The first chocolate I fell in love with was a giant solid Easter bunny—a gift from my uncle when I was four years old. He knelt down and placed it on the floor in front of me. Wrapped in clear cellophane with a big pink bow on the top, it was taller than me. Since Easter was a very religious holiday in my Italian immigrant family, that bunny was a little taste of heaven for me. My mouth watered as I thought of taking a bite out of one of those creamy ears! Every day after dinner, my mother cut off a little piece of that chocolate bunny for dessert. That was the start of my life-long love affair with chocolate.
As an adult, I continued to indulge in chocolate of all kinds despite the fact that I was always an advocate of healthy eating and exercising. I rationalized my chocolate habit as being my one vice in my healthy lifestyle. But as I got more and more educated about health and wellness, I started feeling guilty about eating chocolate, mainly because I felt like a hypocrite. How could I write, speak and teach people to live healthier with my dirty little chocolate secret?
As I learned more, however, I found there were more health reasons to eat chocolate that not. The cacao bean, which is what chocolate comes from, packs a ton of health benefits and antioxidants. Consider these facts:
- The phenyl ethylamine in chocolate is mood uplifting
- The cacao in chocolate has antibacterial properties
- The flavanoids in chocolate help keep blood vessels flexible
- The carbs in chocolate raise serotonin levels making you feel good
- The cocoa butter in chocolate can help raise good cholesterol
I was grateful my love affair with chocolate did not have to be broken or hidden. However, I also learned that not all chocolate is created equal. A lot of over-the-counter chocolate is loaded with dairy products, sugar, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Even before I got my health coach certification, I knew that those ingredients were not good for anyone. So, if I wanted to continue my affair, I had to find healthier chocolate. And just like searching for that perfect partner in life, I made a list of what my chocolate would look like. It was organic, non GMO, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, fair traded, at least 70% cacao, less than 5 grams of sugar per serving and no artificial anything. Of course, it also had to taste delicious! Yes, this was a tall order, but when you love something that much, you will search until you find it, even if you have to suffer through some bad relationships first.
I tried dozens of chocolate, and I did finally find one brand that met all my criteria and more; it actually contained extra anti-inflammatories—flaxseed oil and turmeric. One piece a day of this yummy healthy chocolate, and I’m back in heaven. My love affair with chocolate continues happier and healthier. Isn’t life delicious!
Inspiring personal growth, professional success and positive change. Author of The Goddess of Happiness, Vita’s Will and Note to Self: Love (Book & Screenplay). Lover of food, fashion, fitness, funky music, dogs, dancing, cooking, laughter and anything Italian.