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Managing Chocolate Cravings

The retail chocolate industry in Australia is worth $2.7 billion per year – yes, we eat a lot of chocolate!

In moderation, chocolate can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. If you give into chocolate cravings too often, however, it can be detrimental to your health – and your waistline.

Read on and find out why chocolate is so addictive and what you can do to overcome chocolate cravings.

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Are you a chocoholic?

With Australians eating nearly 7 kg of chocolate each per year, it's no wonder many of us declare ourselves "chocoholics".

"Chocolate is the number one craved food, so this is sort of an in-house model of addiction," says cognitive neuroscientist Dana Small at Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago.

But the label “chocoholic” doesn't necessarily mean that you're addicted to the stuff. Scientists have found that, unlike alcohol or other addictive substances, chocolate does not actually produce the chemical changes in the brain or changes in the body, like tolerance and withdrawal, that are associated with addiction.

Yet to the self-confessed chocoholic, the addiction is very real. Some chocoholics may find themselves pacing the floor, wondering where their next chocolate “fix” is going to come from, or obsessing about chocolate, day in, day out.

It is possible to cure your cravings without suffering the terrible withdrawals that you may fear – you can enjoy a small piece of chocolate every now and then without needing to overdo it.

What's so good about chocolate anyway?

Psychotherapist and counselor, Christine Sutherland, says that chocolate's appeal is two-fold: "First, it's childhood association. Chocolate is given as a special treat and we're taught that chocolate is special. There are also the chemical effects of chocolate. We now know that when people eat chocolate, they produce endorphins or the 'happy' hormone. If someone is feel a bit flat or a bit down, they can have a piece of chocolate and experience a short, temporary boost. So it's a feel-good food."

Other professionals agree. Nutritionist Glenn Cardwell goes as far as saying: "The power of chocolate is so delightful and stimulating that it often resembles the feeling of falling in love."

Some US scientists have claimed that chocolate has an effect on the brain similar to that of marijuana. They've found that eating chocolate produces a small amount of anandaminde, a fat in the brain that is also produced by the consumption of marijuana. This may also explain some of the “feel-good” associations people experience when eating chocolate.

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