8 Incredible Effects of Giving Up Chocolate for a Month, Says Research
If you are a chocolate lover, then you are not alone. According to research, Americans, on average, eat approximately 9.5 pounds of chocolate per year, coming in 9th place for the world's top 10 chocolate consumers. If you think that's a lot though, take a look at Switzerland—on average each person there enjoys approximately 19.8 pounds of chocolate annually. Talk about a sweet tooth!
Even though chocolate is delicious, some variations of it may have negative effects on our health—as it turns out, not all chocolate is created equal. For example, dark chocolate may have health benefits when enjoyed in moderation, but other types, such as white and milk chocolate, can be packed with fat and added sugar.
"To get the maximum health benefits from cacao, you want to choose a dark chocolate that is 70% or higher," explains Danielle McAvoy, MSPH, RD, and Registered Dietitian with Strong Home Gym. "The percentage of cacao also tells you the percentage of sugar," says McAvoy. For example, if a chocolate is labeled as "50%" that means it is made of 50% cacao and 50% sugar and dairy.
But even healthy dark chocolate can be over-consumed. If you feel like your chocolate habits are negatively impacting your health, cutting it out could help. Cutting out chocolate may feel difficult at first, but it can work wonders for both your mind and body. From getting a better night's rest to experiencing fewer mood swings, here are some of the effects of giving up chocolate for 30 days.
While you're making healthier choices, check out Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.
You'll experience fewer mood swings
When we cut out chocolate we are also cutting out sugar, which can then have a balancing effect on our moods.
"When you eliminate sugar from your diet, you're getting rid of one of the main causes of mood swings and irritability," explains Jay Cowin, NNCP, RNT, RNC, CHN, CSNA, Registered Nutritionist and Director of Formulations at ASYSTEM. Cowin explains that sugar is a toxin that can deplete energy while also wreaking havoc on blood sugar levels. "[This] can lead to mood swings, cravings, and other unhealthy behaviors," he says.
You may lose weight
Having trouble reaching your weight loss goals? Eliminating chocolate from your diet, even if it's just for a month, can help cut back on calories and sugar which can then lead to weight loss.
"Because added sugars are often hidden in foods and drinks, and more especially in chocolate, it can be tough to track just how much sugar you're eating each day," says Cowin, "cutting back on added sugars can help you lose weight and improve your overall health."
You may get less heartburn
According to research, almost one-third of Americans may experience acid reflux weekly. When we think of heartburn or acid reflux, images of tomato sauce, alcohol, and fried foods may come to mind, but did you know that chocolate is also a culprit? "Chocolate is an acidic food and can cause or worsen symptoms of heartburn or acid reflux," shares McAvoy, "The sweeter the chocolate, the more triggering it can be."
You may sleep better
If you indulge in chocolate later in the day you may find that going to sleep at night may be a struggle. This is because chocolate contains caffeine and can keep you up. McAvoy points out that caffeine is okay in moderation, but if you are someone who is guzzling down coffee in the morning, having chocolate in the afternoon or evening may disrupt your sleep. "Caffeine can also contribute to anxiety, so reducing the amount you consume can help you feel more relaxed," McAvoy adds.
You may experience increased emotional awareness
By avoiding chocolate for a month you may develop increased emotional awareness which can help improve mindful eating. "I know firsthand that eating chocolate is an easy way to pacify uncomfortable emotions," says Sylvia Gonsahn-Bollie, M.D., dual-board certified obesity & metabolic health physician, bestselling author, personalized lifestyle coach, and CEO of EmbraceYOU Weight & Wellness. "When I gave up chocolate for a month I was forced to "feel my feelings," she adds, "This emotional awareness helped improve my mindful eating."
Dr. Bollie also said that she felt "a greater connection and clarity" when she wasn't using food to "soothe" her feelings. "This is a common pattern I see with other emotional eaters that I work with on their weight and wellness journey," she points out.
You'll reduce your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Just a single Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar contains 24 grams of sugar. Enjoy one of these a couple of times per week and that's nearly 200 grams of added sugar, just from chocolate, each month. According to a 2018 research study, it was found that diets that are high in sugar can put you at a greater risk of developing non-fatty liver disease. By decreasing your chocolate intake you can help lower your risk of this illness while also lessening your risk of both diabetes and obesity along the way.
You'll be at a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases
In a 2014 study by JAMA Internal Medicine, it was found that there was a direct correlation between higher added sugar intake and increased risk for CVD (cardiovascular disease) mortality. By switching out your chocolate habit for healthier alternatives, such as fruits and nuts, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease may be lessened.
You could have fewer migraines…or not
While chocolate has long been considered a potential migraine trigger, a study in the journal Nutrients did a deep dive into 25 studies that investigated the role of chocolate in the formation of migraines. They failed to find sufficient evidence that chocolate alone is a migraine trigger.
A previous version of this article was originally published on February 18, 2022.