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Chocoholics Anonymous?

So you're on a diet- you're being good.  But you're a chocoholic, and that's a temptation you have trouble resisting.  What to do?

First, readjust your thinking.  Chocolate is a veggie; it's good for you.  Prevention magazine's recent issue confirms what we've read elsewhere.  Chocolate is full of flavonoids which thin the blood, un-sticking the platelets, thereby helping you avoid a stroke or heart attack.   It also contains very high amounts of antioxidants, those sneaky compounds that retard aging and protect against cancer and other baddies. 

According to a report last year in "Third Age", research at Harvard School of Public Health indicates that men who eat chocolate live longer.

"Experts suggest that . . . health benefits from chocolate may be due to chemicals called phenols found in the sweet morsels.  Phenols are powerful antioxidants that sponge up harmful free radicals that are known to damage cells and have been linked to a wide variety of diseases."

Craving chocolate isn't just being weak or perverse.  There are sound reasons that people hear chocolate calling their name, according to an article on Dr. Koop's previous page entitled "Chocolate Craving Is Real", although the exact mechanism isn't clear:

"'Clearly, controversy surrounds the question of whether motivations for chocolate are physiological, psychological or pharmacologic,' write Dr. Douglas Taren and Kristen Bruinsma of the University of Arizona in Tucson." 

What is clear is that not only do most chocolate-containing foods provide fast calories, quickly raising blood sugar, but compounds in chocolate directly affect mood, probably by raising seratonin levels in the brain.  Chocolate also provides significant amounts of magnesium, a necessary mineral.  Many women find they crave chocolate greatly just before their menstrual period, and magnesium shortage apparently plays a role in pre-menstrual syndrome. 

According to Dr. Weil:

"Chocolate is a powerful drug.  It was discovered by ancient Mesomericans, who recognized it as a mind-altering substance and considered it a gift from the gods.  The great naturalist Linnaeus acknowledged this when he gave the chocolate tree its botanical name, Theobroma cacao.  The Greek roots  of "theobroma" mean "food of the gods." The Aztecs, who used chocolate before the Spanish conquest, regarded it as an aphrodisiac and an aid to spiritual development. "

Dr. Weil also debunks the idea that chocolate blocks the calcium in the milk from being utilized;  any such effect is so tiny as to be almost unnoticeable.    Chocolate milk is probably as healthy for kids or more so than plain milk, as long as it's real chocolate with not too much sugar, and certainly healthier for them than plain milk they won't drink!

Is chocolate addictive and if so, why?  Read Read "Running on Empty"    This site also has a picture of the cacao tree and blossoms, from which chocolate is produced (you really didn't think little elves in Hershey, Pennsylvania produced it, did you?), and about a possible looming shortage of the stuff. The news on chocolate isn't all good. For instance,  Women.com' feature, "Ask the Doctors", states:

"Chocolate can lead to indigestion or heartburn, because it contains a substance that may relax the esophageal sphincter, which in turn can allow painful stomach acid up into the esophagus."   

As a night time drink, if you suffer from acid reflux, hot chocolate or cocoa may not be a good idea.

Further, what many people don't realize is that the average "chocolate candy" has very little chocolate.  Frequently the largest ingredient by weight is some kind of processed fat. 

The best source of chocolate is baking cocoa; it's also fat-free, which many people don't realize.  Baking chocolate is often mostly real chocolate, and so are some brands of chocolate chips and syrups, both of which also may have a high amount of added sugar and artificial flavor.  Expensive candies often are an excellent source, but your average candy bar is not only higher in price in recent years; it's often lower in chocolate than you could possibly imagine.   Even the best white chocolate has almost none of the good compounds;  dark chocolate is where it's at, although milk chocolate still has many of the useful compounds.

Your best bet when trying to satisfy that chocolate craving is to eat or drink something made with baking cocoa.   If you want to satisfy that urge while getting a whole bunch of calcium, try our fast and easy Guilt-Free Hot Chocolate.  Instead of joining Chocoholics Anonymous, your Ten Step Program can be just the distance between the cupboard and the microwave.

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