A fitness coach’s dark confession

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

In keeping with the spirit of the holidays as a time for introspection, I have a confession to make:  I love chocolate. In spite of having a regimented meal plan to accompany my bodybuilding, I do allow myself a treat now and then, and it is almost always chocolate, in any variety. When I met my husband over 20 years ago, one of the first things I learned about him was that he doesn’t like chocolate. Proof that I truly married form my heart, I still struggle to wrap my brain around this idea, especially when there are so many health benefits to be derived from enjoying chocolate.

Keeping in mind that any chocolate is relatively high in saturated fats, and should be consumed in small amounts as part of an overall healthy diet, there is good reason to extoll the virtues of organic, dark chocolate, especially the kind that is high in cocoa solids.  Countless studies have shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate two or three times each week can actually facilitate a lowering in blood pressure, since it appears to increase blood flow. The flavonoids found in dark chocolate may help reduce insulin resistance; and since it possesses a lower glycemic index than many other sweet treats, enjoying a bit of dark chocolate won’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.

Another benefit of this delicious and decadent dessert choice is its plethora of antioxidants. These are substances which can help rid the body of free radicals, which are responsible for causing oxidative damage to cells. Free radicals have also been implicated in the aging process and may be a cause of some cancers, so it seems reasonable to conclude that a few dark sweet squares may actually be improving your health and well-being.

Since a vital aspect of our well-being is tied up in our emotional status, it seems chocolate truly can cheer us up if we’re feeling down!  Dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical our brains create when we feel like we’re falling in love. PEA encourages the brain to release endorphins, nature’s very own mood lifters! 

Here’s a little secret that your dentist probably hasn’t shared with you: dark chocolate contains theobromine, which has been shown to harden tooth enamel. This means that dark chocolate, unlike most other treats, might actually help lower the risk of cavities, as long as proper dental hygiene is being practiced.  With Halloween just around the corner, keep this in mind as you stock up on the trick-or-treat candy.

If you are not a chocolate fan, like my husband, relax — there are many other ways for you to achieve or remain in optimal health!  However, for those individuals who share my passion, rejoice as you linger over and savor the dark sweet sensation that offers so many wonderful benefits.

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Lifestyle/Weight Management Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center.