Last summer, NPR posted a short article about a recently published study verifying that dark chocolate improves blood flow. The NPR writer recalled another study that also showed improved blood flow: a benefit of meditation. This article set off a light bulb in my head: chocolate meditation!
Googling “chocolate meditation” showed that I was no innovator, although only a few links came up. After reading up on mindful eating and chocolate appreciation, as well as the details of the above mentioned and additional clinical studies, I decided that this practice would be part educational, part chocolate appreciation, and part meditation in the form of mindful eating.
Clinical studies have shown that chocolate may lower blood pressure, improves blood flow, boosts coronary circulation, reduces weight gain (perhaps due to the soluble fiber), lowers LDL and increases HDL, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, is inversely associated with the progression of atherosclerotic plaque, and is inversely associated with prevalent cardiovascular disease.
One caveat: it must be dark chocolate. We’re talking high cacao content. It contains the perfect combination of fat, flavonoids, and flavor. Flavonoids are polyphenols, which are antioxidants that supposedly trounce those in superfruits such as acai, pomegranates, and berries. Cocoa butter contains saturated and monounsaturated fats, with very little polyunsaturated fat. And chocolate contains soluble fiber.
There are several dark chocolate bars on the market. Find a bar that has 70% or higher cacao and lower sugar content. Organic is best. Fair trade is more ethical, taking into consideration the workers who cultivated and roasted the cacao beans and manufactured the finished product.
These three are good options:
- Chocolove XOXOX Extra Strong Dark 77% Cacao
- Green and Black’s Dark 85% Cacao
- Dagoba Eclipse 87% Cacao
If you’re going for cocoa powder instead of a chocolate bar, look for raw or roasted but not Dutch-processed. Again, make sure it has a high cacao content and low sugar levels.
Caution: chocolate is still a candy! Moderation is key. Double the serving size stated on the wrapper. If it says 3 servings, figure the package contains 6 servings. Just a few squares per sitting, or make one drink of hot cocoa a day. Treat the chocolate like a condiment or a medicinal adjunct to your healthy diet.
Take a small piece of good quality chocolate in a napkin or on a small plate. Make sure you’re sitting comfortably. Notice the sounds surrounding you. Take a few moments to breathe and be aware of how it feels to be in this moment. Contemplate where this chocolate came from – how it was grown and made and delivered – and all the people involved in bringing this chocolate to you. Notice the aroma of the chocolate. Feel the weight of the piece of chocolate. Observe the color. Put it on your tongue. Let it melt in your mouth. Notice the texture and flavor. Observe whether you’re tempted to chew on the chocolate. Do you resist and let the piece melt completely, or do you let it melt for a bit and then chew up the rest of it? Listen to your body as you savor the piece of chocolate. What impulses and sensations come to your mind?
After you swallow the last of the piece of chocolate, continue to sit and observe. Are you yearning for another piece of chocolate? Is this desire stemming from a physical or an emotional hunger, or an addiction to chocolate or to pleasure? Maybe there is no clear answer to this question – and that’s no big deal. Just acknowledge your conclusion. Be honest with yourself: are you devising an excuse, a story, to justify your craving? If you want another piece of chocolate, how long do you pause before you put it into your mouth?
Repeat the above instructions until you are satisfied with or have eaten your allotted amount of the chocolate. Then continue to sit and watch your breath. Observe how your body and mind signals satisfaction, as well as any other thoughts as they form and evolve.
Hopefully this chocolate meditation practice results in a greater appreciation of good quality dark chocolate and its benefits on your physical body, particularly your heart. Consider including this practice as an integral part of your loving-kindness practice towards yourself.
© 2015 Amy Dara Hochberg.
Yoga with Amy Dara by Amy Dara Hochberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.amydara.com.
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