Why is chocolate so addictive? Nutritionist Sarah Di Lorenzo unravels our love for the sweet treat

Sarah Di Larenzo
The Nightly
3 Min Read
When it comes to Easter this weekend, my thoughts are a mix of mindfulness but also enjoyment. So, pick your favourite chocolate, portion-controlled, and make it something special
When it comes to Easter this weekend, my thoughts are a mix of mindfulness but also enjoyment. So, pick your favourite chocolate, portion-controlled, and make it something special Credit: AVezer/alexxndr - stock.adobe.com

Chocolate! Who doesn’t love chocolate?

It’s the most common food craved. Ninety percent of the global population loves chocolate and we also know around 1 billion people eat chocolate daily.

Research showed the chocolate industry growth tripled during the pandemic — all that dopamine!

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Why do we love chocolate so much? Well, not only does it give us a huge dopamine hit when we eat it but it also appeals to all our five senses — sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing. This is because of its colour, texture, flavour, the way it snaps and how it feels melting away in our mouth — the first point of digestion. There is something so satisfying about chocolate melting away in your mouth.

Chocolate also has some health benefits and the standouts are the polyphenols in particular flavanol.

Cocoa has the highest flavanol content per weight than any other food. Flavonols are really powerful antioxidants that are excellent for our immunity, blood clotting and protecting our cells from damage. But chocolate’s high sugar and fat content can outweigh these health benefits leading to disease, especially white and milk chocolate.

At a serving size of 30 grams which is only four squares and around 160-180 calories, you can see why.

When it comes to Easter this weekend, my thoughts are a mix of mindfulness but also enjoyment. So, pick your favourite chocolate, portion-controlled, and make it something special.
When it comes to Easter this weekend, my thoughts are a mix of mindfulness but also enjoyment. So, pick your favourite chocolate, portion-controlled, and make it something special. Credit: margouillatphotos/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Chocolate is also a stimulant, there are two compounds theobromine and caffeine both found in chocolate and together they make us concentrate better, feel energetic and have a wonderful feeling of well-being.

Given all this, the chocolate industry is forever evolving to keep us engaged, looking for a point of difference and satisfying all consumer profiles. Differences appeal to the Weight Watcher or those looking for a healthier option but there are also those looking for a good quality product or something boutique such as handmade.

I would have to say in my opinion the best chocolate is dark and 70 per cent cacao and above. Dark chocolate has a higher flavanol content than white and milk and less added sugar.

Dark chocolate has the same superfood status as blueberries thanks to all the antioxidant compounds. It also has more magnesium, chromium, zinc and iron than any other food.
Dark chocolate has the same superfood status as blueberries thanks to all the antioxidant compounds. It also has more magnesium, chromium, zinc and iron than any other food. Credit: HUIZENG HU/Getty Images

In fact, dark chocolate has the same superfood status as blueberries thanks to all the antioxidant compounds. It also has more magnesium, chromium, zinc and iron than any other food. How much can you have and how often? Well, you can enjoy 30 grams of dark chocolate a day, if you like.

Then there are the super expensive chocolates you find, around ten to twelve dollars a block. What I found interesting is these blocks are around 100 grams compared to the usual size of 180 grams but their serving size is 10-15 grams when a standard serving size is 30 grams. Other than expensive packaging you will find they are healthier in they generally have a much lower sodium content.

Now this brings me to the sugar-free ranges you see out now. There is something so enticing about the idea of chocolate without all the guilt.

When I was writing this article I got out and sampled a whole lot of these in different brands and what I found was that while they all contained sugar alcohols to keep their claim for sugar-free as their sweeteners which was a lot better than artificial sweeteners and much relief to me, they were either super high in sodium or fat to engage the consumers taste buds and definitely not an option to me.

So what does it come down to when looking for chocolate, especially around easter?

I would say pick what you enjoy, stick to the serving size if possible and absolutely enjoy it but if you want to enjoy chocolate on a regular basis then make the switch to dark.

When it comes to Easter this weekend, my thoughts are a mix of mindfulness but also enjoyment. So, pick your favourite chocolate, portion-controlled, and make it something special and enjoy it with a cup of tea with family, your kids or friends.

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