Chocolate is one of the most beloved foods on the planet. The problem is that not all chocolates are created equal. Some chocolate bars contain very little to no actual cocoa, while others are loaded with sugar and fillers. This all plays a role in how much chocolate we eat and what effects it has on our health. Let’s look at a few things to do if you want to keep chocolate eating on the healthier side.
Stay away from sugar and fillers
First things first, you have to choose something that truly earns the title “chocolate bar”. There are plenty of products that use the name whilst containing very little or no cocoa at all! Always check the label to see what you’re buying. As a general rule, make sure that cocoa/cacao beans or mass are listed before anything else, especially before sugar. The fewer ingredients a bar has, the better. As soon as you see any sort of “vegetable oil” instead of cocoa butter, stay away.
Go for a high cocoa content
Cacao bean is what contains the flavonoids that have heart-protecting, anti-inflammatory, brain-boosting, and mood-lifting properties. That’s another reason to go for chocolate bars that have higher cocoa content, meaning 70% and more. If you really want to get the most out of your chocolate, choose a manufacturer that grows and processes cacao in a natural way – a top-quality chocolate bar with 65% cocoa can have a better flavonoid profile than one with 80% cocoa.
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Be aware of addiction
Yes, you can be addicted to food, and chocolate is a perfect candidate. It is calorie-dense, highly palatable, and contains sugar and fat – these properties will make your brain release a lot of dopamine, and that’s what makes you crave for another one. And chocolate has one more ace up its sleeve: it contains a molecule called encephalin. This substance is theorized to promote addiction and in one study on rats, it was shown to cause compulsive eating. It’s important to be aware of your relationship to chocolate to avoid overeating because no matter the type, if you eat too much of it, it will be unhealthy.
Make it a treat
Chocolate does have addictive properties, but so do exercise and sex, so it depends on what else is going on in your life. If you have good relationships and activities that bring you joy and meaning, then you are unlikely to get addicted to anything. There’s not enough chocolate in the world to replace any of those things in your life if they are missing, though. So, don’t eat chocolate mindlessly to fill a hole. Choose quality bars with a high cocoa content and focus on each bite, enjoy it for what it is, a treat!