I Ate Chocolate Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened
Chocolate can take the edge off a craving. But should you eat chocolate every day? It might seem decadent, but a health reporter's experiment uncovered some sweet health benefits of chocolate.
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My grandmother was a chocolate lover, and it’s safe to say I learned from the best. Mimi enjoyed a Hershey bar daily and loved anything that contained chocolate. When she lived to be 95, she credited this one daily indulgence and Mr. Milton Hershey himself for her longevity and happiness.
Like my grandmother, I have a sweet tooth, but appreciate a little moderation. I started the new year with a three-day juice cleanse to reset my relationships with sugar and caffeine. I never intended to give them up completely, but wanted to establish some balance and better boundaries following the sweets-filled year-end.
But come February, a journalistic experiment with chocolate was fair game.
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Is chocolate good for you?
Our cultural reverence for chocolate dates back 3,000 years to the Maya, Toltec, and Aztec people, who considered chocolate to be a food of the gods.
That said, they didn’t have store aisles stocked with chocolate candy ready to be torn into at any moment. Instead, they occasionally prepared cacao—the raw, unprocessed version of cocoa—as a ceremonial drink and used the cacao bean as a form of currency. They even buried dignitaries with bowls of it.
Joanna Wen, a certified online weight loss coach with a degree in biological engineering, says when you’re shopping for chocolate, that cacao is what you want to look for. “It’s good to look for higher cacao content—usually above 70%—as this indicates higher quality and provides greater health benefits than lower percentages,” Wen says. “Check the label for sugar content too: Unfortunately, many common brands add far too much sugar to their chocolates.”
For my experiment, I stocked up on high-quality, handmade chocolates from two family-owned, small-batch businesses.
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How to think about portioning chocolate every day
Part of the goal for my “chocolate every day” experiment was to observe whether making mindful choices could possibly make a daily portion of chocolate a healthy practice. As psychologist Jenny Taitz, PsyD, ABPP says: “You can eat a little with a lot of attention, or a lot with a little attention.” Taitz, who’s a clinical psychologist and assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of several books, including End Emotional Eating, adds: “We can truly savor foods by slowing down and not multitasking when eating, or already thinking when food is in our mouths: I need more. If we give ourselves permission to taste food and accept urges, seeing they pass, eating won’t feel as insatiable.”
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Eating chocolate every day helped my discipline
Here’s how it worked: Anticipating with certainty that I would have a bit of chocolate every day relieved me from thinking incessantly about chocolate throughout the day. Instead, knowing I could have it eliminated cravings from the equation.
“I encourage my clients to be flexible with their eating and mindful of their cravings, and chocolate is one of those indulgences that many of my clients allow themselves to have each night to curb a sweet tooth,” says Ashley Poladian, PT, FRCms, a fitness and nutrition coach. “Indulging once in a while rather than obsessing over a craving can be the difference between staying the course or having a binge down the line.”
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Eating chocolate every day can provide nutrition
Because I’d been intentional about the quality of the chocolate I’d purchased, Jen Dreisch, a board-certified holistic nutritionist, says I may have been nourishing my body with minerals it actually needs. “There’s a reason we crave chocolate before our cycles: Magnesium,” Dreisch says. “Dark chocolate also contains iron, zinc, copper, and phosphorus, which all help with PMS.”
Dreisch warns of the sugar in chocolate—especially milk chocolate, which also doesn’t contain the level of antioxidants that dark chocolate does—and the sugar-craving cycle that can happen quickly but is hard to break.
I understand that craving. I tend to mindlessly eat Oreos if they’re around…or if there’s a pan of brownies on the butcher block, I might take a sliver with every pass through the kitchen. But that’s not what I did during my week of eating chocolate. Instead, I sat down with a cup of tea and a few dark chocolate-covered almonds, or orange peels dipped in Swiss dark chocolate. As I enjoyed them, I thought about the craft and care that went into making these treats.
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Eating chocolate every day helped me sleep
Some people say that chocolate messes with their sleep because of the caffeine content. However, an entire milk chocolate bar contains around nine milligram of caffeine, and an entire dark chocolate bar contains 40 milligrams. Considering most people eat a few squares, that’s not much caffeine compared to a cup of black coffee’s 95 milligrams of caffeine.
What chocolate is a good source of is magnesium, which actually helps with sleep. A dark chocolate bar with 70% to 85% cacao contains 230 milligrams of magnesium, which is about two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance. Yes, there are more effective, efficient, lower-calorie ways to get magnesium, but chocolate might actually help you sleep!
On a couple nights, I took a few squares of chocolate to the bathtub. While it was probably a combination of the epsom salts, lavender and the chocolate, I slept incredibly soundly.
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Eating chocolate every day helped me manage cravings in general
Some chocolate can be high in calories, fat and sugar. It’s important to remember that consuming an excess may lead to health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and more.
But, says Jamie Nadeau, RD, LDN, registered dietitian at The Balanced Nutritionist, for some people, eating a little chocolate every day can be one way to manage cravings and sugar intake. “For many people, having a little bit of something sweet (like chocolate) every day helps them to feel more in control around food and prevent overeating or bingeing on it. What matters most is what your entire diet looks like—so in the grand scheme of things, a small amount of chocolate each day is unlikely to have a huge impact, especially if it’s a lower sugar chocolate, like dark chocolate,” Nadeau says.
Eating chocolate every day inspired me to try the purest form
Before the week-long chocolate test ended, I also wanted to experience what the ancients did all those thousands of years ago. I decided to experiment with cacao.
Cacao powder, such as Navitas Organics’ organic cacao powder with more than 18,000 five-star Amazon shopper ratings, contains a higher antioxidant content than cocoa, and cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume—which means it is significantly less processed than, say, a hot chocolate powder mix or a chocolate bar. A fun fact about cacao is that it’s one of two foods (spirulina is the other one) that contains phenethylamine, which encourages the body to release the same endorphins we experience when we fall in love.
Who can resist that? So I tried chocolate-covered cacao beans. They hit the spot, and they made me feel good about the superfood addition to my week of eating chocolate every day.
Not that I felt bad about it in the first place.
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- Britannica, "Chocolate"
- Joanna Wen, certified health coach at Spices & Greens
- Jenny Taitz PsyD, ABPP, clinical psychologist and assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles
- Ashley Poladian, PT, FRCms, fitness and nutrition coach
- Jen Dreisch, holistic nutritionist, Jewel Wellness on Maui
- Jamie Nadeau, RD, LDN Registered Dietitian, The Balanced Nutritionist