Are you a chocoholic?

The term “chocoholic is cheerfully used to describe a person’s love of chocolate, and we’re a nation that loves chocolate, so is there a problem?

When does enjoying chocolate become an addiction?

My name is Kim and I’m a recovering chocoholic? right?

Addiction …….

Actually there is no doubt about it and joking apart, chocolate can be addictive and detrimental to our health, for some people anyway.

Addictions are a learned behaviour pattern in susceptible people, often driven by the release of endorphins.

Endorphins are the body’s naturally produced opiates, local hormones in the brain that provide a shortcut for learning. For example, we can learn to consume food from the slow reinforcement given after food relieves hunger, but endorphins provide a faster, more intense way of learning. Immediately you taste some delicious food the pleasurable taste causes a rise in endorphins thus providing rapid feedback to the brain and reinforcing the behaviour.

Our brains use this shortcut for reinforcing many behaviours including vigorous exercise ( especially aerobic exercise ) , sex , the taste of sweet and spicy foods, shopping ( retail therapy ), gambling, cuddling animals and babies, great relationships, video games etc etc

In some people when the neural pathways have become “hard-wired” the compulsion to repeat the behaviour becomes irresistible.

Why is chocolate particularly addictive to some people?

Chocolate often contains-

- large amounts of sugar

- has a high fat content

- theobromines ( toxic to dogs and acts like caffeine in humans )

- the amino acid tryptophan, which is an essential ingredient of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin.

- phenylethylamine. The body converts this to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps us experience pleasure.

It’s probably the sweet combination of many of these ingredients which leads to release of endorphins in the brain, although severe addiction to chocolate is probably very complex and may involve many more systems than endorphin release.

However it is very likely that the opioid system is the most important for most of us.

For some, there is no compulsion , so some people can eat a square of chocolate occasionally with no compulsion to finish the whole bar.

Which chocolate, in moderation, may be beneficial, and possibly less addictive?

1/ Avoid the sugar in commercial chocolate bars.

Choose chocolate with a cocoa mass content that is higher than 70%. The higher the cocoa mass the less sugar content.

Sugar addiction is increasingly recognised.

The cocoa bean itself is rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids are “anti-oxidants” that help protect plants from environmental toxins and help repair damage. They can be found in a variety of foods such as apples, tea and red wine, and when we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this "antioxidant" power. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.

The more processed the chocolate ( fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.), the more flavanols are lost. Many reputable chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavanols in their processed chocolates and there are many raw chocolates on the market now.

You may be surprised to learn that the fat in chocolate (cocoa butter) is around 50% oleic acid ( a heart healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil ).

Stearic and palmitic acids make up the remainder and as these are saturated fats it is best to eat chocolate in moderation.

2/ Make chocolate drinks at home using high quality or raw cocoa powder, nut or coconut milk and a good sugar substitute ( xylitol, erytritol, stevia, monk fruit, inulin etc ……all now available on Amazon! )

Avoid low quality cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity).

The fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter and is made up of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids.

These are saturated fats so it is best to eat chocolate in moderation.

3/ Chocolate cakes, muffins and puddings?

What can I say…….

No worries here as long as you have plenty of the Ugg foods chocolate chia muffin mix in your kitchen cupboard.

Using this chocolate mix your chocolate creations will be very low in sugar and carbohydrates.

We use very good quality, healthy cocoa powder, bursting with flavonoids.

We use plenty of nutrient dense nuts and seeds.

The recipes recommend use healthy mild olive oil instead of dairy.

All of the Ugg foods range are naturally free from gluten and grains.

Enjoy your chocolate!

Dr Kim Lloyd

Founder of Ugg foods ltd