This Dietetic student says have your chocolate and eat it too!

We are well into the fall semester which means we are all trying to juggle projects, assignments, and so, so many chapter readings. It never fails that I start the semester fully organized and ahead of the game only to watch my organization skills? deteriorate along the way. 

But of course, life happens. Our early intentions of staying on top of it all can turn to stress as our workload continues. Free time seems non-existent as we find ourselves getting less sleep,  less time to exercise or hang with friends, and less relaxation. 

Stress and your immune system

This time of the year, when I need my brain clear and the energy to focus on midterms, I find myself coming down with the sniffles. What you may not know is that with chronic high stress comes a weakened immune system, which doesn’t fare well with the coming cold and flu season (or that other virus that shall not be named).   

So what can we do about it? Well, for starters, we can eat chocolate! Yes, this dietetics student is telling you to eat chocolate. Antioxidants help boost the immune system before your stress and the inevitable spread of germs start working against you. Chocolate has antioxidants, called flavanols, that help reduce free radicals (bad molecules within the body) that cause oxidative stress and weaken the immune system.

Now, I’m not saying eat ALL the chocolate, but a little can go a long way; one or two ounces is all you need to get the health benefits. And it’s important to keep in mind the type of chocolate. In order to get the most benefit, studies say you should reach for dark chocolate containing 70% or more cocoa. With National Chocolate Day coming up on Oct. 28th, and Halloween just a few days later, be sure to keep in mind that including dark chocolate in your life will not only bring you a little extra joy but may help your body fend off cold and flu viruses!

Other foods to help increase your defenses

Want to double up on your antioxidants? Mix that dark chocolate with your overnight oats, add it to your granola, or include it as a topping along with fresh or frozen berries on your yogurt! Increasing your overall fruit and vegetable intake, along with eating whole grains will only strengthen your immune system. It’s better to be ready for the cold and flu season with a strong immune system than trying to play catch up once you are already sick.

If you are curious to learn more about how nutrition impacts our immune system or health, contact the registered dietitians at Eagle Nutrition Services.

About the Writer

Lindsay Anderson is a senior dietetic student working at Eagle Nutrition Services.  She loves cooking, hiking with her two dogs, hanging with her family, and of course anything chocolate! She is passionate about learning how food and lifestyle can help lower the risk of disease, and she plans to open a private practice in the area teaching intuitive eating and making healthy lifestyle changes without restriction.  Photo Credit: Lindsay Anderson