I’ve always considered chocolate to be one of the most decadent, satisfying and unquestionably addictive foods on this earth (along with countless other women, I’m sure).
It’s been there for me as a pleasure-producing comfort food through rough times, blue moods and trying times on the job. So, how could something that elicits such feelings of bliss be “bad” for me?
Well, researchers are now saying that chocolate, especially the high quality variety, offers certain unique health benefits never before discussed or studied. Now, does this mean it’s ok to consume a king sized Hershey bar every day?
No, of course not. Because you see, unfortunately along with the indulgent good flavor and body of chocolate, there comes an inherent “unhealthy” factor in the sugar and fat added to accomplish it’s distinct texture and flavor.
The ingredient in chocolate that gives it that unique flavor that so much of us crave as “comfort food” is cocoa, and this is also the ingredient that packs the nutritional compounds of which I am speaking – not the sugar or the fat. The healthiest type of chocolate that you can eat is actually the darker chocolates, because they typically contain more cocoa and less sugar and fat.
The darker chocolates also tend to be more bitter, but that is actually my favorite type of chocolate as opposed to the creamier, less cocoa-concentrated version, milk chocolate. Whether you’re a dark chocolate or a milk chocolate fan, you still receive some sort of nutritional benefit even from the lighter, creamier stuff.
So, what is this “healthy” nutrient that the cocoa in chocolate gives us? The cocoa bean, from which cocoa powder is derived from, contains a fairly potent concentration of antioxidant nutrients, so the more cocoa, the better.
If you’re a dark chocolate lover, this means you get more of that antioxidant benefit delivered to your blood stream, which helps to ward off unhealthy tissue growth and destroys free radicals, the arch enemy of the healthy cell.
Chocolate not only imparts rich nutrient benefits when consumed in moderate amounts, but studies have also shown it elevates the mood, which partially explains our emotional connection with chocolate, AKA addiction. OK, aside from the rich texture and taste bud tempting taste.
There has actually been research done where the unborn fetuses in a mother’s womb who consumed chocolate exhibited elevated signs of activity. Researchers came to the conclusion that the chocolate consumption of the mother subsequently improved her baby’s temperament, which translates into the adult term for “happy”.
Chocolate has even been called the most high impact food when it comes to cravings and mood. When we crave chocolate, we tend to crave it when we are feeling low emotionally. The likely mechanism of chocolate’s mood altering abilities is it’s ability to make the body produce endorphins. Endorphins are essentially the primary “pleasure chemical” which is emitted by the brain and cause pleasurable sensations of well being and contentment.
Whether the endorphin release is caused simply by the good taste of chocolate, or whether there is some actual mood altering chemical in chocolate is still up for debate. Whatever the case may be, it cannot be ignored that many of us, especially women, equate eating chocolate with pleasure and comfort, and there is definitely a reason for it.
Chocolate consumption will always be a sure thing when it comes to mood enhancement. We have to be prudent when consuming chocolate though, since the effects of the sugar can actually cause us to crash and feel worse.
Another unfortunate fact is that chocolate is high in calories and can definitely add up if you consume it several times a day, or you over do it on the portion. So, the next time you feel that irrestistable urge for chocolate, grab a mini chocolate bar, and get those antioxidant, mood boosting juices flowing!