Is chocolate actually beneficial?
We know what you’re thinking. The dietitians and Goodlife trainers are going to say ‘swap your chocolate eggs for boiled eggs’ this Easter. But believe it or not, we are all for a little indulgence! Celebrating traditions is an important part of living, and this includes enjoying the holiday foods. We wouldn’t want you missing out while your family and friends are having a good time unwrapping chocolate eggs. Everything in moderation, right?
In fact, chocolate can offer us some nutritional benefits. We’ve listed three surprising health benefits from eating cocoa (found in chocolate), so spread some cheer by telling your friends in time for Easter!
- It’s rich in heart-friendly antioxidants
Cocoa contains antioxidants called flavanoids, which protect our body cells from damage and disease. Flavanoids, in particular, have been linked with heart health – including improve circulation and reduced blood pressure. The higher the cocoa content, the higher the flavonoid content. Think your good quality, 75-80% dark chocolates.
One particular study showed that men and women who ate two to six servings (20g per serve) of dark chocolate per week had a 20% reduced rate of developing atrial fibrillation (AF). However, the apparent protective effect of chocolate on AF seemed to wane in people who ate more than this.
However, if you’re serious about a chocolatey antioxidant boost, consider cacao and products made from cacao (i.e. cacao nibs). Cacao is the ‘raw’ powder created by grinding of cacao beans, before processing to become cocoa. In particular, the roasting of cacao to create cocoa may affect antioxidant content. Cacao powder is great for making protein balls, smoothies and raw desserts.
- It’s a surprisingly high source of protein, iron and other minerals
Cocoa and cacao are rich source of protein, with cacao in particular offering 27g protein per 100g, similar to fish! Both are also excellent sources of iron – with 28g of dark chocolate (70% cocoa) providing 30% of the RDI for iron. Last but not least, cocoa and cacao contain copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium.
- It can help to beat stress and improve mood
Dark chocolate contains mood improving compounds theobromine and phenylethylamine, as well as flavanols, polyphenols and methylxanthines – three antioxidants all believed to contribute to dark chocolate’s mood-enhancing effects. A recent Swiss study found that consuming 40g of dark chocolate per day for two weeks reduced the stress hormone cortisol in people with anxiety.
Thing is, there’s no fun in chocolate not shaped like an egg during Easter. For the best dark chocolate Easter eggs, check out your specialty shops (i.e. Godiva, Haigh’s, Koko Black), or Lindt make excellent ones available at supermarkets. We also love Loving Earth’s Boobook chocolate eggs, made using raw cacao beans – they are also cane sugar free, and made using organic, fair-trade ingredients.