Is Eating Chocolate Healthy?
So what are your thoughts on eating chocolate? Perhaps you couldn't imagine life without a bit daily. Or perhaps you are someone that likes to have it every now and again. Perhaps you are someone who loves milk and white chocolate a lot, or maybe you prefer to have a few squares of 80% dark chocolate every now and again. Or perhaps you are someone that never eats chocolate at all. Well is eating chocolate healthy?
Now I ask this as a bit of a trick question... because when we are asking if something is healthy, we have to factor in whether it is healthy for our mental, physical, emotional and social health. And where the balance sits between these four different types of health is going to be a very personal thing.
At the moment there seems to be two distinct camps in the nutrition world. One camp which very passionately promotes the benefits of "good" / "optimum" nutrition for our health (physical and mental). Whether this is the promotion of a Mediterranean diet, a low GI diet, whole-foods diet or something else - this is a camp in the nutrition world that very strongly emphasises the connection between what we eat and our health. They are right too - as a nutritionist, I can confirm that of course what we eat can have a huge impact on our physical (and even mental) health and by shifting our diet we can even manage/improve conditions such as diabetes, PCOS, cardiovascular disease, acne etc. However there is another camp in the nutrition world that very strongly argues that we should just eat intuitively - that no food is "bad" and that we should just listen to our bodies and eat what they crave. This camp is right too when they argue that the mental health benefits that come from eating intuitively are powerful - and also, when you finally give yourself the freedom to eat chocolate all day if you want to - of course you AREN'T actually going to eat chocolate all day, you may even surprise yourself by craving veggies and nutritious foods too.
So if both of these camps are right in some ways - which of these camps should we be listening to? Should we be eating a "good" diet/ "optimum" nutrition to boost our physical health/mood as much as we can? Or should we be eating a bit of everything here and there - listening to our body - even though things such as very sugary foods or fried foods may not be the best for our physical health/medical condition? IT REALLY DEPENDS ON WHAT IS THE BEST BALANCE FOR YOU BETWEEN OPTIMISING YOUR MENTAL, PHYSICAL, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH. When working with clients, I tend to sit somewhere in between these two nutrition camps and work with clients and their individual needs to figure out what is going to serve them long-term. Yes perhaps a certain diet would help someone with PCOS to really manage their symptoms - but there is no point in them sticking to this diet religiously and strictly if doing so is leaving them miserable and down all of the time - here we need to strike a bit more of a balance. Yes perhaps eating intuitively and eating whatever someone fancies daily is great for their mental health, yet if it is really exacerbating the symptoms of their IBS in doing so, then maybe we need to work at optimising their physical health through nutrition choices a bit more.
Now what does any of this have to do with chocolate? Well I have many people who come to me and ask me - is [insert a food] healthy or not... and it really depends on so many things. Firstly, it depends on your body and your unique body's needs. If you are someone that suffers with diabetes or PCOS, maybe eating lots of milk chocolate packed with sugar isn't so healthy for you day-to-day but if you have no health-complaints, perhaps eating a bit of milk chocolate daily is okay, because it is good for your emotional and social health. Maybe even if you do have a condition such as PCOS or diabetes you find that if you don't eat a bit of chocolate every few days, you end up bingeing on it or overeating it - so it is good for your mental and emotional health to have a bit sometimes, even though it isn't ideal for managing your PCOS/diabetes symptoms. WHAT IS HEALTHY IS A VERY INDIVIDUAL THING - and it really isn't just as simple as the effect that a food has on your body, because it also depends on the effect that the food has on your mood, how you feel, your thoughts and how you interact with others... amongst many other things.
If you would like some support in rebuilding your relationship with food and finding a balance between your mental/physical/emotional/social health when it comes to food that works for you and your unique body - please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book in a free consultation.
It really is true that as Emerson said - “The first wealth is health". However, aiming for good health really has to factor in our mental health, emotional health, social health as well as a our physical health - and where the balance sits between these four types of health will be very different for each and every one of us.