Last year, in this column, I briefly discussed the health-and beauty-related benefits of chocolate - particularly dark chocolate.
Just to recap: chocolate, especially cocoa in liquid form, has more antioxidants than green tea or red wine. These antioxidants (flavenoids) help stave off cancer and heart disease. For more information on these studies, see ScienceNews.org (June 10, 2006).
However, chocolate, as most of us consume it, is laden with fat, sugar and calories. This can lead to health problems that (excuse the pun) out-weigh the benefits.
If just the smell of cocoa is enough to make you want to dive into the nearest Godiva shop -- and not come out for weeks -- products that contain cocoa butter and chocolate derivatives are probably not for you. But if the smell alone satisfies your cravings, read on…
Cocoa butter is derived from cacao beans: fruit of the cacao tree (which historically is native to Mexico, but now is grown around the tropics worldwide). The scientific name of the plant Theobroma Cacao literally translates to “food of the gods;" a name which any chocolate lover will agree is totally appropriate. It was so important to the ancient Aztecs that the beans were used as currency as well as a source of food.
Cocoa butter is a stable fat (retains its natural form at high and low temperatures), which makes it ideal for use in non-food beauty products. The natural antioxidants that are good for your skin also make it less likely to turn rancid.
Pure, or almost pure, cocoa butter can be purchased at health food stores. It is inexpensive and soothing to very dry skin. I keep a large jar of cocoa butter on my desk at the office where I toll away at my “other” job. It’s great at keeping paper cuts at bay.
The Body Shop has carried cocoa products for years. One of their current bestsellers is their Cocoa Body Butter; a rich cream made with soybean oil, cocoa butter, shea butter and glycerin. A large container retails for $17 and the companion products are a bar of soap, a creamy body wash and a cocoa butter scrub. This scrub uses crushed rice, which is much kinder to skin than any scrubs containing crushed apricot or other shells.
Philosophy Skin Care is well-known for their products that sound (and smell) good enough to eat, and their chocolate products are no exception. There is a Chocolate Hazelnut Cake 3-in-1 body wash/shampoo/bubble bath complete with cake recipe; and the delightful Milkman Suitcase, containing chocolate-milk-scented body wash, moisturizing soufflé and lip balm.
Demeter Fragrances has several offerings for “cocoa-nuts” including Chocolate Chip Cookie, Devil’s Food, Chocolate-Covered Cherries and Chocolate Mint.
Despite its Italian-sounding name, Ecco Bella is a natural cosmetics company based in New Jersey. In addition to their Organic Dark Chocolate Mask (made with kaolin and organic dark cocoa powder to draw out impurities), the company (which translates roughly into English as “here is beauty”), produces a line of good-for-you chocolate bars and drinks they call Health by Chocolate.
The ultimate in chocolate beauty treatments can be found at The Spa at Hotel Hershey located in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Offering everything from a Whipped Cocoa Bath to a Chocolate Sugar Scrub, a Cocoa Massage and a Chocolate Fondue Body Wrap, this spa provides major indulgence to chocolate lovers who are calorie-conscious.
Finally there are ways to enjoy your chocolate guilt-free!