by Monica Reinagel, M.S., L.D./N.
Q. I have heard conflicting theories on how best to deal with chocolate cravings. One school of thought says that you should eat a little piece of chocolate every day because avoiding it entirely will make you feel deprived and lead to binging. Another theory says that you should avoid it as much as possible because eating small amounts will feed your “addiction” and you’ll gradually eat more and more. I would love to hear your take on which seems more plausible.
A. I don't believe there’s a single answer that will be true for everyone. The idea that chocolate (or, sugar, or fat, or any other food) can be “addictive” in the same way as nicotine or heroin is a question that’s hotly debated by experts in both the behavioral and biological sciences. If it is, then the answer would be simple: It would be safest to avoid it entirely.
And yet many people seem to have no problem enjoying chocolate in moderation—and (unlike heroin), there appear to be health benefits of regular, modest chocolate consumption. In that way, chocolate would appear to be more like alcohol. Moderate consumption appears to have some benefits, and many people have no problem with that. Others struggle to keep their consumption under control; some find that the only way to avoid abusing alcohol is to abstain entirely.
I think this is one of those things that you need to decide for yourself: Does it work better for you to eat a small amount of chocolate regularly or is even a small amount a slippery slope that leads to unhealthy excess?
Personally, I don't find chocolate particularly "addictive" and am content to eat a small piece every day or every other day. Sometimes I forget for days at a time. Good bread, on the other hand, is like crack cocaine for me. The more I eat, the more I want—and if there were a loaf of crusty sourdough in the house, it would be impossible for me to forget about it. That’s why, although I don’t live a completely bread-free existence, you will rarely find bread in my house. I find it safest not to have it around! You will, however, almost always find a few squares of dark chocolate in the cupboard—and I have yet to go on a chocolate bender.
How about you, readers? Are there foods or other substances that you find irresistible? Do you find it better to avoid them entirely or is it possible to indulge in a disciplined way?
Chocolate bars photo from Shutterstock.