A bit of what you fancy never hurt anyone, but what do you do when you love chocolate and desperately want to stick to your health plan?
I’m going to take you through the good and bad points of chocolate and some healthier options to curb your cravings.
Chocolate contains large quantities of antioxidants – just 40g contains more than 300mg of polyphenols – the same type that gives red wine its heart protecting reputation. If you like your chocolate dark, you will obtain twice as many polyphenols, similar amounts in fact that are found in a cup of green tea.
Eating chocolate makes you feel good. It increases levels of several brain chemicals, which produces a mild, confidence-instilling buzz that will lift your mood. Chocolate is also virtually unique in that it melts in the mouth at body temperature, producing a silky sensation that, according to psychologists, is one of the main reasons why chocolate proves so addictive.
Small amounts of caffeine
The amount of caffeine in chocolate is around 10 times less than in the average serving of coffee, tea or cola. In fact, low intakes of caffeine can be beneficial as they improve fat metabolism, exercise endurance, increase alertness and decrease the perception of effort and fatigue.
Eating chocolate every day will increase your shopping bill. Work out how much you spend on chocolate treats per week, then work it out for the year – you’ll be surprised at how much you spend.
Sadly, chocolate packs a lot of calories. Just 100g contains: 520 kcals for milk, 510 kcals for dark and 529 kcals for white.
Glucose swings and mood swings
Chocolate contains lots of sugar, producing glucose swings which are increasingly linked with the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Chocolate can cause swings in levels of mood affecting endorphins. This can produce carb cravings, one reason why women with pre-menstrual syndrome often crave chocolate before a period. Unfortunately, as with addictive drugs, brain receptors eventually become desensitised to the mood-lifting effect of chocolate, so you tend to need more to get the same endorphin-raising effects.
These are plenty of alternatives available, making it easier to say no to the double-chocolate brownie without feeling deprived. Although the alternatives shouldn’t be taken as a message to eat chocolate anytime, it will give you plenty of lower-calorie options when you choose to cave in to your craving.
1. Chocolate rice cakes – just 60 calories and if you get a decent brand the chocolate tastes good.
2. Hot chocolate – can be bought in single sachets and be as little as 40 calories.
3. Chocolate cereal – a handful of Wheetos for example could set you back just 50 calories.
4. Funsize – if you can’t resist your favourite bar of chocolate, opt for a smaller size bar.
5. Fruit – dip fruit in a small amount of melted chocolate and benefit from the extra vitamins.
6. DIY choc raisins – packaged ones have trans fats, so make your own by rolling in a small amount of melted chocolate and enjoy the extra fibre provided.