I confess… I am addicted to chocolate. Everyday, around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon, I have a cup of tea (my favorite is white peach tea) and two squares of Endangered Species Extreme Dark Chocolate (88% cocoa). It takes me at least two hours to have a couple of cups of tea and the two squares of chocolate…I savor each sip and each tiny bite (which I never chew…I just let it melt slowly in my mouth). This is such a ritual that I am often tempted to not schedule clients in during that time so that I can quietly enjoy my chocolate, although I have never done that. Some of my long-time clients know of my chocolate passion and I can indulge in their presence without guilt. Now the rest of you know, too.
This may seem like a contradiction, since I am a nutrition therapist and so I should be eating a completely healthy and clean diet, but actually my chocolate passion is not so bad for me. Here are some reasons why:
Sugar Content of Chocolate
Like everything, chocolate is good in moderation. Okay, maybe not all chocolate, but dark chocolate, when eaten responsibly, provides a number health benefits. The dark chocolate I choose to eat has only 4 grams of natural sugar per ounce. Compare that to the 24 grams of refined sugar in your average 1.5 ounce milk chocolate bar.
But sugar is sugar, right?
Not at all. There are similarities between natural sugar and refined sugar. Both come from the sugar cane plant. Both are initially made by drying the juices of this plant into sugar crystals. This, however, is where the similarities end. Once the crystals have dried, phosphoric acid, calcium hydroxide, sulfur dioxide, and a host of other chemicals are added to refined sugar. Your body metabolizes chemicals much differently than natural foods. The end result is a shockingly higher caloric content, increasing your risk for diabetes and obesity.
While all sugar can cause health problems, limited amounts of natural sugar balanced with a healthy diet and exercise can provide the sweet flavor you desire without the dangers of its Frankenstein cousin.
Dark Chocolate is Good for Your Body
There are numerous studies that have found two ounces of dark chocolate per day has several health benefits. Included in these are:
- Dark chocolate lowers platelet activity, making it less reactive and slower to clot. This, in turn, reduces your risk of heart disease
- Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids, long known to provide numerous health benefits including reducing oxidative damage that can lead to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Specifically, dark chocolate has a flavonol called epicatechin which, in a study by The Journal of the American College of Nutrition, was found to be highly effective in reducing blood pressure
- Dark chocolate is chock full of phytonutrients, non-nutritive plant compounds that protect you from illness and diseases of all sorts
- Chocolate can help keep your teeth strong and healthy. A 2013 study performed by the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found that a new form of toothpaste containing the natural occuring cacao extract theobromine was more effective than fluoride in protecting teeth.
These benefits are particular to dark chocolate. In fact, a recent study by the National Institute for Food and Nutrition found that milk interferes with the absorption of antioxidants, therefor rendering milk chocolate incapable of providing these health benefits.
Dark Chocolate is Good for Your Mind (Okay… dark chocolate is good for my mind)
Buddhists and Hindus place offerings on alters. Catholics and Protestants recite liturgies. Me? I take two hours every day to practice my own ritual. This is my meditation, my space, my peace. This is where I cultivate both love and attention – beginning with careful preparation of my tea and ending as the last piece of dark chocolate melts completely away. Like a Japanese Tea Ceremony, I pay attention to every detail, savoring the entire experience, and centering myself for the rest of the day.
Being a nutrition therapist does not mean that I can’t enjoy foods. Quite to the contrary – being a nutrition therapist allows me to better enjoy foods; appreciating both their health benefits and their unique and expressive tastes. Eating should be a pleasure. It is my distinct honor to teach people how to enjoy it more