Psychology Today


Alice Baland, Speaker, Author, Psychotherapist, Dietitian

Flavor Factor

 Um, dark chocolate melting slightly between your fingers, a euphoric smile on your face. your tongue’s taste buds rollicking with delight! Your body is totally in unison with PLEASURE. Then your mind chatter kicks in, “Oh no. I know I shouldn’t be eating this. Chocolate is bad for me. It’s high in calories, fat and sugar. I should have fruit instead. I feel so guilty! But I’m going to eat it anyway, because it’s SO GOOD!”  Do you often ask yourself if CHOCOLATE is good or bad for you?

 I’m here to reinforce for you that chocolate can be GOOD for you! That’s right! Enjoy chocolate! Of course, in moderation is best. I like to choose the highest quality dark chocolate I can find, with zero to few additives and preservatives, because I get the greatest pleasure from that and usually end up eating less, because it’s a little goes a long way. Yes, I may pay more per pound, but that pound lasts quite a while and gives me much more pleasure.

I have two current DARK CHOCOLATE FAVORITES! And I eat a little bit of chocolate nearly every day. The first one is Chocolove’s Almonds & Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate with a love poem inside! This bar contains 55% cocoa and is available at Whole Foods and Central Market. It contains only 159 calories in 1/3 of a bar, 11 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrate, 123 mg. sodium (about the same as a glass of milk), 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber! I enjoy it after my hour or hour and a half workout three times a week. It’s the perfect pick-me-up until I shower and fix breakfast – fresh blackberries (the highest fiber fruit and high in antioxidants), and a one egg omelet with red onions, goat cheese and a warm corn tortilla. What a great breakfast!

 My other favorite chocolate is Whole Foods 365 Dark Chocolate Truffles. Just three mini truffles melt in my mouth one by one and my whole being is in BLISS! No guilt, just pure pleasure! That’s my personal philosophy: showing you how to truly enjoy a balanced meal plan with many of YOUR favorite foods, such as CHOCOLATE!

Science and Health Factors

Besides the Flavor Factor of chocolate, what do you need to know about the science and nutrition behind it? Take a bite of the Good News. Studies have shown that cocoa flavonoids are in certain chocolates, especially dark chocolate and may play a role in maintaining a healthy heart. Specifically, they may decrease the “bad” LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol oxidation and may modulate platelet activation, as well as positively affect the balance between certain hormones, or eicosanoids. Further studies show that flavonoids (a subgroup of polyphenols) from chocolate liquor polyphenols (CLP) inhibit the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).  Decreasing ROS damage to cell membranes and biological molecules is believed to play an important role in overall good health throughout life.   

Other observations show that cocoa flavonoids may have immune system regulation effects that go beyond their antioxidant activity. However, these results are preliminary; additional studies are ongoing.

 Another interesting point is the ORAC score, which stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and highlights a food’s potential antioxidant activity.  On this scale, onions, black tea, strawberries and red wine average about 25, milk chocolate about 75 and dark chocolate scores over 175 on the ORAC scale.  This is yet another way of measuring the health contributions foods have on the heart.

 According to a fact sheet by the American Dietetic Association, in a grant funded by Mars, Inc., chocolate contributes less than two percent of the fat in the American diet.  While chocolate contains saturated fat, it is mostly stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol.  In addition, oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat (also found in olive oil), makes up about one-third of the fat in chocolate.  Eating foods with oleic acid as part of a healthful eating plan has been shown to be beneficial for a healthy heart as well.

And to the surprise of many, chocolate contains very little caffeine (it contains theobromine), rarely causes allergies (although some families may tend to notice allergies across the generations), contains noteworthy concentrations of copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium and is not addictive (I may dispute that point of view – sometimes I feel addicted to it) even though people enjoy the sensations of eating it.    

Psychological and Biochemical Factors

Furthermore, in the psychological and biochemical arena, chocolate can cause a rush of serotonin and endorphins (“feel good” neurotransmitters) into brain cells resulting in optimal brain happiness.   So when one is craving these ingredients, satisfy the urge by eating a small amount of the real thing – chocolate.

 Moderation Factor

 While chocolate can be a health benefit, it is vital to remember that chocolate should be consumed as part of a balanced diet and physically active lifestyle. It is possible to include fine chocolates in your lifestyle. Be discriminating.

 When integrated into a healthy diet and exercise routine we may find that chocolate can be a positive element in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and PLEASURE PRINCIPLE. Chocolate is one of the rare elements in which I can still indulge, because I’m allergic to so many foods (pepper, wheat, dairy, soy, for example). Definitely, if you enjoy chocolate there IS a positive way to include it in your life if you desire. Here’s to The Good Life!

 What’s YOUR favorite chocolate? How do you use it in your life? Are you in control of food or is food in control of you? Let me know at .

Alice Baland, “America’s Good Eating Expert! ™”

Ask me to speak to your company, association or university! Call 469-737-5455