Ever have a stressful day and think to yourself, "A piece of chocolate would make me feel better." In part, you may be onto something. Chocolate makes us feel good--temporarily.
How long does chocolate soothe a bad mood? Only 3 minutes according to a study by Macht & Mueller (2007) in the journal of Appetite. After that, the effect dissipates.
However, the mood elevating properties depends on how good the chocolate is. Believe it or not, all chocolate is not created equally. In their study, subjects received different types of chocolate after the experimenters induced a bad mood. The impact on a negative mood only worked with the "palatable" or "good" chocolate.
The researchers hypothesized that the positive effects were due to the immediate sensory pleasure (taste on the tongue) and emotional associations with chocolate. It's unlikely that the chocolate impacted neurotransmitters or chemicals in the brain. This would generally take up to an hour. "Emotional eaters" seemed to get the most impact from the chocolate.
While chocolate may give your mood a small boost, its short term effects emphasize why it is important to find other ways to calm and soothe yourself without sweets. Other studies, find that chocolate's feel-good effects are often followed with guilt (Macht & Dettmer, 2006). This is no surprise to avid chocolate loves.
This week, I'm in NYC, giving a lecture at 92Y. For "research purposes" only, I perused the streets of NYC looking for some "good chocolate."
My findings-the best chocolate chip cookie ever: Levain Bakery. Don't let the price (4.00) a cookie deter you. Break the cookie into three pieces and share with friends. Eat your warm, gooey piece mindfully.
Wicket Hot Chocolate at Jacques Torres Chocolate. It's spice and sweet. A few sips are more than enough.
If you want to learn how to eat chocolate mindfully, please attend my lecture at 92Y on Tue, October 11th. http://www.92y.org/Uptown/Event/Mindful-Eating.aspx You'll get a taste of chocolate from an innovative company like http://www.madecasse.com. From bean to bar it is made in Madagascar.
Is it possible to eat chocolate mindfully? Definitely. This is good news. Chocolate is reputed to be the most craved food in the United States (Rozin et al., 1991). Hope to see all chocolate lovers on Tuesday evening.
See Dr. Susan Albers' new book, But I Deserve This Chocolate: the 50 Most Common Diet-Derailing Excuses and How to Outwit Them. She is a psychologist for the Cleveland Clinic and author of five books on mindful eating including 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully. Her books have been noted in O, the Oprah magazine, Shape, Prevention, Health etc. and seen on the Dr. Oz TV show. www.eatingmindfully.com