Did you know that today is National Chocolate Day!?
Do you have a sweet tooth? If you do, you probably enjoy chocolate weekly, monthly or maybe less regular than that. Chocolate is known as discretionary food. Discretionary foods don’t fit into the Five Core Food groups because they are not necessary for a healthy diet, and are usually too high in saturated fat and/or added sugars. Chocolate is high in kilojoules, and if your focus is weight loss, you may not be able to include chocolate in your kilojoule intake on a day-to-day basis.
But what about foods that help you to stay on track, fuel your soul and make you happy? Where do those foods fit in?
Chocolate is definitely one of those foods. The most likely basis for the attraction of chocolate would be that it stimulates the release of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that are secreted within the brain and nervous system. Endorphins are released during pleasurable activities and help to relieve pain, reduce stress and cause happiness. Chocolate may also interact with other neurotransmitter systems such as dopamine and serotonin. These 3 chemicals all contribute to appetite, reward and mood regulation.
Restricting foods like chocolate, especially if you are a ‘chocoholic’ can cause obsession and overconsumption when finally allowing yourself to have some. All of the food in our diet should be treated with portion control. This includes all of the foods featured in the core food groups and also discretionary foods. This means chocolate can be a part of a balanced, healthy diet in adequate portions, but consumption on a super regular basis should be avoided.
There are also some health benefits to certain types of chocolates. Dark chocolate can be a source of iron, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus. Dark chocolate contains cocoa which is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that may help to protect the heart. Flavanols have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide in the inner cell lining of blood vessels, which helps to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure. When choosing dark chocolate percentage, dark chocolate 70% or higher has the most flavanols.
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