When I was in my local supermarket the other day I picked up a bar of Belgian chocolate and went to the counter to pay for it. The shop assistant began extolling the virtues of that particular brand and told me how once she starts eating chocolate she can’t stop. She has to eat the whole bar! She finished off by joking, “Why do I like eating chocolate so much?” And I thought – um – why do we like eating chocolate so much? Why can’t we just have a small piece and put the rest away? And why do we have such chocolate cravings – particularly when stressed or anxious?
I am now much better at not eating whole bars (a whole bar is far too sickly for me) but it has taken me a number of years to wean myself off whole bars of chocolate. These days I can buy a bar and it will last several days – even when sitting on the eye level shelf in the fridge! There is a big BUT here, though: if I’m stressed at work I can be found stuffing down a bar of chocolate and not even be aware I’ve eaten it. Has that ever happened to you? I bet it has!
I know there are some benefits to eating chocolate – especially good quality chocolate. Good quality chocolate has less sugar, fewer (if any) artificial flavourings and colourings and raises antioxidants in the blood. Cheaper chocolate on the other hand is full of saturated fat, sugar, fattening flavourings and colourings. But why do we crave it so much?
Research studies have suggested that chocolate stimulates taste buds in a way that just makes you want to go back for more – or even just eat the whole bar. It gives a feeling of well being and lifts your mood. It also stimulates the brainwaves and lowers stress levels. So is it any wonder that we like it? Instead if taking a pill to make you happy, eat chocolate! But, of course, there are the downsides, as it contains sugar and fat which, of course, leads to weight gain – particularly if you eat a lot of chocolate. As with all sugar, you will have that initial lift and feeling of well being, and then plummet back down to feeling tired and depressed.
So how to eat chocolate in a more healthy way?
Don’t deprive yourself. Cut down rather than cut out. As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, if you deprive yourself you’ll only want it more – fact! Do, however, stay away from cheap nasty chocolate and treat yourself to good quality chocolate that becomes a treat to have occasionally, rather than something to eat at any time of the day. For instance, I’ll have a couple of squares good quality chocolate first thing in the morning with my first cup of tea as a way to kick start the day and make me feel good, and then a couple more in the evening. In that way I don’t crave chocolate through the rest of the day as I know I will have a treat later on (unless I’m so stressed and have nothing else to eat!).
Savour every piece of chocolate that you eat. When eating the chocolate do nothing else! Look away from the computer screen or stop reading and really luxuriate and immerse yourself in the lush smooth taste that chocolate gives as you eat it. There wont be any feelings of guilt because you know you’re only having two pieces. So truly enjoy those two pieces!