I've been doing something for a while now that many of you would consider taboo for a health coach: I've been eating a piece of chocolate as a delightful little breakfast dessert. It started one morning as a craving and then snowballed into a habit. It's not much, just a half an ounce or so. It's always good quality dark, as shown here. At first, I felt like a bit of a fraud. What health coach, especially one that teaches about the pitfalls of sugar addiction, has chocolate for breakfast?
However, I began to notice I was actually enjoying some benefits to this supposed bad habit, benefits which warranted a deeper look into whether chocolate could indeed be part of a healthy breakfast. Benefits that begged to be shared with you!
Benefit #1: Satisfied until lunchtime! The first benefit I noticed is that I had energy and was completely satiated until lunchtime. It turns out that in a study of dark chocolate versus milk chocolate, "The participants felt more satiated, less hungry, and had lower ratings of prospective food consumption after consumption of the dark chocolate than after the milk chocolate." (Source). In other words, you are more likely to feel hungry and eat again sooner after milk chocolate than dark chocolate. Chocolate Action: Give yourself the best dark chocolate you can afford. Look for at least 70% cacao content. You deserve it!
Benefit #2: Better sleep. Even before starting my chocolate-is-breakfast-food habit, I noticed that what time of day I consumed chocolate was deeply important. If I ate chocolate after about 2:00 p.m., inevitably I would have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Why? Caffeine has a half life of six hours. That means that half of the caffeine you consumed is still in your system six hours after you have ingested it. Caffeine blocks adenosine, the natural chemical which is necessary to slow down cell functioning for sleep. If you ate some chocolate or drank coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda in the late afternoon, much of that caffeine is still in your system about the time you want to go to bed. By switching the time of day in which I consumed chocolate to morning I no longer had to contend with unwanted caffeine in my system interrupting my sleep at night. Chocolate Action: Improve your sleep by eating a little high quality dark chocolate in the morning instead of the afternoon or evening.
As an aside, if you are curious about how much caffeine is in coffee, tea and other sources, check out this handy guide from The Mayo Clinic.
Benefit #3: Enhanced powers of concentration and focus. This benefit surprised me...a lot. I noticed that when I consumed a little dark chocolate as breakfast dessert, not only was I satisfied until lunchtime and slept better, but my brain received a cognitive boost. As it happens, a study from Northern Arizona University published in 2015 found that, "That the brain was more alert and attentive after consumption (of dark chocolate)." Chocolate Action: Support your brain function with a little dark chocolate in the morning!
So the answer to the question, "Is Chocolate Part of a Healthy Breakfast?" is YES! as long as it is dark chocolate, think 70% cacao or more, and just a little, an ounce or so.
Now tell me, have you had your dark chocolate today?
For even more information about the benefits of dark chocolate, check out this article.