Are you a chocoholic? You’re not alone if you love eating chocolate. Research has found that one in six Brits (about eight million people in the UK) consume chocolate every single day. We are a nation of confectionery lovers.
But is this love of chocolate an addiction? And if it is, is it dangerous to our health?
Addiction is a tricky one to call when it comes to chocolate, although a study carried out by researchers at Yale University found similarities between how the brain responds to chocolate cravings and drug addiction. That said, most researchers agree that chocolate addiction isn’t a ‘true’ addiction.
Chocolate does contain ingredients that could contribute to compulsive cravings, however, which can lead to an unhealthy attachment to the sweet. For instance, the combination of sugar and fat in chocolate releases serotonin in the brain, which makes us feel happier – but that same combination can get our health into trouble in the longer term.
That little burst of happy is fine if you only eat chocolate occasionally, but it can turn bad if you eat too much, too often.
Here are five quick ways to tell if you have an unhealthy relationship with chocolate:
1. Do you regularly experience intense cravings for chocolate?
2. Are you unable to control your desire for chocolate?
3. Do you buy or consume chocolate secretly?
4. Do you continue to consume chocolate excessively despite it causing weight, dental or health problems?
5. Do you turn to chocolate when feeling emotional, depressed, anxious or bored?
If you answered yes to any of the above, it may be time to break the habit. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the odd chocolatey treat, it can be harmful to your health if you lose control.
Dechox is a great initiative from the British Heart Foundation that encourages people to give up chocolate for 31 days. In 2021, it runs alongside Lent throughout March, which is handy. They’ve kindly positioned it between Valentine’s Day and Easter, too, so you can enjoy a treat before and after the big quit – although that kind of defeats the point.
Whilst cocoa beans are known to contain some beneficial ingredients like flavanols, which can help with heart health, the other ingredients in chocolate cancel out the benefits.
From allergies, migraines and acne to obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, the fat and sugar in chocolate can contribute to some miserable and sometimes life-threatening diseases.
As much as we all want to believe chocolate is good for us, it turns out it isn’t.
When it comes to chocolate, the purer and smaller, the better.
Thankfully, no-one’s saying you have to give up chocolate completely, unless of course you’re taking up the Dechox challenge or you need to reduce sugar for health reasons.
Advice says to stick to chocolate that contains over 65 per cent cocoa, and to only consume one square or less of it per day. That’s doable, isn’t it?
Kick start your new relationship with chocolate by taking up the Dechox challenge and help to raise money for a good cause in the process. Visit the Dechox Challenge website here, to get some great tips on how to give up chocolate more easily.
If you’re worried about the effects of chocolate on your health, it’s worth speaking to a GP for further testing.
You can also test your blood glucose levels at home with these diabetes and cholesterol tests: Glucose Testing Kits for Home Use.
For more information about diabetes from the NHS click here.
For more information about weight gain from the NHS click here.