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  • Chocoholism: A Health benefit?

  • It's an intense craving, an uncontrollable desire and a desperate need for the instant satisfaction. It's a craving for chocolate.

    Satisfy the craving Chocolate is the most commonly craved food in the United States. Research shows that 40 percent of women and 15 percent of men experience the need for chocolate. Many experts disagree that chocolate addiction really exists. However, many chocoholics display addictive behaviors, such as secretly consuming chocolate, bingeing and trying to avoid it only to end up overeating. For those who experience these behaviors, the addiction is very real.

    Whether or not chocolate is addictive, research suggests chocolate may be good for you. Recent studies show that chocolate is packed with antioxidants known as polyphenols that may protect against heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants absorb free radicals in the body. Free radicals can damage cells, leading to disease. People who eat antioxidant-rich diets have lower rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease. While antioxidants have always been thought to come from traditional healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, red wine, black tea and chocolate were recently identified as good antioxidant sources. Now chocoholics have an excuse to eat the sweet stuff!

    Indulge!

    Pure chocolate comes from cocoa beans, the seeds of a fruit grown on Theobroma cacao trees, found predominantly in South America. Chocolate in its most processed form is loaded with extra oils and sugars. The more fat in the chocolate, the weaker the antioxidants. Dark chocolate and baking cocoa are excellent sources of polyphenols because much of the original cocoa bean remains intact after processing. However, chocolate in its more processed form is loaded with extra oils and sugars lowering its level of polyphenols. So, while a bar of dark chocolate weighing about 1.5 ounces contains approximately 950 milligrams of antioxidants, a similar bar of milk chocolate contains about only about 400 milligrams. White chocolate is a confection of fat and sugar and contains no antioxidants at all.A little of each, please

    Is it caffeine you're worried about? Chocolate's caffeine level has been exaggerated. While a one-ounce chocolate bar has 10-20 milligrams of caffeine, a six-ounce cup of coffee contains approximately 105 milligrams. Chocolate has about a 10th of the caffeine in a cup of coffee.

    Chocolate's chemical properties may add just the right touch to your Valentine's Day plans. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which research suggests is a stimulant released during intimacy. Studies also suggest that carbohydrates found in chocolate increase serotonin, a chemical that affects mood by increasing appetite and sexual interest.