Chocolates have been sold over time as a treat that is somehow tied to our feelings and love. Have you ever been given a box of chocolates as a gift, as a mark of appreciation, or as an apology? Oh, and don’t forget about the occasions like Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas Day, or New Year’s Day. On these occasions, chocolates are presented in distinctive packaging to entice customers to purchase gifts for their loved ones. All of this is simply a result of the widespread desire for chocolate.
But did you know this popular treat is celebrated over the globe on July 7th as “World Chocolate Day”? To this day, chocolate is regarded as a one-of-a-kind milestone in humanity’s greatest culinary achievement. Chocolate can be savored and enjoyed by itself. However, it can also be utilized to enhance and contribute to the creation of the most luxurious dishes. Some of the most popular chocolate bars are simple. But always, look for one with a high cocoa content and less added sugar.
In fact, chocolate is one of the world’s most craved foods, according to research. There are some individuals who claim that they are chocoholics, but is this actually a reality? Can chocolate even be classified as an addictive substance? Let’s find out in this article.
Cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate, stimulates the production of endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which interacts with our brain receptors to make us feel happy. As it tastes so delicious, it even improves our mood and creates sensations of pleasure. It’s no surprise that when we’re depressed, we crave chocolate.
It also contains a chemical that alters the way the brain functions. That results in changes in mood, consciousness, thoughts, feelings, or behaviour called psychotropic substances that may help alleviate symptoms of depression. And every time you consume chocolate, you get natural ingredients that generate feelings akin to falling in love.
Chocolate has two key compounds: theobromine and caffeine, which give it a bitter taste and assist us in increasing our serotonin levels (It is a feel-good chemical that makes you more focused, emotionally secure, happy, and tranquil), which improves our mood. Theobromine, also known as xantheose, is an alkaloid compound found principally in the cocoa plant, but also to a lesser level in tea leaves and the cola nut. Whereas, Caffeine works by preventing adenosine from attaching to the adenosine A1 receptor, hence increasing the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Do you know why women crave chocolate while they are menstruating? This is due to the fact that their serotonin levels drop when a woman experiences premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and chocolate helps people feel happier by increasing serotonin levels.
As a result, when we taste chocolate, our taste buds convey a chemical communication to our brain. This not only informs our brain that we have just consumed something sweet, but it also causes the release of hormones associated with reward and pleasure.
The Most Addicting Chocolate and its Physiological Effects
Aside from the aforementioned chemicals, the most addictive chocolate variations tend to be those with the highest levels of sugar and fat. These are commonly found in milk and white chocolates. These two types of chocolates are high in sugar and milk, which triggers our brain to release a rush of feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain. It serves as a “reward centre” and is involved in numerous bodily activities, including memory, locomotion, motivation, mood, and attention.
After a couple of bars, your brain feels you should enjoy this wonderful treat again and again. As a result, the next time you see your favourite chocolate bar, your brain will be familiar with that pleasurable sensation.
It’s similar to opening a Ferrero Rocher and remembering how delighted you were when you first saw it in its beautiful package. Then, before you realize it, you’ve already started eating from a second box after finishing the first one! You should eat it again tomorrow since it tastes so good! Who is at fault? Just me?
This downward spiral resembles the effects of a narcotic, where the longer you use it, the more you need that high. Dopamine, which sets off our brain’s feel-good state, is released by both drugs and chocolate, making you want more of both. But you never see a chocoholic at a narcotics gathering, do you? In reality, the levels of chemicals in chocolate are too low to cause addiction. Perhaps we simply love it that much? Without chocolate, the world would be so gloomy that I can’t even imagine it. In fact, as I write this, I’m already depressed about the fact that I don’t have any chocolates with me.
Alternatives to satisfy your chocolate cravings
Chocolate is a pure source of joy. It’s intended to be that way, and that’s fine!! The most common form of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate is flavanol. Hence, eating 1 to 2 ounces (30-60g) of chocolates per day in moderation helps lower blood pressure and prevent blood clotting, cut cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and reduce insulin sensitivity.
However, if your desires are too strong for chocolates, eat a well-balanced diet rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Try Fresh Fruit for Sugar
If you really want something sweet, a slice of fruit is the finest option. Fruits naturally include fibre, which aids in the gradual absorption of sugar, as well as various vitamins and minerals. If you have a strong sugar hunger, reach for the sweetest fruits, such as grapes, mangoes, cherries, or pears.
Stay Full with Protein
Hunger disguised as a chocolate craving indicates that you require food that will satisfy and keep you fuller for a longer period of time. Protein-rich foods, which take longer to digest than other nutrients, include Greek yoghurt, beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, tuna, cottage cheese, and protein bars.
Choose Alternative, Healthier Snacks
If you deny yourself the craving too frequently, you risk overeating later. Give in with something healthier and lower in calories than most chocolate snacks, and watch your portions:
a sprinkling of nuts or trail mix
Air-popped popcorn with a touch of butter and saltNut butter with apple or celery slicesHummus and vegetablesa couple of olivesToast with avocado
Get out of a Slump with Caffeinated Beverages
A chocolate craving may indicate that you require an energy boost. If you’re not hungry, try a caffeinated beverage. But stick to low-calorie beverages. A cup of black coffee or a cup of hot black tea can be satiating without adding extra calories. If you don’t like your drinks pure, a little low-fat creamer will suffice.
Choose High-Magnesium Foods
Cravings for specific foods could indicate a lack of micro or macronutrients. A yearning for chocolate, in particular, may indicate a magnesium shortage. Magnesium is a mineral that is necessary for approximately 300 enzymatic activities in the body. Because magnesium is required for the proper use of vitamin D, it may contribute to increased sweet cravings or cause muscle cramps, weariness, apathy, high blood pressure, and even osteoporosis.
Since chocolate is not strictly an addictive substance, it may have different effects on those who suffer from eating disorders. Also, if used improperly, anything might be deemed an addictive substance. Darker chocolate is the greatest method to gain the health advantages of chocolate. The best option should be at least 70%, but the darker the better!
The trick, as always, is moderation and double-checking the label! You are not alone in your chocolate cravings, and there are healthier alternatives. As a result, while eating chocolate can provide a fast cure for nervous and stressful days, it is not a long-term solution. If you observe indicators of an unhealthy relationship with chocolate, you may seek help from one of our dietitians and nutritionists.
Additionally, discover some delicious and healthy chocolate recipes like “Healthy Strawberry Chocolate mousse.”
So, what are your thoughts? Do you consider yourself a choco buff? Let us know in the comments section below.