The Natural History of Chocolate/Part II/Chapter II/Section II
Chocolate is very nourishing and of easy Digestion.
This Proposition is a necessary Consequence of the foregoing, established by Facts which I have just related; and we have Experiments as convincing of its easy Digestion, and the Goodness of the Chyle that it makes; but it needs no other Proof than the good Condition it puts those in, who ordinarily make use of it.
A learned Englishman has carried his Commendations so high concerning this particular Property of Chocolate, that he has not scrupled to affirm in a Dissertation that he has publish'd upon this Subject, That one Ounce of Chocolate contains as much Nourishment as a Pound of Beef. As much out of the way as this Assertion seems to be, one may easily conceive, that any Aliment is capable of yielding more plentiful Nourishment, if compar'd with any other, not only in respect to the Quantity, but also with relation to the Time that the Stomach takes to digest it.
Physicians are not agreed about the Causes of Digestion, but are divided into two Opinions, each of which is supported by the Writings of very eminent Authors; convinced of my own Inability to decide the Controversy, which also requires a large Field to expatiate in, I shall not undertake to defend either Fermentation or Trituration: But it will be sufficient to say, in two Words, that these Opinions are not absolutely incompatible: it perhaps will not be difficult to make a sort of an Alliance or Agreement between them, by uniting whatever is plain and evident in the two Systems, and rejecting what is otherwise; and from hence form a third, which will be nothing but the Union of the uncontested Parts of the other two.
These two Causes undoubtedly concur in the Alteration that the Aliment undergoes in the Mouth; for the Saliva that mixes with it in Mastication, and dilutes it, cannot be deny'd to be an admirable Ferment; and the Tongue which moves it, and the Teeth which grind it, and break it, must be own'd to be the first Instruments of Trituration.
Now since Nature is commonly uniform in her Operations, and since there is a great deal of reason to suppose that Nature compleats Digestion by the same means that she has begun it, let us suppose it is really so for a Moment, and apply it to the present Subject, and then we shall see by what Evidence Chocolate ought to be of an easy Digestion.
In the first place, bitter and alkaline Substances, such as these Kernels, are stomachick and analogous to the Saliva and the Ferment which dissolves the Aliment in the Stomach; how then can it be of hard Digestion with these Qualities?
In the second place, if one considers attentively the Kernels as they are roasted, broke, and ground extremely fine upon a Stone, afterwards melted and dissolved in boiling Liquor, which serves as a Vehicle for it; it then seems very likely that the Stomach will not have much Labour left to do. In short, by it Digestion is more than half finished.
Experience confirms these Reasonings very much, for the Digestion of Chocolate is soon brought about without Trouble, without Difficulty, and without any sensible rising of the Pulse; the Stomach very far from making use of its Strength, acquires new Force. And I can farther say, upon my own Knowledge, that I have seen several Persons who had but weak Digestion, if not quite spoiled, who have been entirely recovered by the frequent Use of Chocolate.
- The Translator of this Treatise, who is a Physician, thinks it proper to observe, that the Opinions about Digestion, are deficiently related by our Author; for they are chiefly four, Trituration, Fermentation, Heat, and by a Menstruum, which are so far from being incompatible, that three of them necessarily concur to promote Digestion; to wit, Heat, and a Menstruum or Liquor, and Trituration, or the Motion or rubbing of the Coats of the Stomach: For it is plain, if the two former are absent, there can be no Digestion, and without doubt the last does assist, but which is the principal, I shall not take upon me to determine.
- Our Author seems here either to mistake Ferment for Menstruum, or to make them synonymous Terms: With this Allowance, his Reasoning is undoubtedly just; but as for a Ferment, in the usual Sense of that Word, it may justly be questioned whether there be any such in a Human Body.