There seems to be a new food fad every other month. Juice diets, low fat diets, high fat diets, high protein, low carb… One month the common wisdom is that a glass of red wine in the evenings is good for you, and a few months later someone may claim that alcohol is the root of all dietary evil.
It’s tricky to keep track of it all, and one often wonders where all of the nutritional advice is coming from, and what it’s really based on.
Well… Good news everyone! Some research published in January 2017, in Appetite(see the full reference below, for those of you that would like to read the original article), suggests that eating a little chocolate each day might make us happier.
The researchers randomly assigned people to either eat chocolate (14g or 75 calories of milk chocolate) mindfully or not-mindfully (i.e. as you would usually), or to a comparison condition which got an equivalent amount of cracker which they had to eat mindfully, or not.
Unsurprisingly, the people that got to eat the chocolate felt a lot happier afterwards than the people that got the cracker. What makes this piece of research interesting is the fact that the people who ate the chocolate or the cracker mindfully were significantly happier than those who just ate their assigned food as they normally would.
What does it mean to eat something mindfully? It might seem as though it simply means eating something really slowly, but there is a lot more to it than that. Mindful eating means paying attention to your food. You notice the smell, the texture, the taste, of whatever you are eating, and savour it. Many of us are inclined to snack on things like chocolate or crackers while in front of the TV, and the whole packet is gone before we realise. I myself have devoured a family-sized chocolate bar while watching series without really tasting any of it.
So how can we apply this knowledge in our daily lives?
If you want to eat a treat (like chocolate, or another food that you particularly enjoy), do it mindfully.
Limit the portion size of the treat. The amount will vary depending on what type of chocolate/treat you choose, but for ordinary milk chocolate 75 calories is about 3 squares worth.
Keep in mind that excessive consumption of any delicious treat (regardless of how mindful you are about it) is bound to be bad for your health.
Meier, B.P., Noll, S.W. & Molokwu, O.J. (2017). The sweet life: The effect of mindful chocolate consumption on mood. Appetite, 108, 21 – 27.