by Cami Jo Satterthwait

Emotional eating and chocolate are best friends. Nothing quite soothes the soul like a piece of melt-in-your-mouth Ghirardelli goodness! But we’ve been taught that emotional eating is bad. Giving into those desires causes weight gain and out-of-control feelings! Right?! I would beg to differ. There’s nothing wrong with letting yourself have a treat after a bad day. Eating is emotional. There’s no way around it. What you eat will affect your mood, just as much as your mood will affect what you eat. (Ever watched a cry-your-heart-out-chick-flick munching on raw broccoli? Yeah, ain’t gonna cut it!) Creating a harmony of the two is a balancing act. How to choose what you really want but still feel good afterwards. It takes a little mindful practice.

Rather than shun the evil chocolate forever and mourn your broken friendship, take a look at these benefits of eating chocolate:

•             It’s an antioxidant which slows down the aging process

•             Reduces blood pressure and inflammation by causing the vessels to relax

•             Helps blood flow and keeps blood platelets from sticking together

•             Improves insulin sensitivity

•             Chocolate stimulates the pleasure center of our brain which releases endorphins, boosting mood.

Wait, if chocolate does so many good things, why has it ever been labeled as “bad”? Unfortunately there are people in the food industry that prefer big profit margins over quality. They increase their profits by driving down the cost of making chocolate. They pollute it with cheap oils and sugars that dull the real chocolate flavor, and diminish the nutritional value. The oils and sugars can actually cause you to crave more than you would if the chocolate was a purer form. Eating too much of ANYTHING is bad for you, not just chocolate. Make peace with chocolate. It’s your friend.

What to choose?

The darker, the better. Choose 65% cacao or higher.

The following list is in order of highest antioxidant activity to the lowest: Natural cocoa (the best choice), dark chocolate, baking chocolate, then chocolate chips.

The protein in milk actually binds the flavonoids (responsible for the health effects) so milk chocolate and white chocolate just don’t have comparable health benefits as dark chocolate.

How much?

You should make it a GOAL to eat chocolate every day. Seriously. To reap the heart-healthy benefits, shoot for 1 ounce daily. That’s about two or three dove squares.