By Chrisanna Harrington-Wright, MA, RDN, LMHC

Just what does chocolate have  to do with Emotional Health?Since 2005, I have been practicing in two fields, nutrition and psychotherapy, my company is called Nutegra Mental Health and Nutrition. In May 2019, I had the great opportunity to join Dr. Pollack’s office to combine both areas of study, and that is what I am doing at Psychiatric Associates of Southwest Florida. Over the last 20 years, I have been teaching people how to eat for their physical and mental health. Nutrition education is not a diet. It is a specific way of eating for each person’s individual needs, based on science and body composition, which we measure in the office. We plan meals that are 40% protein, 35% fat, and 25% carbohydrate for someone to lose weight. We also plan meals for people who are underweight with gallbladder problems which are 20% fat, 40% carbohydrate, and 40% protein. We are also seeing younger people in their twenties and thirties who have increased anxiety, which research is linking to dysregulation of the microbiome or the gut/ brain access. We are using omega three fatty acids and a drink that has amino acids specific to aide in rebuilding the gut. And this is working. We are helping people become well-nourished through real food and nourishing their bodies and brain. Brain nutrition is just as important as nutrition for the body. As you can see, in this picture below. On the left is a well-nourished brain, on the right, a malnourished brain.

This concept of utilizing nutrition to aide in mental health is a contemporary concept, based on the research over the last ten years linking the gut and the brain. Dieting by limiting food sources can lead to nutrition deficiencies, and these deficiencies can lead to decreased mood and cognitive decline. These nutrition deficiencies are linked to a decrease in fiber, decreased essential fats, decreased B-vitamins and minerals and a decrease in the variety of whole foods. All of these are important to a healthy gut. When people follow extreme diets or eat highly processed foods their overall nutrition can be compromised. Essentially good food is equated with a good mood because by eating well, your body and brain have all the components it needs to function.

We use a the Nutegra Nutrition Wheel versus a Food Guide Pyramid and which includes supplementation to assure that micro-nutrient needs are met.

In 2014, to help my binge eating clients, I started to develop a product to eat in the afternoon or evening to prevent food cravings. This original product named CraveTame has moved into a more palatable product we are calling MoodProve. The new creation uses dark chocolate and nutriceuticals to target the gut/brain access to decrease cravings. According to an article by Chris Aiken, M.D. in Psychiatric Times (September 2019), chocolate contains natural substances that play a role in releasing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. The defining factor, according to the article, is that the chocolate needs to be dark chocolate with at least 75% dark cocoa, milk chocolate does not work. So far, testing MoodProve in our office has been successful. Our patients have reported that binge eating decreases from about a ten down to a one or zero. The patients who are testing this product are telling us that they are no longer

binge eating and find they make better choices for their food intake. While using MoodProve, our clients are telling us they are also noticing other improvements in their overall health. How could this be?

Just what could these improvements be, and why? According to a paper published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2007, researchers found that chocolate is the favorite food consumed by depressed people. And 45% of the people in their study craved chocolate because they believed it relieved feelings of anxiety and depression. The chocolate used in this study was dark chocolate of greater than or equal to a degree of 75% ( this seems to be the magic cocoa content). We use 100% dark chocolate, velvety, and rich. Chocolate, as it turns out, is filled with phytonutrients or components that nourish the body and brain. Flavanols, found in red wine, berries, citrus, and green tea, are rich in dark chocolate. Flavanols are associated with improved mood and cognition. While using our product, MoodProve, several patients have noted a decrease in premenstrual mood dips. Clients treated for depression noted a more rapid response to their treatment regimens as well! We believe these improvements have to do with better nutrition, improved gut function, and the multiple phytonutrient properties found in Dark Chocolate!

At PASWFL, we are utilizing research to address depression on a multidisciplinary level. We are teaching our clients how to nourish their bodies through individualized nutrition education. And, we are using Dark Chocolate supplementation made with trade secret nutriceuticals that are decreasing binge eating and improving mood! Good food, good mood, just one of the multi-faceted treatments available at PASWFL.
6804 Porto Fino Cir #1, Fort Myers, FL 33912
Office: 239-332-4700