The Best Indulgent Treat for Writers—You’ll Like This!

Filed in The Healthy Writer by on June 2, 2015 • views: 1411

I’ve noticed it on Twitter. There are two things writers like, a lot.

The first is coffee. There are a number of tweets most every day singing the praises of this one beverage.

The second?

Chocolate.

Mentioned the word chocolate, and a number of writers will comment. It’s like mentioning “squirrel” to the dog in the animated movie, “Up.”

Chocolate? Where? Can I get some?

I talked about the benefits of coffee on a previous post. (Read more about the benefits of coffee here.) Though not a fanatic, I love a nice cup in the morning, and sometimes with dessert at night.

Chocolate though?

I used to love Snickers as a kid, but as I got older, candy just felt too heavy and sweet. I have a definite weakness for brownies and chocolate cake, but chocolate candy? Not so much.

Until I got my hands on some real dark chocolate.

There’s Nothing Like the Real Stuff

It was a couple weeks ago when I was browsing through the organic aisles. There was the Theo Organic Dark with Sea Salt, and the Vosges Black Salt Caramel Bar, and many others. All 70 percent cacao, according to the labels.

We all know dark chocolate has healthy antioxidants. The more cacao, the more antioxidants. I decided to give one a try.

Some of you chocolate aficionados may think I’m arriving really late to the party. Others may have never tried these types of candy bars before. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, I’m here to tell you that this chocolate is not only very tasty, it’s different.

There’s something about the extra cacao that provides for a unique experience—both for your taste buds and for your body and brain.

For once, I can actually feel the stuff doing what studies say it can do—starting with curbing hunger.

I’ll say that again.

This type of dark chocolate can actually curb your hunger and potentially help you snack less.

That’s not all, though. So here we go—7 reasons why you should be investing in expensive, luxurious, delicious dark chocolate today.

Don’t Be Fooled by the Cheap Stuff

First, a quick note about the kind of chocolate we’re talking about. After the studies came out showing that dark chocolate was actually good for you, a lot of companies jumped on the bandwagon to market their goods. Suddenly everyone had dark chocolate.

The problem is, a lot of them didn’t (and still don’t) have much of it. The good stuff has 70 percent or more of real cacao.

Realize that milk chocolate, as well, doesn’t have the same benefits. Dark chocolate contains about two to three times the amount of cocoa as milk chocolate, and has healthier fatty acids. It also has less sugar than milk chocolate, which is really significant when we’re talking about how it affects your appetite and cravings (more on that below).

Don’t be fooled. If you want the quality stuff, follow these tips:

  • Make sure the percentage of cacao is 70% or more (cacao is the plant from which the cacao beans are harvested—as opposed to “cocoa,” which is the powder made from roasted, husked, and ground cacao seeds)
  • Avoid those that have “alkalinization” in the ingredients—this process strips the chocolate of its healthy flavonols
  • Look for brands with only 3-4 ingredients—cacao beans, sugar, cocoa butter, and a flavoring, for example; more than that means the company probably used cheaper ingredients in their manufacturing processes
  • Avoid those with ingredients like “cocoa butter equivalents (CBE),” hydrogenated oils, and vegetable oils
  • Realize these quality ingredients will likely result in a slightly higher price

Finally, go by what your taste buds tell you. When you get a sample of the good stuff, you won’t want to go back!

7 Reasons Why True Dark Chocolate Is Worth the Price

Here’s what the real dark chocolate can do for you—both your health and your writing!

