Everybody Needs a Chocolate Chip Cookie Sometimes

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies by Bibi, on Flickr

It’s a funny thing about the choices we declare for ourselves, and the rationalisations we make inside our heads when we don’t stick to those choices. I’ve always felt that chocolate chip cookies were the perfect example of this cognitive dissonance.

Aside from those few benighted souls who dislike chocolate, chocolate chip cookies are the epitome of pleasure – sugar, fat and chocolate are guaranteed to hit every palatability measure out of the park. In simple terms, they make our brains happy when we eat them. The question is, is it OK for us to make ourselves happy that way, or do we need to jettison them forever?

There is little debate nowadays in the medical/wellness community over the fact that sugar is largely responsible for most of what ails us. We used to think that the saturated fat in butter and chocolate was bad for us, but it turns out that the main culprit is almost certainly the sugar. Chocolate itself, especially cocoa and dark chocolate with a lower sugar content, is so good for us it’s practically medicinal. Some people have issues with the gluten in the wheat flour usually used to make cookies, and even for those who don’t, simple carbohydrates convert directly into sugar in the body.

Too much sugar causes insulin spikes, which can lead to metabolic syndrome and eventually diabetes. Given that my mother died of the complications of diabetes, you can imagine that I am pretty sensitive to anything that could send me or my loved ones in that direction.

Still, I maintain that everybody needs a chocolate chip cookie sometimes.

One of my favourite podcasts is the Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness podcast, with Sarah Fragoso and Jason Seib. Sarah is a well-respected author of Paleo cookbooks, and Jason is the author of The Paleo Coach: Expert Advice for Extraordinary Health, Sustainable Fat Loss, and an Incredible Body.

As you might imagine, he’s a plain-spoken gym owner with strong opinions, and he has more than once expressed his amazement that anyone, especially those with health issues directly related to their diet, would jeopardise their health for the sake of mouth entertainment. On the face of it, it’s a no-brainer. And yet, we do.

I have asked myself many times, hand guiltily in the cookie jar, what it is about chocolate, and chocolate chip cookies in particular, that overrides every sensible mechanism in our brains. Especially for those of us of the female persuasion, and even more especially when the hormones come a-calling. I heard Dr. Dan Kalish make a functional connection between digestive issues and female hormone imbalances on an Underground Wellness podcast, and it makes sense to me. But men have their own cycle and their own hormone craziness, even if it’s not governed by the moon, and they may well be self-medicating with chocolate, as well.

I do think that that is part of the answer – that hormone imbalance, particularly of the cholesterol-based sex hormones, leads us to crave chocolate. Don’t ask me how it works, and I know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but it’s worth thinking about. This is quite aside from any emotional connections we may have to chocolate chip cookies as a comfort food, with warm and fuzzy memories from our childhoods.

There’s no doubt in my mind that too many chocolate chip cookies will eventually lead to undesirable outcomes – weight gain, inflammation, all kinds of nasty stuff. But in our rush to heal ourselves with food, let’s just remember one thing.

Everybody needs a chocolate chip cookie sometimes. Just not too often.

What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Everybody Needs a Chocolate Chip Cookie Sometimes”

  1. RJ Says:

    There’s a fair bit of work showing that metabolic and blood pressure benefits from a low sugar or low processed carb diet can be reached if you stick to this diet 5 days a week. I’ve also read arguments that weight loss can be helped by having a couple of indulgence days, so your metabolism doesn’t slow down, although weight loss is not identical with metabolic health, of course. Psychologically, most people do better knowing they’re allowed a small and healthy level of indulgence rather than feeling like they’re giving up cookies for life.

    On the flip side, there do seem to be some people who have a neurological response to sugar that is similar to that of drug addicts to their substance of choice, and who find it easier to go cold turkey, whether because they cannot stop at two cookies once a week, or because it’s psychologically easier just to put up a high fence. I’m in favour of whatever is most sustainable and comfortable for each person.

  2. Hadass Eviatar Says:

    Thanks for the response! I am struggling with this, because I feel that fences that are too high can lead to orthorexia and other eating disorders; on the other hand, there is so much junk out there that there has to be some sort of boundary. It’s certainly not as simple as it looks!

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