chocolate Festival.
He cites various factors, unique to chocolate, as being behind a woman’s love of it.
“Cocoa butter is the only naturally-occuring substance which melts at body temperature,” Paul said. “That’s why you get the sensual feeling in the mouth, as it melts.
“Women are a lot more tactile than men; watch a woman shopping and she picks up and feels the texture of items, so that is an appeal with chocolate.
“Also, a chemical has been found in chocolate which is released when you fall in love. Phenylethylamine (PEA) is triggered by cocoa and releases those same feelings — the heart a-flutter and being taken away for the moment — and we are only just learning about this.”
Beauty specialists have been quick to take up the Sabiha Patel, of Simply Chocolicious, winner of the 2012 Retail Factor contest at The Mall, Blackburn, backs Paul’s scientific approach.
She said: “Chocolate makes you feel good. It’s the cocoa butter in chocolate that gives it the rich and creamy texture. That’s why I love it so much — and the fact it puts a smile on my face.
“Plus, chocolate is good for you. Recent studies show that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains chemicals that can lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.
The antioxidants in dark chocolate have shown to make a difference in cardiovascular health.”
While the edible appeal of chocolate is obvious, there are beauty benefits to be had. Among those offering some healthier and non-fattening chocolate tasters is Deborah Turner of Touch Hair and Beauty in Colne.
A chocolate facial combines the moisturising benefits of cocoa with seaweed, while the full body massage is a luxurious treat — minus the calories.
“Cocoa is really good for the skin, as a moistuiser,” she said. “It’s really silky to use for a massage and clients do feel amazingly good after — which is the endorphin release.
“And it’s good for me too, with the scent of the chocolate. It’s a massage I love to give.”
The indulgent side of chocolate massages is their unique selling point, according to fellow therapist Richard Shelton, of Croft Treatment Room, Briercliffe.
“Women like the luxury of these treatments more than the therapeutic side,” he said. “You can’t beat it; melted premium cocoa solids mixed with essential oils, drizzled on — which feels heavenly on the skin.
“Then there’s the fact that chocolate’s a fantastic anti-oxidant and is very nourishing to the skin.”
But chocolatier Paul is keen to stress that women don’t have to shy away from eating chocolate.
He said: “Women do seem very confused about what they can have, because of misunderstanding calories, weight loss and health. They feel that chocolate is a no-no but not all chocolate is created equal.
“High street brands are often only about 20 per cent cocoa and contain vegetable oil. Our milk chocolate has 34 per cent cocoa and no vegetable oil..
“I constantly hear women saying ‘I can’t have it, or I can’t stop’. They abstain, then tend to have a blow out at the end of the week, whereas men will have a bar a day without guilt.”