Chocolate: No Longer Your Guilty Pleasure!
Chocolate is not such a dark food after all…
When it comes to losing weight we always hear about cutting down on the calories, reducing sugary foods and putting down the puddings. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the nation’s favourite sweet treat, chocolate, can be beneficial to our health. How are we to know when to snack it up and when to pack it in?
Health benefits of dark chocolate
To cut to the chase, the verdict is that dark chocolate seems to be a force for good, with less refined sugars than its lighter counterparts and rich content of biologically active flavonoids. When eating dark chocolate in moderation, you can take advantage of the following benefits:
- Cardiovascular protection
- Energy boost
- Improves blood flow
- High antioxidants
- Beneficial flavonoids (e.g. epicatechin)
Dark chocolate is derived from the cocoa tree, Latin name Theobroma cacao. It is known to have antioxidant properties, as well as other aspects beneficial to your health, importantly contributing to cardioprotective effects . To reap these benefits, it is considered sensible to consume at least 70% cacao chocolate in a quantity of approximately 30g – 60g per day. Ultimately, you want the darker, unsweetened cocoa powder-based chocolate when thinking about your health.
The lighter the chocolate, the darker the effects
The reason lighter, especially white, chocolate isn’t as good for your health is due to the processing that takes place to get the product from powder to packet. White chocolate is highly processed, and during processing loses most of its antioxidants and healthy flavonoids. Additionally, it contains more refined sugar, which adds to the sweetness but could worsen cholesterol, cause cravings and contribute to high blood sugar levels.
Studies have also shown that when you eat chocolate with milk, your absorption of antioxidants is decreased . In this case, when picking chocolate with your health in mind, go for the darker choice and leave the milk for another time.
A healthy diet
Naturally, you should enjoy the health benefits of chocolate in the context of a balanced and healthy diet. ‘Superfoods’ such as dark chocolate are valuable when your diet has all the cofactors and nutrients needed as a healthy baseline to properly acquire the boost that dark chocolate can give.
- Flavonoid-Rich Dark Chocolate Improves Endothelial Function and Increases Plasma Epicatechin Concentrations in Healthy Adults | Taylor Francis Journal
- Plasma Antioxidants from Chocolate | Nature