I was feeling a little down this week, which of course made me want to eat poorly, to drown my sorrows in comfort food. I can still hear Dr. Lowry from the Advanced Wellness Centre lecturing me, “Food is not entertainment, Dianna. Food is energy.”
Yeah, I know. But sometimes I really need it to entertain me. To lift my mood. So I decided to compromise. If I’m going to splurge I could at least pick something that is more healthy than say, a vat of cookie dough or a large Bruster’s Brownie Blast. That’s the least I can do, right?
My selection—dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which are important in fighting free radicals. Free radicals are nasty little things that are thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
I think of free radicals as the Taliban—extremists wholly focused on destroying healthy cells. Antioxidants are the U.S. forces sent in to fight the Taliban and reestablish order.
You can’t fight the Taliban alone. Your body’s not capable of manufacturing enough antioxidants to fight the free radicals. You need backup. And the only place to get extra ammo is from your diet.
Luckily, dark chocolate can help you fight the battle. Not only has research connected dark chocolate with lowering high blood pressure, but a study from the American Chemical Society's Journal of Proteome Research showed that consumption of dark chocolate reduced stress hormones.
Well, duh. Why do you think chocolate is a staple of every PMS-suffering woman? They really needed to fund research to figure that out?
Now, a word of caution.
All this good news doesn’t give you free reign to go pound down a pound of dark chocolate. It still has a lot of fat and calories in it. (A one-ounce bar contains about 170 calories and 12g of fat—ouch!) So, as usual, MODERATION is key.
And don’t reach for milk chocolate or white chocolate. White chocolate doesn’t have any cocoa in it so there are no health benefits and milk chocolate has less than 30% cocoa plus tons of added sugar and milk, which completely defeats the benefits of the cocoa. Don’t kid yourself. That Snickers bar, Death by Chocolate Cake or some other chocolate confection is not healthy. You’re eating fat and sugar.
If you have a craving for something sweet, stick with a small square of plain, dark chocolate with at least 60% cocoa. Place that little piece of heaven in your mouth and let it melt. Turn out the lights if you want, light some candles, just savor the flavor.