Why to Indulge but not Overindulge at Halloween

Snickers, Reece’s, Hershey’s – some of my favorite Halloween candy.  This can be the best time of year for indulging, but can also leave you feeling a little large around the waist and hips if you are not careful.  I filled my Halloween pumpkin a couple of weeks ago with Kit Kats and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.  After returning from running errands, I discovered half the wrappers scattered around on the floor.  I think this proves that chocolate is addicting.  My dog had eaten a least a bag full of candy and her belly showed it.

As you will see below, our popular Halloween chocolate treats are packed with calories.  In contrast, dark chocolate has recently been proven to directly lower high blood pressure.   Some of the components of dark chocolate are even beneficial in controlling inflammation.  During this season some of us decide to avoid candy all together.  Some of us “allow ourselves” to scarf down the bowl.  Here are some reasons why you should do neither.

Why to indulge:

  • Flavenoids – chocolate contains natural flavenoids which can prevent heart disease and cancer.
  • Flavanols and procyanidins – also in chocolate improve the function and flow of blood vessels and help control inflammation.  This is especially important when recovering from a surgery or injury.  These plant phenols are found predominantly in dark chocolates (not typically found in the US).
  • Cocoa – it contains a substantial amount of antioxidants (more than green tea or red wine).
  • Stearic Acid – a saturated fat in chocolate but luckily is not the kind that raises blood cholesterol.
  • Endorphins = pleasure
  • Serotonin = anti-depressant

Why not to overindulge:

  • Calorie count – most chocolate treats will contain other ingredients (like peanut butter, caramel, nougat) which increases the amount of calories and makes the candy more of something else than chocolate.   Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and if you do not use the calories from simple sugars, they get stored as fat.  Check out your favorite Halloween candy calorie/content breakdown.
  • Chocolate is addicting – Yes, according to the dog story above. We all know from experience that when endorphins are present, it is difficult to stop.
  • Chocolate is bad for you skin –  is it?  Sugar is bad for your skin and most of our Halloween treats contain more sugar than cocoa.

Things to remember when buying chocolate:

  • Dark chocolate is higher in cocoa content while white chocolate has no cocoa content.
  • Avoid eating or drinking milk chocolate because it has been shown to wash out the antioxidant content.
  • Avoid chocolate with caramel, fudge, or peanut butter as the added ingredients increase the calorie and sugar content.  Instead buy dark chocolate with orange peel or nuts.  Research shows that if chocolate is going to benefit you, calories must be limited in other parts of your diet.
  • When allowing the kids (or you) to rummage through, organize and EAT their Halloween candy, limit one piece of dark chocolate per day.

It is most important is to enjoy your Halloween.  Trick or Treat!

Resources and Excellent Blogs on this topic:

Chocolate and skin

Cocoa facts

Runners World article

Health benefits of chocolate

Dark chocolate health benefits

Flavenoids

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