Unwrapping a lovely gift for my birthday, I eagerly opened the layers while anticipating a nice box of perfume or a little trinket. Three faces beaming with delight stood in front of me, and I kept the smile frozen on my face as the last layer came adrift, to the sight of my favourite bar of chocolate – a HUGE one. My heart sank to my boots and I instantly fought to find words to thank them, and give them all a huge kiss for. Inside, I felt like weeping at the thought of another two inches on my hips.
Opening it up right away, I snapped sections off and handed the kids all one each. They ran for little plastic bags from the kitchen and dropped their slabs into protective wrapping before slinking off into the sunset. I was relieved that I had managed to hand out so much of the bar.
Is chocolate really that bad for us, or is it just that people don’t want us to actually enjoy something that does something with the endorphins in our brains that makes us think we’ve done a 12 mile run. How have I managed to give myself such a guilt trip over eating one thing that I really do enjoy?
The guilt comes on with one square or ten squares. If I eat it, I feel annoyed with myself, and I don’t think I am alone in that.
Why is chocolate good for us?
The Guardian reported that “A study by the German Institute of Human nutrition found that flavanols from cocoa boost the body’s supply of nitric oxide, which helps to lower blood pressure.” I take that to mean eating chocolate is not all bad, even if it’s not dark chocolate. One point to me. By eating one square of regular chocolate a day, could I really be reducing my risk of stroke or heart attack? That sounds like a nice prescription.
They reported the study from the European Heart Journal that flavanols in cocoa are the reason for the reduced blood pressure, and strokes could be reduced by the increase of blood around the brain.
1,568 people were studied, of which, 57% ate milk chocolate, 24% ate dark and 2% ate white chocolate.
Chocolate to excess!
Sadly, the study showed that the benefits were from eating a smallish amount of chocolate as part of the daily diet. I am more convinced that it would be healthier to have just a few squares a day, but that isn’t easy to do when it’s just sitting there, looking at you and begging to be eaten.
Yes, chocolate is very high in calories, with upwards of 500 calories per hundred grams, so it’s not something that can be eaten without any thought at all. We all know the damage that eating too many treats can do to our bodies, but some of us just can’t stop.
Why do we crave sweet things ?
Imagine a world where someone with foresight and creative ability found a safe way to avoid sugar cravings. I, along with my craving affected sisters, would instantly transform them into a being of ever lasting hero worship, making them an overnight billionaire, and more famous than Mrs and Mrs Beckham.
In the real world, we have to do what we can.
Giving in to a sugar craving can send us into a downward spiral where the need to have something sweet takes over our lives. We satisfy that need with some sugar and our bodies tell us to eat some more. I have no idea why some of our bodies seem to work so sadly against us, but it is a constant fight to retain some semblance of normality and reducing the sugar need.
How to avoid sugar cravings.
A chocolate bar can be anything up to about 50% (and more) just of sugar.
It’s all about understanding the carbs !!!! I know this, yet I still struggle, but it’s good to remind myself. The good carbs will help us keep sugar cravings to a minimum. Starches like vegetables and cereals do this by breaking down the carbs slowly, and not allowing the blood sugar to get to abnormal levels.
Some tricks to try and help reduce cravings are:
- Look at the food we eat. Processed food tends to be quite high in refined sugars, and might be hidden under names like, lactose, dextrose, fructose etc.
- If you drink tea and coffee and use sugar, gradually cut down the amount of sugar you use, until you can stop altogether. It really doesn’t take long before the taste of a hot drink with sugar will turn your stomach.
- In general, white flour and rice has been processed. Try to replace them with whole grain versions. Do this by mixing the white with whole grain until you get the taste for it.
- Try to eat regularly. Skipping meals can make us more hungry when we do start to eat, and drop our blood sugar levels to increase cravings. I struggle with this one as I am fine until I start eating in a day. If I could just stop eating, like an alcoholic can just stop drinking, then I’d have no problem with controlling my weight.
- Eat fruit and vegetables to replace sugary snacks. Common sense, but I find there are days when I just can’t get the fruit I would like.
- I’ve seen the recommendations to use a sugar substitute. All I can say about that is “bleurgh.” I’d rather do without than add a substitute. I’ve used Agave Syrup and Stevia for the kids and cooking quite a bit. They don’t seem to notice, so I’ll carry on with that.
Chocolate is GOOD FOR YOU?
Perhaps if I can change my mindset into thinking and believing that chocolate really is good for me, it will lose the love / hate relationship I now have with it. I want to enjoy eating it, and be able to control how much of a bar I eat.
My new mantra…
Chocolate is good for you, chocolate is good for you, chocolate is good for you, chocolate is good for you, chocolate IS good for you.