Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 30, Tuesday August 12, 2008















Love affair…with chocolate

For years, you've tried to break it off. You're certain this relationship is wrong, even sinful. But try as you might, you just can't end it; your will power inevitably crumbles, and you always go back for more.

We're talking of course about your love affair with chocolate, that dark seducer even more likely to attract as you're surrounded by heart-shaped displays. Long thought to be an aphrodisiac, chocolate has been inextricably linked with the cupid and lovers since it was discovered among the ancient Aztecs and carried to the Old World. But, whether you're the giver or receiver, just how sinful is chocolate? There is mounting evidence showing some health benefits of eating chocolate in moderation. Studies have found that dark chocolate helps prevent heart disease and cancer, and has also been shown to improve mood by boosting the brain chemical serotonin. Some even consider chocolate an effective diet food, claiming that a chunk of chocolate before meals diminishes your appetite.

Chocolate is made up of about 300 chemicalssome which in theory have mood-altering effects. It contains negligible amounts of the stimulant caffeine, as well as theobromine (which stimulates the heart and the nervous system) and phenyethylamine (an amphetamine-like substance said to simulate the feeling of falling in love). A University of Michigan study says chocolate causes the brain to release b-endorphin, a naturally occurring chemical similar to opium, which dulls pain and increases your sense of well-being. Chocolate contains a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals that the body needs, including potassium, sodium, iron, fluorine and vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E. In fact, researchers at Harvard University believe chocolate may help people live longer! A study tracking older men found that those who ate chocolate lived almost a year longer than those who didn't.

Researchers believe this has something to do with the fact that chocolate contains flavonoids(compounds that may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer while slowing the aging process) and stearic acid, a heart-friendly fatty acid that doesn't promote cholesterol increases.

The bottom line: Chocolate may be getting a bad rap as a sinful food, but moderation may be the key. If you simply must indulge, here are some tips for controlling your chocolate cravings and consumption:
-Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate. Studies based on dark chocolate tend to show benefits that those based on milk chocolate does not.

-Partner your chocolate with nutrient-rich foods, like chocolate covered strawberries, apple slices or bananas. Add a few chocolate chips in your berry-nut trail mix. Try a refreshing glass of chocolate-flavored milk or soymilk.

-Buy smaller sizes of chocolate bars or hot fudge sundaes, since research shows you tend to eat the entire amount you're served.

-Order fruits for dessert, with a small chocolate truffle on the side.

-Savor, don't chew, your chocolate. Sit down, take your time, and focus on the taste in your mouth. Enjoy it thoroughly. If you pop it in your mouth while you are driving, watching TV, or talking on the phone, you're likely to keep reaching for more.

-Give in to your chocolate cravings! Ever try to stifle a craving by eating something else? You usually just end up eating more and more of the other food, eventually giving in to your original desire anyway. Save yourself the calories and the torment! A small portion may be all you need for satisfaction.

Umm...chocolate…it's truly a love affair of not so guilty pleasure!

Compiled by Zubaida Munny



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