There are a lot of theories out there about the significance of food cravings. From nutrient deficiency to romantic shortfall, there is something out there to justify any kind of gastronomical desire.
Since falling on my head and sustaining an acute neck injury (what? I know!), I have had an overwhelming compulsion to consume sweets, but particularly that dark dessert cloaked in mystique which we call chocolate.
If for no other reason than to warrant the feast that is to come, here are some interesting facts about the nutritional properties of chocolate:
Chocolate is a rich source of antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds in food that help to combat oxidation in the cells. Although oxidative processes are necessary, oxidation can also damage the cells and has been linked to many diseases, as well as to the ageing process.
Chocolate is good for the heart
Tests have been done by Yale University Associate Professor Dr David Katz showing that dark chocolate reduces blood pressure within an hour of being consumed. Studies suggest that longer-term effects of chocolate on heart-health include promoting relaxation of the arteries and preventing plaque build-up inside the arteries.
Chocolate is low-GI
Not to be confused with low-fat or low-calorie, low-Glycaemic Index means that chocolate takes a relatively long time to be broken down and have its glucose released into the blood-stream. Consuming high-GI foods leads to a “sugar-high” and the inevitable “sugar-crash,” playing havoc with the endocrine system as the body rushes to release insulin in response to high levels of glucose in the blood. Long-term consumption of high-GI foods has been linked to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and macular degeneration. It should be noted, however, that the Glycaemic Index describes the effect which food has on blood-sugar levels, but does not reflect the calorific value of food.
Chocolate is a source of minerals
According to the USDA nutrient data-base laboratory, 40g of dark chocolate contains 14% of RDI of copper, 11.5% of RDI of magnesium, 6.9% of RDI of iron, and 4.3% of RDI of zinc. Copper is involved in energy production and the use of antioxidants in the body; magnesium is involved in over 300 processes in the body and is important for strong bones, muscle and nerve function, and a healthy immune system; iron is imperative in the transport of oxygen to cells through the blood-stream; and zinc is necessary for healthy immune function, wound healing and the breakdown of carbohydrates.
Chocolate is a proven source of pleasure
Chocolate is a source of phenylethylamine, a chemical which is released in the brain when we fall in love. It stimulates the release of endorphins, which explains why eating chocolate makes us feel so good, and maybe says a little about why we crave it too!
Let’s not fool ourselves. Chocolate is relatively high in calories and is notoriously more-ish. For someone on a weight-loss journey, this is not an everyday food. If you simply can’t resist that craving but don’t want to sabotage your fat-loss efforts, look for the darkest chocolate, with the highest cocoa percentage you can find. The taste and nutritional value of the cocoa should be strong enough to stop you from eating too much, without ingesting too much sugar. You can also make a hot chocolate out of milk, pure cocoa powder, and stevia, a natural low-calorie sweetener. But if the craving has grown so strong that you simply can’t resist, as is the case with me, at least make it worth it and seek out – or create – the most luscious, satisfying chocolate indulgence there is…