Is it us, or is everything all about candy right now? Yes, it's almost October 31st. We get it. But there's literally not a corner of the Internet that hasn't been taken over by references to sweets. There are articles analyzing Ebola's effect on chocolate sales, tips for pairing candy and wine—even guides to making the sweets in your house safe…for your dog.
Yes, capped by Halloween, the entire month of October is packed from beginning to end with subtle and not-so subtle pushes toward bellyache-inducing creations by the traditional chocolate powerhouses. Here at the ALOHA offices, we haven't even busted open the first bag (don't worry, we're about to) and…is that a cavity we already feel coming on?
Here's the thing. If you're into wellness, there are ways to make the sweet-loving madness of Halloween work for you without doing you in. Check out these strategies for ensuring that chocolate lends you its pleasure- and antioxidant-rich magic—not a spare tire.
Don't get carried away with all the health claims
Yes, chocolate offers loads of nutritional benefits. The "active" ingredient, cacao, contains tons of flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that fight damaging free radicals and may protect you from all manner of diseases and health problems. According to research, eating chocolate regularly may support heart health, help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, boost immune system function, help promote healthy body weight, and — yes, we saw the well-timed new study that was circulating this week, too — improve memory
Cool. But be careful not to let these exciting findings turn into excuses to overdo it. Remember: To make chocolate taste good rather than bitter, they add tons of (delicious) sugar and fat. Too much in that department will neutralize any antioxidant benefit you can score. An ounce or two a day of the most potent stuff (see below) should suffice.
Pick the healthiest stuff
Not all chocolate will make you immortal. Again, the ingredient with the health benefits is cacao (it's called cocoa once it's turned into powder). Dark chocolate contains more cocoa than milk chocolate, meaning it delivers more antioxidants. Aim to enjoy chocolate comprised of at least 65 percent cocoa. Bonus points if you can bump that up into the 80-90 percent range.
Know which treats should spook you
Most of the "chocolate" candy on the market actually contains very little of it. It's not that they're faking it. It's just that these nuggets and bars, while perhaps coated in chocolate—even the dark variety—are stuffed with lots of sugary combos that won't throw a single punch at free radicals (in fact, they're more likely to invite the monsters in for dinner). We're talking about nougat, caramel, marshmallow fluff, crisped rice, wafers, malt, "peanut butter," etc.
Also: Avoid sugar-free options. Yup! There's mounting evidence that artificial sweeteners actually mess up your metabolism and lead to weight gain.
Pair it with fruit
Why is this OK on Valentine's Day, but not Halloween? Chocolate is absolutely delicious with fresh fruits like strawberries, raspberries, apples and bananas. Get your chocolate fix without all the calories by melting it, then dipping in your favorite produce.
Want it to feel more Halloween-y? Wanna bet there's a Pinterest board for spooky fruit-monster creations (go get the toothpicks)?
What we're saying (and, admittedly, trying to convince ourselves of) is: Halloween doesn't have to be all about candy.
Skip candy altogether
Yeah, it's kind of crazy. But wouldn't it be kind of liberating to just say "no thanks" this year? No extra 3,000 calories of useless sugar, no guilt, no rushing to get the weight off before Thanksgiving, no failing to get the weight off before Thanksgiving, no New Year's resolution to conquer your chocolate addiction, no relapse in February? You see where this goes. It's just an idea.
And by the way, you can actually get the nutritional benefits of chocolate without the sugar and fat. Our Daily Good Greens Superfood Whole-Food Powder includes a cocoa-packing option. It would be irresponsible not to—chocolate is amazing, even if it's a little (emotionally) complicated.