To my self confessed chocoholics: we all enjoy some chocolate in our lives. Whether it be a bar, hot chocolate, a dipping sauce, or through the medium of Nutella. The internet talks a lot about chocolate addicition, but is it a real thing? Registered Nutritionist and Nutrition Counsellor, Shannon Western, gives all the details on chocolate addiction in this article.
Is chocolate addiction a real thing?
The following criteria are proposed for an addiction:
Intense craving for it
Loss of control when it comes to eating it
Continued use despite any negative consequences (and often lying about it)
All of the above might be true for you, which has you concerned about your chocolate consumption. Do you lie about how much you consume and are unable to control how much chocolate you eat in one session? Although some people focus on the chocolate consumption itself, often this is indicative of a larger disordered eating pattern.
How do I stop my addiction to chocolate?
1. Note down when you’re eating chocolate
Are you actually ‘addicted’ or are you just reading a lot of posts on instagram about chocolate addiction that have you worried?
Is chocolate a food you think of as ''bad''? Or something you should kind of avoid? We know that having certain views about a food can increase its allure, thus leading to feelings of addiction.
2. See what else you’ve been eating when you crave chocolate
Are you in a period of restriction, whether that’s on purpose or accidentally. Your body might be needing a quick burst of energy if you’ve been running on empty all day. Eating other foods may fill that hole that chocolate has been filling, especially complex carbohydrates.
Chocolate can for sure still be a part of your daily diet, but perhaps you might take a look at your meals and snacks. Are they large enough and filled with all the food groups? (starchy carbs, protein, fats, calcium, and fruit/veg)
3. Make sure you’re not restricting yourself
The more you’re told you can’t have something, the more you want it. That’s how our brains work. It’s the classic don’t press the red button approach.
We have a whole blog here about how restriction might be showing up, in our disordered eating blog.
4. Notice what causes you to crave chocolate
Is it during stressful times? Is it when you’re feeling negative emotions, when you’re experiencing PMS?
Many factors might be leading to these cravings. All of which may be treated through other means. We recommend working with a Nutrition Counsellor, like our team at Ease Nutrition Therapy to help you to engage in health-promoting behaviours.
5. When you do eat chocolate try and eat mindfully
You will eat chocolate. Otherwise that restriction craving sets in, so enjoy the chocolate. Tune into how the food is making you feel, the enjoyment it causes and meeting your body’s needs. Not eating from a place of guilt.
Think of adding not removing from your life and diet. Instead of focusing on removing chocolate, think of adding other foods such as complex carbs, high protein foods that may fill you up or more food as a whole. When stressed instead of removing chocolate, maybe you add some journaling, breath work, therapy, or gentle exercise to combat stressful feelings.
What happens if you eat chocolate everyday?
For me (and most people), life is a tad happier with some chocolate in it everyday. If you think of the nutrient components of chocolate it has a little fat and sugar in there so that is added to your overall nutrient intake. As with anything it depends on the amount you’re eating, one or two squares of chocolate is not the same as several bars of chocolate or a jar of nutella.
We’re a big fan here of the Non-Diet approaches to food. Restricting yourself from eating chocolate will make you want it more and can cause you to binge eat a lot of chocolate at once. Everyday may not be optimal for you but eating chocolate often may be a small component of a varied diet that works for you and your lifestyle.
Eating large amounts of chocolate everyday is not generally recommended, as it provides a short energy burst before your body wants more - which can leave you feeling fatigued and not at your best. Incorporating chocolate into your diet as an addition and not a main factor may be the best approach.
So does eating chocolate have any benefits?
Chocolate can lower your blood pressure
Chocolate contains flavonoids which can help blood pressure, but research tends to prefer dark chocolate as it’s the highest in cocoa (not much research supports white chocolate in this benefit but hey- it's delicious!)
Dark chocolate might be anti-inflammatory
One 2018 study found that after a week of eating 70% dark chocolate regularly can help regulate the immune system.
It might improve your memory
Again, mainly focusing on dark chocolate. Some research has found memory recall and information processing is sometimes boosted after eating chocolate. This is one again down to the flavonoids.
Chocolate and depression
Dark chocolate is once again the focus for this one, and has been shown to potentially help reduce depression symptoms. Alongside other things like therapy, talking, fresh air, enough food, reduced stress, and increased support from friends/family.
Chocolate contains antioxidants
These help with blood pressure and the healthy running of the heart. Dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than blueberries… Sign us up!
Chocolate can help with stress
In studies looking at the stress hormone cortisol, levels decrease after eating dark chocolate. The good news is that milk chocolate appears to also help if you’re stressed...
It appears the major drawback for chocolate is that the best for you is dark chocolate - and that might not be your preference.
As always the above things don’t take into account the rest of your diet, lifestyle or any genetic risk factors for depression, heart problems and inflammation.
What do I do if I binge on chocolate?
1. Monitor your binge eating
Maybe make a note somewhere of where and when you binge on chocolate. This may help you see what causes such a binge, but also how it made you feel and other comments.
2. Check in
Have you been restricting chocolate? Have you been eating enough? It may be that you’re under fuelling and that’s causing the cravings and eventual binge.
3. See how you feel - check in with your feelings when craving chocolate. It is often a food associated with stress and negative emotions. Are there any other ways you could potentially deal with these emotions?
4. Work with a nutrition professional if you require further support.
Berk et al 2018: Dark chocolate (70% cacao) effects human gene expression: Cacao regulates cellular immune response, neural signaling, and sensory perception
Jackson et al 2019: Is there a relationship between chocolate consumption and symptoms of depression? A cross-sectional survey of 13,626 US adults https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/da.22950