Hi, my name is Dena Gershkovich and I am addicted to chocolate.
If there was a therapy group for people who have chocolate addictions, I would probably qualify to run it.
Chocolate is the equivalent of a best friend in the food world. It cheers you up when you’re sad, gets you excited for happy occasions, is always readily available (we all know that you can find a chocolate bar way too easily), and just has a magical way of making every situation better. Chocolate is so prevalent in our lives that it’s hard to picture a world where cookies wouldn’t contain their characteristic chocolate chips or where something as shameful as “hot vanilla” would replace our favorite winter drink. Although we all have different tastebuds, I think we can come to a unanimous consensus that Hershey Park wouldn’t be nearly as fun had it been named Vegetable Kingdom (although, not gonna lie, that would probably still excite me a bit…).
I like to think that I’m a pretty healthy eater (that would be awkward if I didn’t considering my blog…), but there’s something about the texture of chocolate – the way it dissipates into your tongue before you even realize it’s gone, the warm, sweet sensation it leaves behind – that causes me to have an almost permanent craving.
When I was a junior (aka the most stressful year of my life) everyone knew that 2:45 pm was my chocolate time, to the point where my friend Jordana kept a bag of Hershey Kisses in her locker just for me. Every day, in between mincha and afternoon classes, just when I was having my this-day-needs-to-end-now moment, Jordana would bring me two chocolates and, after devouring them, my mood would lift almost instantly. It’s amazing how something so small had such a great impact on my day.
You could imagine how happy I was to learn that chocolate has major health benefits, to the point that even those following a clean-eating lifestyle are encouraged to consume it. But, before you reach for that bag of caramel Hershey Kisses and claim that they’re “healthy” (sorry eleventh grade me), it’s important to know that the benefits of eating chocolate really only apply to chocolate with a cacao content of 65% or above (most “dark” chocolates), as milk and white chocolates tend to be concentrated with fat, white sugar, and artificial ingredients and often do more harm than good. In fact, research has shown that drinking a glass of milk even with dark chocolate could prevent the antioxidants naturally present in the cacao from being absorbed into your body.
Despite all those myths you’ve heard about chocolate causing breakouts, dark chocolate actually increases blood flow to your skin’s surface, and is very good for your skin. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, which can protect against certain types of cancer and slow the signs of aging. It improves blood flow throughout the body (thereby reducing clots) and it contains essential vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron. It’s also been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in your body.
The health benefits of cocoa products are so great that they have been used for medicinal purposes in some cultures!
Besides for benefitting your physical body, chocolate can also have a significant influence on your mental health, mainly your mood.
- When you eat chocolate, endorphins are released which stimulate a feeling of pleasure. Chocolate actually makes you a happier person.I think I’m going to say that again because typing that made me smile.
EAT (PREFERABLY DARK) CHOCOLATE AND YOU’LL BE HAPPIER!
- Another chemical which relieves symptoms of depression, serotonin, is also secreted when you eat chocolate.
- Also, chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine, which will help keep you focused and bring you back to your task when you feel distracted or agitated.
Keep this in mind for college. Instead of relying on Starbucks during finals week, try purchasing a bar of dark chocolate. Who knows, it may even work better for you than coffee.
Remember that the higher the concentration of cacao (the “darker” the chocolate), the more health benefits you’ll reap from it. Look for dark chocolates in the sale section of the makolet; they tend to appear in that area quite often. I’ve even found 65% cacao chocolate chips which have tasted delicious baked into oatmeal cookies, whole wheat muffins, and granola.
Also, when shopping, consider how much chocolate you’re purchasing and how/if it will affect your eating habits. For example, there may be a sale of two bars for ten shekels, but if you know you’ll eat them both before Shabbos roles around it may, for your own health, be best to only purchase one.
Dark chocolate is a health food only when you consume it in moderation which translates to no more than one or two squares daily.
This week, try having some dark chocolate (65% or over) when you’re feeling tired, depressed, or just done and pay attention to any possible mood shifts. Break a square or two of dark chocolate into your trail mix, melt some into your oatmeal, or stir some into your yogurt.
Let’s be honest – I don’t need to tell you how to incorporate chocolate into your diet; if you’re like me, you’ve done an excellent job figuring that out already 😉
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Healthy Aging Expert, Mark Stibich, Ph.D. “Health Benefits of Chocolate.”Longevity.about.com. N.p., 19 Dec. 2014. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. <http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/p/chocolate.htm>.
Featured Image artwork by Dena Gershkovich