Think chocolate, and you’re likely to picture a favorite confection and maybe even salivate a bit. Chocolate has been a cultural favorite for generations. In the process, some have called this scrumptious treat an addictive food.
Is there such a thing as a chocolate addiction, or has chocolate received a bad rap?
Is There Really a Chocolate Addiction?
Chocolate can be sweet or bittersweet, light or dark. You can purchase chunks, chocolate-covered graham crackers, elegant gift assortments with a holiday theme, or chocolate-covered pretzels.
Among fans, just thinking about chocolate causes anticipation. It’s a gift nearly everybody loves.
Opinion varies about the possibility that chocolate is addictive. According to the Harvard Medical School, research has shown that when it comes to food, it’s possible to exhibit the three factors of addiction:
- An intense craving of chocolate
- A loss of control around chocolate
- Continued consumption of chocolate despite negative consequences
Chocolate is often a part of food addiction studies. Yale University researchers found that study volunteers who scored the highest on a food addiction scale underwent a surge of brain activity regarding rewards and cravings when each received a chocolate milkshake.
However, while seeing or smelling food can trigger your appetite, not every food causes cravings. If you’re a self-proclaimed “chocoholic,” you might be tempted to enjoy a sundae right before bed. It’s unlikely, though, that you’ll be cruising the kitchen for broccoli that late.
What’s Behind the Cravings?
It is often reported that women crave chocolate the most. It makes you feel instantly happy.
Chocolate has high levels of both fat and sugar (unless you purchase a sugar-free product). When you eat foods high in these substances, your brain triggers the release of serotonin. This immediately makes you feel happier.
As a matter of fact, chocolate is made up of a number of biologically active ingredients. All of them have been linked to unusual behavior and psychological sensations similar to those found in other substances considered addictive. Finnish researchers noted that subjects who called themselves chocolate “addicts” salivated more, experienced a more negative mood, and showed higher levels of anxiety when chocolate was present.
In contrast, many researchers believe a so-called “chocolate addiction” doesn’t quality as a true addiction. They say that the ingredients that might be mood altering all occur in greater concentrations in other foods – among them, that broccoli. Cravings, they say, result from a combination of hormonal and mood swings with all of the sensory characteristics of chocolate:
Tips for Curbing Cravings
The best way to enjoy chocolate is in moderation. Incorporating small portions into your diet lets you still enjoy this treat. Variety is also important.
Instead of reinforcing your preference for a certain candy bar, think about trying a different confection, such as a milk chocolate caramel square. If you decide to indulge when the craving strikes, focus on each bite of the confection and eat slowly to extend the pleasure it brings you.