Chocolate: My (not so) secret indulgence
Happy Easter! If you are like me (and I now that I am not alone!), Easter is a time for pretending that you don't like chocolate nearly as much as you actually do. As a dietician, I often try not to tell people what I do because then they will:
- Start to feel guilty about what they are eating and try and hide their plates from me
- Very self-consciously start picking what they eat very carefully
- OR… They will start scrutinising my plate!
I may be a nutrition professional, but sometimes I like to leave my work at the office and enjoy some forbidden treats. I like people who like food and enjoy eating it. I love food and eating it! There is a time and place for cake and dessert and CHOCOLATE! Everything can be enjoyed once in a while. If I am at one of my son's friends birthday parties, and I feel like cake, I will eat cake. There are moms who will give me the evil eye, while putting a fork full of (their child's) cake into their mouths, making it difficult to enjoy the cake on my plate.
The same goes for chocolate. Mind you, chocolate is my weakness. I always feel like chocolate and I don't always know when to stop. And this, is what makes Easter such a difficult time for chocolate lovers. It probably isn't the Easter Eggs that do you in. It is the fact that everyone knows that you don't like Easter Eggs, so they bring you slabs of chocolate instead!
Why is chocolate so moreish?
For most of the chocolate lovers who have passed through my practice, it is not just about the sugar. The craving for chocolate cannot be satisfied with any other sugary treat. It must be chocolate! The taste and the texture are important. And so is the fact that serotonin, the feel-good hormone is released and, well… makes you feel better! And your body remembers this and wants more.
Are there any other health benefits of chocolate?
I had a quick look at the literature to answer this question. We would all like to believe that eating chocolate has some health benefits. It seems that most of the studies that have been conducted on the health benefits of chocolate have been carried out or sponsored by chocolate manufacturers. This is very unfortunate, so we will have to be cautious with the outcomes. I do believe that the right quantities of the right components of chocolate come with benefits. However, it seems that most of the chocolate we consume does not contain enough of these components for us to reap the rewards.
But, let's look at the potential benefits of eating chocolate:
- Cocoa can be beneficial for cardiovascular disease. One study concluded that eating a portion fo dark chocolate everyday could be an effective cardiovascular disease prevention strategy for people with metabolic disease. This may be due to the antioxidants present in chocolate, its blood pressure lowering effect, the vasodilation brought about the increase in nitric oxide in the blood, the inhibition of platelet activation that prevents blood clotting, improved insulin sensitivity, the anti-stress effects of serotonin stimulation, and the anti-obesity effects.
- Eating chocolate has a positive effect on neurons and cerebral blood flow, with a potential role in the treatment of dementia and stroke.
- Eating cocoa has anti-inflammatory effects.
- Eating chocolate before exercise may improve recovery time after exercise.
In order for chocolate to deliver on these healthy promises, it needs to contain a significant amount of cocoa, so dark chocolate is the order of the day.
I haven't yet met anyone who has managed to convince themselves that they eat chocolate to remain healthy. It tastes good, and it makes me feel good. It is something that I choose not to live without. We all need a little pleasure in life!
To all the chocolate lovers reading this article… Indulge a little in the good stuff and enjoy it without feeling guilty!