Let’s face it. Men don’t really need a “food” to get them in the mood, yet for centuries aphrodisiacs have been discussed in reference to what men want or need to increase their libido. Who are these men? From my own observation, the presence of a woman seems to work rather well to increase a man’s sex drive.

Oysters are the most popular aphrodisiac for men. Some people think it is the shape of the oyster while others believe it is the high zinc content. Since zinc is associated with sperm production, it is thought that an increase in dietary zinc might facilitate the process.

Chilies, curries and other spicy foods have been viewed as aphrodisiacs because their physiological effects — a raised heart rate and sometimes sweating — are similar to the physical reactions experienced during sex.

But ask a woman what food works for her and she will most likely say chocolate. You might be familiar with the famous “I Love Lucy” scene where she and Ethel are trying to wrap chocolates as the treats go by on the conveyor belt. It might seem like a dream job to chocolate lovers as Lucy and Ethel eat their mistakes, but too much of a good thing is bad for your health. Like everything, chocolate is best when taken in moderation.

Why is chocolate so alluring and how can we enjoy it moderately?

According to a University of Pennsylvania study, chocolate is the food most craved by women. Duh! I didn’t need a study to tell me that!

Besides its rich, creamy taste and texture, chocolate contains the stimulants caffeine and theobromine as well as phenylethylamine, which increases blood pressure and heart rate and may simulate the way you feel when you’re in love.

The fat in chocolate may cause a release of feel-good hormones and the sugar stimulates production of serotonin which can lead to a feeling of calmness.

Perhaps these are some of the reasons women reach for chocolate in times of stress and why chocolate consumption can also become an addictive behavior.

Chocolate has not always been an indulgency held mainly by women. In the early 1500’s Aztec emperor Montezuma II drank 50 goblets a day laced with honey and spices. In the mid 1700’s, English beer and ale houses, threatened by chocolate’s popularity, petitioned for restriction of chocolate manufacturing.

Thank goodness that didn’t work. By 1840, the first chocolate bar was born and angels everywhere rejoiced — by angels I mean women.

Chocolate is made from the beans of the cacao tree whose botanical name theobroma means “food for the gods.” Chocolate contains copper, iron, zinc and magnesium.

Dark chocolate is especially rich in protective substances called catechins which are also found in tea, red wine, grapes, pomegranates and apples. For the highest catechin content, choose NON-Dutched or natural cocoa which has not been treated with an alkalizing agent.

With all of the wonderful attributes of chocolate, it’s no wonder it is such a universally beloved food.

So now it’s time to learn how to enjoy chocolate while still maintaining a balanced life where fresh, whole, locally grown foods are essential and all feelings are normal and should not be placated by food and where we eat to live more often than we live to eat. To accomplish all of these things, try chocolate covered berries which offer sweet, satisfying antioxidant rich fruit and decadent chocolate in moderation.

Elizabeth can be reached at eat2liv@earthlink.net

Chocolate Covered Berries

• Strawberries or any berry or chopped fruit of your choice

• Dark organic chocolate bar 3-6 ounces (Green & Black, Lake Champlain or Endangered Species are some of my favorites)

• A double boiler or a metal bowl that can be placed in a sauce pot but not touch the bottom. The bowl will be partially submerged into the simmering water.

• Parchment or waxed paper on a baking sheet

• Skewer or fork to hold fruit for dipping

Put 2 inches of water in the sauce pot. Place the metal bowl on top so that the bottom is slightly immersed in water. Bring water to boil then lower heat to simmer. Cut the chocolate into slivers. Place chocolate in the metal bowl and stir until melted. Use a skewer or fork to pierce the fruit and hold it in place as you submerge it in the chocolate. Leave some of the fruit uncovered. Once the berry is covered with chocolate, pull it out and gently shake off any excess. Place the berries on the parchment or wax paper. Place the baking sheet in the freezer just long enough to set the chocolate. Remove from the freezer within one hour. Place chocolate covered fruit on a plate dressed with fresh mint leaves and nuts, perhaps a dollop or two of fresh whipped cream to use as your imagination allows.