  1. It provides powerful antioxidants: You’ve heard about this one. Real dark chocolate has the same disease-fighting antioxidants as tea, red wine, and apples. These special nutrients help protect cells from damaging free radicals, which can cause premature aging and increase risk of things like heart disease and cancer.
  2. It helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease: We have a lot of studies showing how dark chocolate benefits the heart. Research published in 2007 showed that it increased the diameter of coronary arteries, improving blood flow. A 2009 study found that it also had benefits on blood pressure, insulin resistance, and blood lipids, indicating that it may also help prevent type 2 diabetes. A later 2011 meta-analysis also found those participants with the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease, and a 29 percent reduction in stroke.
  3. It provides healthy nutrients: A 1.5 ounce serving of dark chocolate contains 15% of the recommended daily allowance of magnesium, 34% of copper, about 12% fiber, over 200 mg of potassium, and 2 grams of protein.
  4. It helps relieve stress: Stressed about a deadline coming up? Dark chocolate can help. A 2009 study found that subjects who ate about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced the level of stress hormones in their bodies, and also normalized other stress-related upsets in the gut.
  5. It reduces depression and anxiety: Next time you receive a rejection or a bad review, reach for the dark chocolate. A 2007 study found that people prone to depression (um…most writers?) felt less anxious and less irritable after eating chocolate. Researchers believe the opiods in the chocolate help people feel more relaxed. A later 2012 study found that cancer patients who were feeling anxious and depressed who ate 50 grams of dark chocolate for three days significantly reduced these symptoms and also experienced overall improvement in quality of life. The natural flavonoids in chocolate are known to boost “good mood” neurotransmitters in the brain, and to boost brain levels of endorphins.
  6. It curbs hunger: This is really exciting, and I’ve experienced this myself. I have a real hard time avoiding the munchies late at night. It’s my one downfall when it comes to healthy eating. I’m amazed at how much dark chocolate helps. Just a small square satisfies me, and I’m not one that’s easily satisfied after ten o’clock or so. Where I might be reaching for the brownies or cookies or chips before, now the chocolate soothes my cravings and I don’t even think about food. Amazing! Studies prove it works. Research published in 2008, for example, found that dark chocolate provided long-lasting feelings of fullness and reduced cravings for unhealthy foods, whereas milk chocolate did the opposite. Eat milk chocolate and you’re likely to want more of the stuff that’s bad for you, so stick to the dark! Of course, all this assumes that you’re eating a “reasonable” amount. Most experts recommend 1.5 ounces a day. Any more, and you’ll be overdoing it on the calories.
  7. It could boost brainpower: Feeling a slump at midday? Fatigued just when you need to write? Dark chocolate can help. A recent 2015 study found that dark chocolate improves attention and helped improve blood flow to the brain. “Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way,” said Stevens, a professor of psychological sciences at Northern Arizona University. “It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels.” A 2013 study also suggested the sweet treat may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Do you enjoy dark chocolate? Please share your favorite kinds!


Sources
“Chocolate,” The Cleveland Clinic, http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/Promos/Pages/Chocolate.aspx.

Roberto Corti, et al., “Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health,” Circulation, 2009; 119:1433-1441, http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/119/10/1433.full.

Francois-Pierre J. Martin, et al., “Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects,” J. Proteome Res., 2009; 8(12):5568-5579, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/pr900607v?tokenDomain=presspac&tokenAccess=presspac&forwardService=showFullText&journalCode=jprobs.

Adriana Buitrago-Lopez, et al., “Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis,” BMJ, August 29, 2011; 343: http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d4488.

Sophie Scott, “Study finds chocolate has anti-depressant qualities,” ABC News, October 2, 2007, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2007-10-02/study-finds-chocolate-has-anti-depressant-qualities/687366.

Wong SY and Lua PL, “Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Anxiety, Depressive Symptoms, and Health-Related Quality of Life Status Among Cancer Patients,” Health and the Environment Journal, 2012; 3(1):27-35, http://www.hej.kk.usm.my/pdf/HEJVol.3No.1/Article04.pdf.

Michelle Montopoli, et al., “The Acute Electrocortical and Blood Pressure Effects of Chocolate,” Neuro Regulation, 2015; 2(1): http://www.neuroregulation.org/article/view/14652.

John Bachman and Nick Tate, “Harvard Researchers: Chocolate Protects Against Alzheimer’s,” NewsMax, October 22, 2013, http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Health-News/chocolate-alzheimer-dementia-cocoa/2013/10/22/id/532369/.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    Delicious post! I love dark chocolate, so I’m glad to know it loves me back! My favorite is Ghirardelli 70% Cacao, but I’ll have to check the ingredients next time I’m at the store and see how it stacks up.

  2. It’s the only kind of chocolate I can eat. I’m allergic to milk and nuts. But now that I know how healthy it is, maybe I will indulge more often! Thanks for posting.

    • Colleen says:

      Oh that’s interesting. I didn’t think of the allergy issue on milk chocolate. Thanks for sharing, Ann!

  3. Alonna Shaw says:

    As a kid I loved what I thought was chocolate–milk chocolate. As an adult I discovered that 70% dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate candy is waaay better.
    My favorite baking and snacking dark chocolate is Valrhona Guanaja 70%. (Found at some Whole Foods as their bulk chocolate in sticks or chunks. The discs are some other brand which I don’t enjoy at all.)