By Christie Melhorn, July 20 2017 —
Chocolate is often demonized as a fattening junk food. While snacking on Mars bars all day will show in your need for new pants and an aching stomach, moderate doses of minimally processed chocolate are good for the body and soul.
Chocolate usually consists of cacao beans, cacao butter, sugar and other added sweeteners. Cacao beans give chocolate most of its nutritional value. According to osteopathic physician Joseph Mercola, they are packed with antioxidants and help prevent degenerative diseases.
Next time you need an energy boost, avoid the endless line at Tim Hortons and zip to Stör or Varsity Pharmacy for some chocolate. The caffeine in chocolate is a natural stimulant that improves mental functioning and alertness. Mercola says that this can also impede inflammation in the brain that causes migraines. This means that chocolate might be better to fuel writing a long paper rather than as a reward for finishing it.
Eating chocolate also soothes anxiety and improves mood by producing the neurotransmitter anandamide, which triggers a blissful sensation reminiscent of being high but without the physical and mental disorientation. In contrast, Mercola says that anandamide production is associated with improved memory and higher critical thinking — an ideal recipe for academic success.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should ransack the chocolate aisle next time you’re grocery shopping. The sugar content in most chocolate can negate many of these benefits, making you feel sluggish and unmotivated. Try to eat moderate amounts of chocolate that is as raw and unprocessed as possible. Chocolate that is at least 70 per cent dark generally contains less sugar than the glossy packaged bars loaded with caramel goo and corn syrup.
Brands like Pascha, Sweetriot and Alter Eco offer delicious organic, fair trade and guilt-free bars. Higher quality chocolate tends to be pricier but you only need a square or two to reap the health benefits. When you’re eating those squares, really savour them. The intense flavour of dark chocolate itself helps facilitate a slower eating process, leaving you feeling satiated and less likely to crave more. You can purchase these bars at stores including Community Natural Foods and Save On Foods.
Snacking on dark chocolate while studying is an act of self-nurturance that enhances concentration. But sometimes your inner kid craves pure nostalgia and wants to inhale a Snickers bar or an Oh Henry! Go for it — eating some junky chocolate once in a while can also be satisfying.