Food + DrinkHealth + WellnessLifestyle

Can you DECHOX during March for a healthier heart?

Ahh, chocolate. In all of its meltingly-soft, sweet forms. There’s no denying that it’s delicious, and we’re as sorry as anyone to have to burst its oh-so-soothing bubble, but its downfall lies in its key character trait. As sweet as chocolate may be – and though it is tempting to swallow the hype about it being good for you as you swallow your second bar of fruit and nut – it’s packed full of sugar and saturated fat, too much of which is bad for our hearts.

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One in four of the UK population is lost to heart and circulatory disease every year and there are currently seven million people in the UK living with the disease, which is why the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is calling on all of us to DECHOX for March, kicking our sugary habit to the curb and helping our hearts tick along more healthily in the process.

It might help if we bust some chocolate myths that we’re all bound to have fed ourselves at some stage. Eating chocolate gives us more energy, right? Wrong. Chocolate does contain small amounts of caffeine, which may make us feel a teensy bit more energetic, but not before being followed by that inevitable post-sugar slump. But, I can’t give it up; I’m ‘addicted’ to it. Sorry, wrong again. There is no solid evidence that chocolate causes physical addiction. It’s actually more about our feelings towards chocolate that tend to dictate our behaviour. We might love it, but we don’t need it. And, how could we forget this classic: chocolate with bubbles in it is ‘lighter’. Nope. The fat and sugar content per 100g is similar to other, more solid chocolate bars, so although eating chocolate with bubbles is a bit like eating a smaller bar, let’s face it, most of us probably end up eating more in one sitting.

So, if you’ve decided to bite the biscuit (or not, if it’s a chocolate one), what can you do to help you keep focused throughout your chocolate-free month? “It’s inevitable that at some point during your DECHOX, you will crave chocolate,” says Tracy Parker, heart health dietician at the BHF. “And this can be for several reasons, including emotional need and breaking the habit. It’s important to remember that although your cravings and urges to eat chocolate might feel real, they are more to do with food associations or habit than a real need for the chocolate. If you normally have a bar of chocolate every day at 4pm, when that time of day comes around you might automatically want some chocolate, but you don’t have to give into it. If you resist, then the feelings will pass in about 30-45 minutes.”

“There are coping strategies you can employ to help curb your cravings,” Tracy adds. “Try keeping a food diary so that you can identify any patterns in your chocolate eating; whether it’s led by events, times of day, or how you are feeling. If it’s about habit then plan in advance how you can keep yourself busy at times when you’d normally eat chocolate – change your routine and your habits will go out of the window giving you an opportunity to create new, healthier habits. If you discover you’re eating chocolate in response to certain emotions then think of an alternative, healthier treat, like an apple or a small bowl of unsweetened cereal, or something else you can do to make yourself feel better like reading a magazine or talking to a friend.”

So, with myths busted, reasons for cravings identified, and coping strategies to stop any hankerings in their tracks, now is as good a time as any to see if you can handle March without your edible best friend for the benefit of the one that beats inside your chest. Good luck!

To find out more about DECHOX, or sign up for sponsorship, go to www.bhf.org.uk/dechox

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