The Benefits Of Chocolate
Author: Julia Glaser (Nutritionist & Health Coach) @wholesomlyhungry
In light of world chocolate day lets shed some light on one of the most popular, indulgent and addictive foods on the planet, and answer the question on everyone’s minds; Can we live a healthy lifestyle whilst still enjoying our favourite block of chocolate?
Chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean, rich in phytochemicals known as flavonoids, considered one of the most powerful antioxidants around. However, as food manufacturers process the bean replacing its natural bitterness with a sugary, creamy taste so many of us are addicted to, these properties are lost.
When looking at the health benefits of cocoa it is important to understand that not all chocolate is created equal. Chocolate is categorised by a percentage you can find on the label, determined by the weight of cocoa solids in the product itself. The higher the percentage of cocoa the more antioxidant properties present and the less additives you will find such as sugar, emulsifiers and milk solids. Put simply, the real difference between milk and dark chocolate lies in the ratio of cocoa solids to sugar. This is why a darker chocolate with a higher percentage value ranging anywhere from 70-99% is considered the healthier option with increased health benefits.
Flavonoids, found in chocolate are associated with an array of health benefits and proven anti-inflammatory properties. Shown to positively impact the health of our cardiovascular system, gut microbiome and cognitive function, proven to play a part in boosting our mood (yes, the happiness chocolate brings us is not just from the taste but rather from the flavonoids activating our happy hormones!)
Not only does chocolate have a rich antioxidant profile, cacao has an abundance of micronutrients, important for the production of energy in our bodies and mood. These include iron, copper, magnesium and manganese. In addition to this, dark chocolate is also rich in fibre, supporting our gut by feeding our good bacteria and keeping our digestive tract healthy.
If you want to reap the health benefits of chocolate, my recommendation is to aim for a minimum of 70% cocoa and onwards and upwards from there. Speaking from a fellow chocoholic, my philosophy is to consider milk chocolate as a sometimes treat and enjoy the darker chocolate on a more regular basis. 78% or 85% Lindt blocks are my favourite to consume after dinner with a cup of tea, the bitterness of the dark chocolate stops you from eating the whole block whilst still getting your chocolate fix!