This coming weekend, Saturday, February 11, 2012, 7:30 – 11:30 p.m., Telluride Conference Center, Mountain Village, is the 17th annual Chocolate Lovers’ Fling, the only  major public fundraiser of the San Miguel Resource Center.  The event features hot auction items –  a week at a Tuscan villa, a private shopping party at Two Skirts, plus a $1,000 gift certificate and two bottles of Veuve Cliquot, and a 4-day pass to Telluride Bluegrass (which is nearly sold out.)  –  music by D.J. Harry, cash prizes for the Best Dressed (the theme is TV Land), and CHOCOLATE.

The Fling’s chocolate buffet is infamous, a chocoholic’s idea of heaven. (This year about 15 regional chefs are participating, not to mention the non-professionals who also compete. See below for a list. ) Attendees can feel good about attending the event and filling their cheeks with chocolate from the decadent spread for lots of reasons, starting with the cause: the SMRC is the only entity in the region which deals with issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. Attending the Fling, the nonprofit’s only major public fundraiser, disco dancing, bidding for prizes, and eating chocolate all goes to supporting healthy relationships, the goal of the SMRC. And your own health and mood get a shot in the arm.

Because chocolate tastes so good, it has sometimes gotten a bad rap: “Sinful,” “To Die For.” But it is no longer headline news that chocolate is good for our health. Remember the movie “Chocolat”? A red-caped Juliet Binoche swept into a rural French village on a mysterious breeze laced with cocoa and exotic spices, her valise filled with chocolate promising untold pleasures for the town’s inhabitants and it worked.

Chocolate’s history dates back at least 1,500 years, when the Mayans of Central America crushed cocoa beans into an unsweetened beverage. The Aztecs had a name for that beverage: xocolatl or bitter water. The Aztec ruler, Montezuma II, is said to have consumed 50 or more golden goblets filled with bitter water each day. Chocolate, also called “food of the gods,” was used in religious ceremonies. Its seeds were traded as currency.

The Spanish conquistador Cortes is said to have called chocolate “the divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue.”

Years later in Europe, chocolate was prescribed for depression and made into love –  and death  – potions. (Its bitter flavor masked poisons.)

Clearly, you are in good company if you find the allure of chocolate irresistible. Cravings may be in part be explained by the natural chemicals in chocolate, one of which, theobromine, a mild stimulant, is thought to induce feelings of well being. As it turns out, chocolate also contains antioxidants similar to those found in red wine, certain fruits and vegetables and certain teas, and it provides minor amounts of B vitamins, copper, magnesium, iron and zinc.

Good chocolate can be as complex and rewarding as wine – but wine has only 500 notes and chocolate is a complex compound containing more than 1,500 flavor elements.

“Good quality dark chocolate eaten in moderate amounts makes an interesting addition to the diet – if you can afford the calories,” said integrative medicine guru Andrew Weill.

Dr. Sharon Grundy is the Medical Director of Primary Care at the Telluride Med Center. In addition to being a graduate of the University of Miami School of Medicine, in 2010, Sharon became certified in integrative medicine having completed post graduate work in an internationally recognized program developed by Weill at the University of Arizona.

In the roll up to the Fling, might be fun to click the “play” button and hear what Sharon has to say about chocolate:

And below is a list of participating chef. (More names might be added during the week.)

Eliza Gavin,”221″
Carly Kunsleman, “221”
Sergio Gonzalez, “Telluride Bistro”
Roscoe Kane, “Floradora Saloon”
Gary Pagano,”9545″
Chad Glidwell,”Honga’s”
Lynn Tilyou, “Palmyra”
Rhiannon Chandler,”Sweet Rhi’s”
Cinda Simmons,”Butcher and The Baker”
Andrew Tyler,”There…”
Lucas Price,” La Cocina de Luz”
Lewis Williams, ‘La Cocina de Luz”
Jenn,”The Sweet Life”
Steven Roth,”Telluride Ski and Golf”
Peter Cumplido,” M’s,” (at Hotel Madeline), “Telluride Conference Center”
Seth Colter, “M’s,””Telluride Conference Center”

Editor’s note: “To Your Health” is a regular column featuring advice from the doctors at the Telluride Medical Center. This week’s installment is a special edition in support of the San Miguel Resource Center.

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