I haven’t met too many who don’t like chocolate AND just about everyone I see in my private practice, struggle with chronic, never ‘let up’ kind of stress in their lives, more than they ever have before.
Life has become very complicated for most of us, and there’s so much screaming at us for attention all of the time!
I specialize in women’s health and nutrition and (not that we need proof) but there’s some research showing that chocolate (which contain Cocoa polyphenols) have been shown to “reduce stress in highly stressed, as well as normal healthy women.” And what about men? Not so much it turns out, as women have increased sensitivity of the adrenal cortex compared with men. So our brains react more to the cacao.
And when you really think about it, chocolate is really a gal thing isn’t it. We seem to get those cravings for chocolate and now we know there’s actually much more than we’re craving other than sugar (and don’t worry we’ll get to the sugar part!)
Firstly, What Does Ongoing Stress Do To Us?
Puts us at greater risk of coronary artery disease.
Drives internal inflammation which is the prerequisite to disease
Erodes the balance of all body systems such as hormones, thyroid, immune and muscular skeletal.
Kills our good gut bugs and makes our bad gut bugs thrive
Creates autoimmunity (which is an umbrella name for so many common diseases now) and this is kick started by stress.
Activates or ‘turns on’ genes that we want to stay off! Meaning, if you grandmother or parent had an autoimmune condition, then chances are you will also have the autoimmune gene. Stress can actually get in and turn this gene ‘on,’ where it would otherwise remain dormant.
Stress also ages us (so not what women want!)
So How Does Chocolate Work On Our Stress?
In the study, it ironically wasn’t about the sweetness (sugar) in dark or milk chocolate that reduces our stress. Although can I just add, if you have a sugar addiction, the sugar will be giving you a unhealthy boost, which can over time lead to insulin resistance! In this case however, it’s about the cocoa solids which contains the richest sources of flavanol antioxidants (a very good thing!)
These ‘good guy’ Antioxidants in cacao mop up the nasty oxidation in our body caused by stress. Too much oxidation (we need a bit) is the thing that ages us beyond our years.
Cacao contain magnesium which we’re hugely deficient in these days as a human race, because many of our foods are lacking due to soil depletion and extended shelf life and we’re ‘burning’ through our magnesium stores when we’re stressed.
Dopamine (our favourite happy brain chemical) get a good boost from cacao too. The more stress we have, the less dopamine we have, that’s why alcohol, drugs, antidepressants and poor mental health are on the rise now.
Oh, But What About The Sugar In Chocolate?
Good question! So, I gotta say I’m pretty happy with the latest findings here, however this doesn’t mean going to the shop and stocking up on good old Cadbury’s. This bought chocolate is very high in sugar and the benefits won’t outweigh the bad.
We now know that it’s sugar that causes weight gain – not fat. That’s why the ketogenic diet is working so well for so many people. More about that another time.
So How Do You Get A Dose Of Cacao, Minus The Sugar?
Easy! It’s about learning to make your own chocolate and don’t worry it is so easy…. you’ll never buy it again! There’s some really simple recipes for chocolate and you don’t have to be any kind of whiz in the kitchen. All you need is a bowl, a few ingredients and then chill it in the fridge. No cooking!
Try This Chocolate Recipe And Tell Me It’s Not Better Than Bought Chocolate!
Stress-Less Homemade Chocolate
1/2 cup) cacao butter or cold-pressed coconut oil 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 tablespoons of organic maple syrup or raw honey 1/2 cup almond butter, peanut butter, hazelnut butter, cashew butter or tahini 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 1 cup raw cacao powder (add more if you like it rich)
Melt cacao butter or coconut oil in a large bowl set over a pot of simmering water.
Remove the bowl from the heat and add cacao and mix through using a small whisk until smooth.
Add nut butter and a pinch of sea salt then mix through. Taste your chocolate creation….You may find you don’t need to add any sweetener whatsoever. If you do, just add 1 tablespoon at a time.
Pour chocolate into a small glass container lined with non-stick baking paper or cling film.
Refrigerate for 4 hours or freeze.
Cut into bite-size pieces and enjoy!
Store in the fridge or freezer, covered for up to 4 weeks.
Note: I love to add shredded coconut into the mix to give it texture.
(Recipe adapted from Theresa Cutter)