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In Honor of “Chocolate Week” HCIU Gives You the Facts About This Sweet Treat

Chocolate can be a girl’s best friend—or her worst enemy.
 
On those days where it seems that nothing goes right, chocolate will be right there with us to lift our moods and brighten our spirits.  When a breakup occurs, where do we turn, but to its sweet taste as a means of comfort?  During these times, chocolate is on our side.  It understands, it mends, it soothes.
 
Until … we overindulge. The pounds add up, the zits appear and the cravings are unbearable. The temptation to continue to consume surrounds us.  Despite the consequences, we continue to eat up, believing that the good feeling it brings might be found.

Sound familiar?  Well, here’s to understanding the ways that chocolate affects our bodies positively—and discovering when enough is enough.

Something that tastes so good can’t be good for you … or can it?

Fact: Chocolate is chock full of antioxidants.
Most would never imagine that a type of sweet offers tremendous health benefits. Fruit and vegetables seem to be more likely candidates, but dark chocolate is right up there with them.  According to facts-about-chocolate.com, dark chocolate contains more than five times as many antioxidants as blueberries do. It also states that diets rich in antioxidants “have been linked to a lowered risk of heart attacks, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer’s and more.”  So next time you reach for a bowl of blueberries as a snack, remember that dark chocolate reaps the exact benefits as the fruit. 
           
Fiction: White chocolate is actually chocolate.
It has fooled us all. For years, I, along with thousands of others I’m sure, have been convinced that white chocolate is simply another variation of the sweet.  “White chocolate has no chocolate in it—it is cocoa butter, i.e. fat and so it is not healthy,” says Anya Royce, an IU professor of A221 The Anthropology of Food. So when the choice is available, steer clear of white chocolate if the health nut deep down inside of you has any say in the matter.   

Fact: Chocolate makes us feel good.
Many of us have found ourselves guilty of reaching for chocolate when feeling down. It’s not uncommon, and it isn’t entirely crazy.  In fact, chocolate has been proven to turn that frown upside down.  “Chocolate—the dark variety, is a mild stimulant and euphoric so it can make you feel good,” Royce says. Of course, relying on chocolate to improve any and all moods might be a little overboard, but hey, every once in a while it might turn a bad day back around.

Fiction: Eating large amounts of chocolate will not harm us.
Sometimes, it just seems impossible to stop. It tastes so good that it is difficult to simply put the chocolate away.  This is where the unwanted pounds and health risks come into play.  “Eating too much chocolate, especially milk chocolate which is high in fat and sugar, is not good for anyone in the same way that eating too much of anything is not good,” Royce says.  Therefore, as difficult as it may seem, self-control is crucial.  There is no problem with including it in a diet—just beware of the amount consumed!

Fact: Chocolate is an excellent source of caffeine.
Groggy mornings are the worst.  Instead of overloading ourselves with extreme amounts of caffeine to make it through the day, perhaps chocolate would be the better option.  According to facts-about-chocolate.com, there are about 27 mg of caffeine in the average chocolate bar, which is about a third less than what is in a cup of coffee.  The website claims that doctors even suggest ingesting caffeine if quantities are small.  So if you desperately need caffeine in the mornings, go for it—in the form of chocolate, that is.

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