What’s the connection of chocolate with calm?
If you’re cooped up at home and craving chocolate, this might be the time to give in. Evidence supports eating dark chocolate for stress relief, so consider adding it to your self-care plan!
Researchers in Switzerland and Germany discovered that people with high anxiety who ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduced their levels of stress hormones and had fewer markers of disease-causing bacteria in their gut. This work came from the Nestle Research Center, which obviously wants to promote chocolate since they make it, but information from other sources also suggests eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day is good for your health.
Dark Chocolate Health Benefits
Eating chocolate prompts the production of serotonin, a calming, “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Adding dark chocolate to the diets of people with chronic fatigue syndrome for two weeks reduced symptoms, while consuming a similar tasting and appearing placebo without cocoa solids did not have the same effect. Eating high-cocoa chocolate increases blood flow in the brain, which improves alertness and thinking ability. It also seems to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke or heart disease.
How Much to Eat?
To get a health benefit from chocolate, most research studied eating 45 grams or 1 1/2 ounces of dark chocolate every day. Aim for dark chocolate bars with 70-85 percent cocoa, for it is the cocoa that contains compounds called flavonoids that impart sought-after health benefits. Milk chocolate has lower amounts of flavonoids, and has not been found to promote health to the same degree.
You can include chocolate in your breakfast, add it to nuts and dried fruits as a mid-morning or afternoon snack, or savor it after dinner with a cup of caffeine-free coffee, herbal tea, or glass of wine. During the years when I traveled over half the time for business, I made it a rule not to head for the airport without a bar of dark chocolate in my briefcase. That chocolate calmed and soothed me during many airport delays and kept me from going berserk when the plane sat for hours on the tarmac waiting to take off. As fears from the global COVID-19 pandemic disrupted my schedule and added concerns for the health of my loved ones, I made sure to keep a good stock on dark chocolate in my pantry:
Include Dark Chocolate in a Healthy Breakfast
I enjoy oatmeal made with milk, walnuts, and dark chocolate. That’s just one of the flavors of oatmeal I mix up in wide-mouthed glass jars and place in my refrigerator. In the morning, after two minutes in the microwave I have a delicious warm breakfast. Here’s what I put in my dark chocolate oatmeal:
1/4 cup steel cut organic oats
1 Tablespoon walnuts
1 ounce dark chocolate
3/4 cup whole milk
Dark Chocolate Nutrition Facts
While nutrition facts will vary slightly depending on the brand, the 1 1/2 ounces daily intake cited in many studies will contain about 250 calories, 21-25 grams fat, 15-18 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams protein, and 5 to 6 grams dietary fiber. The fiber in dark chocolate acts as a prebiotic and supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Dark chocolate without added sea salt contain little sodium, and in varieties containing 100 to 300 milligrams of potassium yields a desirable potassium to sodium ratio that may help reduce blood pressure. Chocolate is also a good source of magnesium, a mineral important for bone health, good sleep, and stable mood.
Reduce Stress with Dark Chocolate
Poet and artist Sandra Boynton once wrote
The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate.
While tragedy and stress is an unavoidable part of life, we each get to choose how we respond. Relieve your stress and prevent burnout—that sense of exhaustion and overload caused by unrelenting stress—by finding small things to enjoy each day, such as chocolate with your breakfast, snack, or evening routines. Make chocolate a pleasant, calming, and restorative part of your day.
If you’d like to find areas of your life that might benefit from stress relief, take my quick quiz to identify habits that put you at risk for overwhelm and burnout: http://deborahrankinrd.com/?elementor_library=quiz-form-pop-up
Evidence About Dark Chocolate For Stress Relief
Effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects.https://doi.org/10.1021/pr900607v
The effects of nutrients on mood. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1368980099000555
High cocoa polyphenol rich chocolate may reduce the burden of the symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome. https://rdcu.be/b3rX3
What Will You Do?
Pick a step you’ll take to add dark chocolate to your daily routine. Then, please help me by sharing this post using one of the buttons below.
© 2020 Deborah Rankin R.D.