Have you ever thought your love of chocolate is borderline addiction? Do you rummage through the pantry to find the last of the Easter eggs? Do you believe that you may be distantly related to Augustus Gloop. There could be a good reason for your chocolate obsession. I often consider why people crave the foods they do and look at what the body is reaching out for.
Nutritional Benefits of Cocoa: I just need to clarify that I am referring to cocoa in the raw form not your mass produced processed supermarket chocolate. Raw cocoa is a great source of magnesium it also contains potassium, zinc, iron, calcium and manganese. Cocoa is also abundant in polyphenols and flavonoids that are linked to prevention of neurodegenerative conditions and cardiovascular disease.
Stress cravings for chocolate: when we are stressed our nervous system demands more magnesium. Cocoa is a rich source of magnesium, in relation to our cravings its magnesium that the body is most likely crying out for.
Nutritionally we can support our requirements for magnesium by including a variety of nuts, seeds, wholegrains, legumes, dark leafy vegetables, magnesium baths and raw cocoa. In times of emotional and physical stress, magnesium supplementation is highly beneficial in supporting the nervous system.
Why chocolate makes us feel good: In sweet chocolate it is most likely sensory stimulation that makes people feel good. That chocolate, taste smell and texture in the mouth. Research revealed that regions of the brain are activated more strongly in chocolate cravers than in non-cravers. The Polyphenols present in cocoa may have anti-depressant effects. Unfortunately, the high sugar content in commercial chocolate reverses any benefit by causing a dive in our blood sugars shortly after eating.
Why women hormonally crave chocolate: This sometimes obsessive craving by many women is most likely due cocoas ability to influence the brains stimulation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This explains why women will crave chocolate before their menstrual cycle. The brain is trying to correct an imbalance and chocolates promotes the pleasure receptors in the brain. A woman’s requirement for magnesium is higher just before and during her cycle. Further promoting the need for chocolate. This association with chocolate easing PMS may become problematic as the quality and quantity of chocolate may eliminate any therapeutic benefit. It also becomes sometimes an excuse to overindulge.
Low blood sugar: one of the most common reasons why people crave chocolate is to give them a boost. Commonly people will crave chocolate mid-afternoon. This is most likely due lunch lacking in ingredients that support blood sugar levels. The best lunch will always include a small amount of protein and essential fatty acids to provide stable blood sugars throughout the afternoon. Compare the difference in afternoon sugar cravings when you have a salmon or chicken bowl compared to instant noodles. Supporting our blood sugar metabolism is vital in controlling our sugar consumption and preventing diabetes.
Another reason why chocolate, particularly dark chocolate is a go to fix for energy is that it is high in caffeine. For every 100 grams of chocolate there is 43 grams of caffeine. Alternatively raw cocoa is considerably lower in caffeine so it may not aggravate symptoms of anxiety and insomnia like regular chocolate. Raw cocoa can still give us the alertness due to its ability to increase circulation to the brain without the overstimulation of caffeine.
Anaemia: if you are anaemic or have low ferratin levels you may find yourself knocking off quite a bit dark chocolate. This is due to dark chocolates source of iron. Cocoa contains 11.9mg of iron per metric cup. This could be problematic for individuals with Hemochromatosis (condition of elevated ferratin).
So what is my daily ration of chocolate then: I recommend 25grams a serve, no more than one serve a day. I prefer paleo chocolate as it is free of processed sugar and emulsifiers that aggravate the gut and spike insulin levels. If purchasing mass produced chocolate preferences should lean towards 70% minimum cocoa solids.
Chocolate fact: Cocoa contains theobromine, a bitter alkaloid, which acts as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow to the vessels. The idea that chocolate is good for your heart comes from the presence of theobromine. Of course it doesn’t suggest that someone with hypertension should devour a block of chocolate a night. It does suggest that about 25grams of fine dark chocolate (70% minimum cocoa solids) may have a beneficial effect in conjunction with other treatment aims. The juxtaposing effect is that Theobromine in dark chocolate and particularly raw cocoa may lower blood pressure in those who already have hypotension. This may increase symptoms of hypotension such as dizziness and headaches.
If you think your cat or dog may wish to share in your chocolate cravings, don’t, they can’t tolerate theobromine and go into cardiac arrest. Dr Harry Cooper the TV vet was right.
Place all ingredients in a bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until all ingredients are well combined and smooth. Do not boil as this destroys the nutritional properties of both the cocoa and coconut oil. Place in a 20 cm square tin lined with baking paper and refrigerate until set.
Homemade paleo chocolate is temperature sensitive, it should be kept in the fridge as it melts quickly. Using cocoa butter instead is an option, it does have a richer in flavour and much more expensive than using coconut oil.
For further information and consultation on your diet and nutrition make an appointment with Holy Mackerel Health today.
The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance