Chocolate – Saint or Sinner ?

Making choices every day when it comes to food is certainly a challenge, one that I help my clients with depending on their health concerns and their own personal goals. It isn’t always straightforward; as they say “What is one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. Also one food isn’t all bad or all good; this is particularly relevant with chocolate.

At this time of year, well at any time of year, it seems relevant to indulge in talking/ dreaming of chocolate. Hopefully I won’t make your mouth water too much.

Cocoa is an ancient food; in the rainforests Aztecs and Incas would roast the beans and grind them, making a drink adding only spices. It was only when this valued commodity was exported to Europe that sugar and milk were added and eventually made into a bar.

The chocolate bar is seen as unhealthy because of the fat and sugar content. 100g of milk chocolate contains 30g fat versus 49g in dark (70%) chocolate; however the fat contains 30% stearic acid which has beneficial affects on “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. The sugar content of milk chocolate is higher 57g versus 26g in dark; this can lead to us wanting more. For some who are sensitive to stimulants the caffeine content of chocolate could be a problem, however caffeine content of a 50g bar is less than a quarter of a cup of coffee. Chocolate for some can trigger migraines this is due to the amines in it also present in cheese, beer and wine.

Many of you may be familiar with the benefits that have been proclaimed by the media, ‘may lower blood pressure’ ‘chocolate really is good for you’ . The benefits are thought to be due to the antioxidant component in the form of flavonols, in particular epicatechin, which is 4-7 times higher in dark chocolate and a better source than green tea, red wine and blueberries. Trials show benefits to lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, reducing insulin resistance and improving artery health. Chocolate is also a good source of iron and magnesium.

So as part of embracing a wide range of foods in your diet; include chocolate – fair trade of course and the darker the better, is perhaps not such a guilty pleasure after all. Try my Koko-lates recipe here

Happy Easter