Chocolate Frenzy

There was a time not so very long ago when I couldn't go a single day without chocolate. When I spent a year on the Atkins diet, I gave up sugar and cut way back on carbs, but I still chomped on sugar-free chocolate bars. Every. Single. Day. In fact, my hubby used to buy them BY THE CASE for me! (True confessions...)

In the last couple of years, I've worked diligently to bring my sugar addiction under control. If you have a raging sweet tooth, you know this is no small feat. Unfortunately, I believe cold turkey is the most effective method for quitting sugar. Once you've got it out of your system, the cravings really do stop. You might suffer for a few days, but this will pass. And then you will be free.

Until that delicious elixir named CHOCOLATE passes your lips once again.

These days, I try to make most of my treats healthy. By this, I mean homemade--from real, whole foods--and low in sugar. (I no longer consume artificial sweeteners like Splenda as there are some questions as to how this substance affects the gut.) Not all my healthy treats contain chocolate, but a lot of them do! And I like to have chocolate on hand for those emergencies when only chocolate will suffice.

Why is chocolate so addictive? Because it is a mood-altering drug! Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine, which boosts one's mood. But dark chocolate also contains loads of antioxidants, those substances that assist the body in reducing inflammation. Plus magnesium, which has natural calming properties. Can we call chocolate a "health" food? Plenty of folks do! I'd say any chocolate containing over 70% cacao is pretty darn good for you. Milk chocolate: sorry, no. Too much sugar and not enough cocoa to be considered remotely healthful. White chocolate? Um, this is not even chocolate, folks! Don't get me started!

Also beware of chocolate concoctions like cookies, cakes, brownies, donuts, candy bars, drink mixes, etc. While these might contain a small amount of real cocoa, the main ingredient in all of these is most likely to be sugar. And unfortunately, all the positive benefits will be negated once a bunch of refined sugar has been added to your chocolate.

Where can you find high quality, excellent dark chocolate? My go-to store for everything chocolate is Trader Joe's. Of course, your regular supermarket will carry a few brands of dark chocolate. But Trader Joe's has an amazing selection, with plenty of less expensive choices and high percentages of cocoa. Specialty stores, Whole Foods, Wegman's, and lots of other supermarkets also carry a good selection of dark chocolate from around the world.

There is no need to completely avoid chocolate if you are trying to lose weight or improve your diet. Just choose your chocolate carefully, read those labels and make sure to keep your serving size small!