Chocolate is a sweet and creamy food made from the fermented, roasted, and ground fruit of the cacao tree. For thousands of years this food has been enjoyed in various forms. Today it is eaten in many different ways and is possibly among the most popular foods, so we may even wonder if it is addictive.
Many of us will consider ourselves addictive, believing that the relationship with this sweet is not healthy. This makes us think that chocolate can actually be a food that creates addiction if we consume it regularly.
Can you be addicted to chocolate?
Although this remains a controversial topic, a growing body of research supports the treatment of food addictions like other types of substance addictions.
Addictive foods affect many of the same brain and nervous system pathways that are normally affected by drug addictions. They can also cause behaviors similar to those caused by other addictions. Thus, food addiction can occur when specific foods or nutrients repeatedly activate the brain’s reward system.
The truth is that chocolate is not addictive , but it is possible to have many cravings.
It’s possible to develop an unhealthy relationship with chocolate, or any food. Some behaviors that could be related to an addiction to this sweet are:
- Label chocolate as “bad” or “forbidden”
- Feeling stress or anxiety when eating it
- Set strict rules about how and when to eat
- Completely restrict your intake
- have constant cravings
- Binge eating unusually large amounts
- Hiding how much we eat from our friends and family
- Feeling like we can’t control how much we eat
- Eat until your stomach hurts
- binge on chocolate
Another sign could be if the chocolate is contributing to weight gain or health problems. It’s normal to feel one of these signs from time to time after eating chocolate. However, if we feel this way most of the time, it could be a sign of a bigger problem.
A food addiction could not only cause distress, but could also lead to further health problems. Food addictions appear to be closely related to eating disorders and obesity, and people already living with these conditions may be at higher risk of developing a food addiction.
Battling food addiction can put someone at risk of feeling depressed or anxious. If we think that we may have an addiction to chocolate or another food, it is recommended to see a health professional, such as a doctor, a therapist, a psychiatrist or a dietician.
Some foods are thought to be more addictive than others Highly processed foods that are high in sugar and fat , such as many types of chocolate, are considered more addictive than less processed foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
Carbohydrate-rich foods, including chocolate and other sugary sweets, can cause addiction-like cravings. They also alter blood sugar and hormone levels in ways similar to other addictive substances. Also, these changes in blood levels affect the dopamine in your body. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that plays an important role in the motivation and reward pathways of the brain.
Some studies have found chocolate to be one of the most problematic foods for addictive eating behaviors. Similarly, it has been identified as the single most addictive food. Still, some scientists believe that it is not enough to rely on self-reported subjective data and that a deeper understanding of food addiction is still needed to fully diagnose and treat the condition.
In addition, caffeine can create dependency and addiction. Chocolate also contains small amounts of caffeine (about a tenth of the amount of theobromine in a tablet), and taking a 70-gram bar of 70% dark chocolate is less than chewing 3 coffee beans.
All chocolate contains some sugar (even 100% cocoa bars), and it is in the amount of sugar and how the sugar is used that the crucial differences and problems arise.
What ingredients are most addictive?
Different types of chocolate contain different ingredients, although most have key ingredients in common. Some of these could be related to the potentially addictive properties of chocolate. The main ingredients used to make chocolate are:
- Cocoa paste. Fermented, roasted, shelled and ground cocoa beans create this mass, also called chocolate liquor. It is solid at room temperature but melts when heated. It is often further processed, but can also be eaten as is as raw chocolate.
- Cocoa butter . These are pure, natural cocoa bean fats that have been separated from the rest of the beans and concentrated.
- Sugar. The amount and types used vary, and other natural or artificial sweeteners are sometimes used as substitutes.
- Milk. Dried milk powder is often added to milk chocolate varieties, while condensed milk is used in fudge and truffles.
- Vanilla. It is used as a flavor enhancer or to reduce the bitterness of some roasted cocoa beans.
- Other ingredients . Vegetable oils, natural and artificial flavors, emulsifiers like lecithin, and other additives help preserve the chocolate and maintain a smooth texture.
We may have heard that certain types of chocolate have some health benefits. These are mainly attributed to the antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals found in the ingredients of pure cocoa, which are cocoa paste and cocoa butter.
Although cocoa butter has its advantages, it is also high in fat. This contributes to chocolate’s potential to become an addictive food, especially when combined with the high amount of sugar in some varieties. Also, food additives such as artificial flavors and sweeteners are often added to highly processed and highly flavored foods like chocolate.
Therefore, one way to avoid the potentially more addictive types of chocolate is to eat less processed chocolate varieties that are lower in sugar and fat, especially trans fat. Many varieties of dark chocolate have less sugar. Also, varieties high in cocoa (over 75%) tend to have the highest concentration of antioxidants and other healthy nutrients.
How to eat it in a healthy way?
Although we may be concerned about eating chocolate and other foods that could be addictive, we will remember that they can still be enjoyed from time to time as part of a healthy diet. Signs of a healthy relationship with chocolate include allowing yourself to eat it however you want, not feeling upset, guilty or embarrassed after eating it, enjoying it in moderation and overdoing it only once in a while, being mindful of how much you eat and feeling comfortable eating it.
The healthiest way to get our chocolate fix is to find a chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa . Chocolates with a high percentage of cocoa have more antioxidants and less sugar than other chocolates.