The Great Debate: Chocolate or Vanilla?

We all know the type. Some of you might even fit the bill: pushy, dogmatic, demanding, obnoxious. No, I’m not talking about the Tea Party. I’m referring to Chocoholics.

The fanatical behavior of chocolate lovers can feel overwhelming and possibly even a bit mental. Still, there’s no denying that chocolate is magical. Chocolate is a gourmand’s darling, being paired with bacon, beer and cheeses. You’ll also find it added to body care products, candles and alcohol.

The chocolate-obsessed have labeled all things unchocolate as “vanilla,” flavorless or boring, lacking chocolatitude, but is that really a fair assessment? Those who prefer vanilla, the bean of the only fruiting orchid, have been chastised and scoffed at, called crazy and liars for asserting a greater love for the aromatic sweetness and versatility of vanilla than chocolate. It’s bombastic behavior rarely exhibited by well-mannered Vanillans.

Though the two black beans have distinct differences, there are many similarities. They both have mood-changing effects on the brain. Chocolate stimulates euphoric feelings of being in love by the release of theobromine and phenylethlyamine. No wonder it inspires so much passion from its devotees. Vanilla is regarded for its relaxing, soothing and sensual fragrance. It’s a known aphrodisiac and has been used to treat impotency. As far back as the 17th century, vanilla’s relaxing and calming properties were employed to induce sleep, treat ulcers, anxiety and depression. Maybe it’s vanilla’s soothing effects that make its fans laconic and less infused with an urgency to plead its case the way impassioned Chocoholics do.

Physically, chocolate’s high levels of magnesium may help relieve menstrual cramps, which is one reason women are drawn to it. Cacao contains the richest source of cancer-fighting antioxidants found in food, and it’s full of many important vitamins and minerals as well. Vanilla also contains known anti-cancer properties and may offset some of the damage from Alzheimer’s and Sickle cell anemia. Did you know that most men actually prefer the scent of vanilla to women’s perfume?

In the jungle, vanilla orchid vines can be found growing in cacao trees. And guess what flavor is added to most chocolate products? Yep, it’s vanilla. The great news is, whichever you prefer, both vanilla and chocolate have significant benefits. You don’t have to eat them with guilt any longer (though you shouldn’t gorge on creamy, sugary anything). As vanilla and chocolate co-exist in nature, their completeness offers an important message: Somewhere in the middle, perfection exists.

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Photo by AMagill courtesy of Creative Commons