MindCheck is the Weekly Wednesday Kids Mental Health series with Dr. Ray Pataracchia N.D. MindCheck provides in depth information on the orthomolecular approach to coping with mood and/or behavior disorders. The MindCheck Health Series is endorsed by the Mindful Network – ‘A Better Future for Children’s Mental Health’.
Satisfying your sweet tooth does not mean that you are satisfying your body’s needs, or does it?
Chocolate and Your Mental Health
Chocolate has Personality
The homeopathic profile of chocolate is exemplified in people that are affectionate, busy, excited, and impulsive.
In extreme cases the chocolate personality is also exemplified in people that are impatient and have great anticipation in the morning, anxiety about the future, aversions to their spouses or company, irritability with children, difficulty concentrating, and feeling separated from the world, divided, animalistic, and vacant.
Chocolate and Evening Sugar Cravings
For many, sugar cravings are worse in the evening. Low blood sugar symptoms include low energy, moodiness, irritability, and shaking. Chocolate has simple sugars and caffeine and the caffeine vents the body to use fast-sugars.
In Oriental medicine, sweets such as chocolate are best assimilated in early morning (7-9am) hours. Those that eat low protein breakfasts are also more likely to get sweet cravings in the evening. Although chocolate can swing blood sugar levels it has a low glycemic index and in moderation, should not drop your blood sugar too fast. The fat in chocolate is also good because fat is assimulated lastly in the body and the release of sugar is gradual and sustains energy.
If your protein needs are not met in the morning it predisposes you to evening sugar cravings and, if you are going to benefit from sweets or chocolate, it’s best to consume them in moderation in the morning.
Caffeine in Chocolate
Cocoa from which chocolate is made has a small amount of caffeine in it. Dark chocolate contains about 7.5 times less caffeine than an 8oz cup of coffee. Caffeine in this low dose is a mild stimulant which may be beneficial to those with sluggish adrenals but detrimental to those with adrenal over-stimulation (for example, anxiety disorder). Dark chocolate also contains another mild stimulant called theobromine. Theobromine is not as potent a stimulant as caffeine. Theobromine is also a mild cough suppressant which might help if you have a cough.
The extreme scenario is a person that continually gravitates strongly to chocolate – the chocoholic. This can occur for various reasons. For example, you may have a food allergy; people with food allergies often either strongly crave or hate the food that they are allergic too.
It is difficult to feed demanding brain cells when ones blood sugar is low. Strong chocolate cravings are therefore more likely in diabetes, pre-clinical diabetes, or in people using medications that negatively influence insulin resistance. These people often have erratic behavior if they miss meals. Ironically, chocolate consumed by diabetics may be done as a form of self-medication because the flavonoids in chocolate can help balance insulin resistance.
Dark Chocolate: a good source of Copper, Potassium, and Iron
Potassium and copper are helpful agents in the prevention of cardiovascular problems such as strokes. Iron is also essential to mental health.
Cocoa, high in Magnesium
Three squares (87g) of dark chocolate contain 285mg of elemental magnesium. This is a hefty dose of magnesium.
One square of dark chocolate is almost equivalent to the dose of 1 pill of magnesium.
Magnesium is helpful as a preventative for diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Magnesium has multiple uses in ADD/ADHD, depression, and anxiety.
Raw cocoa nibs are therefore a good source of magnesium. Nibs can be mixed with desserts, cereals, and smoothies.
Dark chocolate, high in antioxidants
Dark chocolate is the chocolate of choice. Dark chocolate is high in anti-oxidants which can combat cancer and improve brain function.
Dark chocolate, dairy-free
So those with dairy allergies can partake.
Chocolate for Mood and Cognition
Dark chocolate is associated with improved mood and cognition. The endorphin release associated with the phenylethylamine component can create feelings of happiness.
The phenylethylamine component can also trigger the ‘feel-good’ ‘falling-in-love’ brain response.
Chocolate for your Circulatory System
Dark chocolate constituents are associated with better circulation, the prevention of clots, and the reduction of arterial hardening. Good brain blood flow is important to mental health.
Dark Chocolate, good for your Teeth
Theobromine, a component of dark chocolate, is associated with tooth enamel hardening and, therefore might lower the likelihood of dental cavities.