Let’s talk about the health benefits of chocolate!
If you’ve always thought of chocolate as a guilty pleasure, it’s time to have a re-think! There’s mounting evidence to suggest that eating chocolate has some significant health benefits. But no, this doesn’t mean to have a massive binge – chocolate is only beneficial if you eat the right sort, in the right quantities. So before you go and raid the hidden stash, equip yourself with the choc-facts!
How is chocolate made?
The most important ingredient in chocolate is cocoa beans, which come from the cacao trees found in tropical climates. Cocoa beans are mixed with milk, sugar, and cocoa butter or vegetable fat to make chocolate. Chocolate can be categorised into four different groups:
- White chocolate – containing butter and milk but no cocoa solids
- Milk chocolate – containing butter and both milk and cocoa solids
- Dark chocolate – containing butter and mostly cocoa solids with a small amount of milk
- Cooking chocolate – also known as compound chocolate, made from cocoa solids, milk and vegetable fats
What is the healthiest type of chocolate?
When buying chocolate, take note of the cocoa content on the packaging, as it is the amount of cocoa that will determine how healthy that chocolate bar is! Cocoa contains powerful antioxidants that have a number of different health benefits, so it makes sense that the healthiest chocolate to buy is plain dark chocolate, containing a minimum of 70% cocoa solids.
Dark chocolate not only has a higher cocoa content than other chocolate, but it also contains less sugar and less fat than the other chocolate varieties. Generally, you get what you pay for when it comes to chocolate – better quality chocolate will always cost more and will usually have a higher proportion of cocoa compared to the other ingredients.
What are the health benefits of dark chocolate?
Flavanol is a type of antioxidant that is found in high concentrations in cocoa. The health properties of flavanol are so powerful, that they are said to protect our cardiovascular systems from a number of different health issues, including:
- High cholesterol – flavanol can reduce blood concentrations of harmful cholesterol. This is important because high cholesterol can lead to heart disease
- Diabetes – flavanol can improve glucose metabolism which can reduce the risk of diabetes
- Blood clots and blockages – studies show that cocoa consumption can thin a person’s blood and therefore reduce the incidence of clotting
Can chocolate improve your sex life?
Chocolate is something we associate with love and romance, and it has a long-standing reputation as being an aphrodisiac. It’s believed to increase sexual desire because it stimulates serotonin production – which is the feel-good hormone produced by the brain. Unfortunately, there is still only limited scientific proof that supports this idea!
There is some suggestion that if chocolate does have an effect on sexual desire, it is due more to a psychological response rather than a physical one. Nevertheless, chocolate will probably always make us feel good and if that makes us feel sexy – win win!
What are the health risks of chocolate?
While it’s true that cocoa possesses certain health properties, chocolate isn’t a ‘health product’ and needs to be eaten in moderation. Chocolate alone will not cause health problems, but it can worsen the symptoms of some conditions due to the sugar, fat and caffeine content. Some of these conditions may include:
- Dental problems
How much chocolate is too much chocolate?
Anyone with a sweet tooth knows how difficult it is to resist the temptation of biting into a bar of good quality chocolate! But dieticians suggest that we should limit ourselves to only 7.5 grams of chocolate every day – that equates to about one square only!
So does that mean if we bank that one square each day we can eat a 7 square chocolate bar each week???!!!