Easter is just around the corner and with that comes chocolate!  Most people enjoy chocolate but many consider it a forbidden food that should only be eaten at special times if at all. Many feel guilty when they do give in to satisfy their craving.  Thankfully, we can learn to live with chocolate and not feel guilty about eating it and perhaps become healthier for it.

One of the problems with labeling a food as taboo or feeling you have to remove it completely from your diet is that you will tend have increased cravings for that food and therefore more bouts of guilt when you do break down to eat it.  Research as found those women who accept enjoying a piece of chocolate cake as a form of celebration (birthday etc.) instead of denying themselves are more likely to have success at managing their weight.  On the other hand, those who see it as taboo and associate it will guilt have a harder time managing their weight.

The key is to set some terms for you to enjoy chocolate.  Savour it and enjoy it with purpose and intention and without the guilt. That does not mean you eat as much as you want, be mindful of how much you eat.  For example, allow yourself a square of dark chocolate every day.

There are health benefits to chocolate, dark chocolate in particular. Research has shown that the following benefits are associated with eating dark chocolate:

Increase Heart Health:

The antioxidants in dark chocolate help to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of blood clotting, and increase blood circulation.  All this helps to lower the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, and death from heart disease.

Balances Immune System:

Flavonols found in dark chocolate, prevent the immune system from going into overdrive and can reduce oxidation stress, which is linked to many diseases.

Combats Diabetes:

Epicatechin, one of the most beneficial flavonols, protects cells and makes them stronger.  It supports the processes that help the body use insulin more efficiently which could prevent or combat diabetes.

Improves Brain Function:

Flavonols have a positive effect on brain function including enhanced reaction time, visual-spatial awareness, and stronger memory.

Boosts Athletic Performance:

Epicatechin increases the production of nitric oxide in the blood, which supports circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen an athlete uses while exercising. This allows the athlete to exercise at a higher intensity for longer.

Reduces Stress:

People who eat dark chocolate tend to feel less stressed which may be related to dark chocolate’s effect on heart health.

With all these healthy effects of eating chocolate, eating it in moderation should not be associated with guilt and it should become a part of your diet.  Here are some things to consider:

1)         The higher the cocoa content the more flavonoids it will contain.  Aim for at least 70% cocoa.

2)         Try to limit yourself to an ounce of dark chocolate as an occasional treat.

3)         Check the label to be aware of calorie, fat, and sugar content.

4)         For some people chocolate can trigger acid reflux or migraine.

So do not deny yourself a bit of chocolate this Easter.  Just do not eat the whole bunny in one sitting!