As a nutritionist, I am expected to radiate with health, energy and vitality – I wish ….
All I can say is that, like most people, I try the best I can under given circumstances. The given circumstances can prove somewhat demanding – when I am pre-menstrual and come face-to-face with chocolate, for example. Not surprising really, as chocolate contains a feel-good-factor and is believed to boost serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain, creating an instant uplifting effect.
3,000 years ago, the Aztecs realised they were on to a good thing and used cocoa beans, from which chocolate is made, as a form of currency. So it is clearly not my fault if I cave in occasionally – well hardly. The advantage I have, in my profession, are certain tricks of the trade and I shall share them with you. Believe it or not, a chocolate fetish can be overcome – so, if you want to keep the pounds in your pocket rather than watch them pile onto your bum or tum, try this:
Just choose a day and stop! Give up chocolate completely for 3-4 weeks and your cravings should have disappeared as if by magic. Admittedly, those first few days are tough, so make sure you replace it with an alternative such as an apple and some pecan nuts or any other healthy sugar-free snack. Chocolate also contains two stimulants, caffeine and theobromine, which speed up the heartbeat and central nervous system. As it tends to contain large amounts of sugar, it is used by many people as an instant lift when energy levels are low. The problem is that we may start relying too heavily on chocolate for an energy fix instead of eating more nutritious foods. Keep busy and surround yourself with people who neither eat nor mention the sticky yummy brown stuff. The best time for a woman to give up is at the beginning of her cycle – she should find her premenstrual chocolate cravings considerably reduced.
Cravings or addictions may be a sign that you are actually intolerant to the substance you crave – nicotine, caffeine, recreational drugs and alcohol fit into this category. So does food, some people crave the particular food that causes their health problem and suffer withdrawal symptoms when they try to give it up. If this applies to you, then reduce the offending item gradually over several weeks and drink plenty of water to detoxify.
Sometimes an excessive desire for a particular food may indicate a nutrient deficiency. Magnesium, for example, is plentiful in cocoa – it helps to strengthen bones and teeth, promotes healthy muscles by helping them to relax, is essential for energy production and involved in countless enzyme reactions in the body. A surprising number of people lack magnesium because modern food processing techniques have refined up to 80% of important minerals out of our grains. We also tend to eat less of the natural foods containing the mineral. Instead of chocolate, include wholegrain cereals, nuts, dried figs and raisins, beans, pulses and green leafy vegetables in your diet.
Relieved to be free of the magnetic pull of every sweet shop in town, I can write about my previous passionate relationship with chocolate without so much as a mouthwater. Just do not tempt me on a bad day …
© 2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, First Published Brighton Argus August 1999