The trouble with chocolate....
Posted on 15th March 2018 at 16:56
The trouble with chocolate is that it just tastes so damned good! Whether we want to celebrate or if we need consolation or comfort, chocolate is often our go-to choice.
Chocolate is the ultimate comfort food. UK consumption is the highest in Europe - a staggering 11kg per head of population per annum. That's the equivalent of 266 Mars bars each...blimey. It seems like whatever the problem, the answer is chocolate.
From a health perspective, with a few caveats thrown in of course, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids and above) has proven health benefits.
But before we get to those it's worth remembering that most cacao is grown as a commodity crop which means mass production of cheap chocolate bars, biscuits and other processed foods at the expense of both the environment and vulnerable workers in poorer parts of the globe. Eating less chocolate but paying a bit extra for organic produce is a good all round strategy, and in this day and age it's an easy and accessible choice to make.
We like to be told about the health benefits of chocolate because it makes us feel good about eating it but what we should also remember is that all of the nutrients in a bar of good chocolate are available from fresh fruit and vegetables with an even better total nutrient profile. Still, a little of what you fancy does you good - while a lot may not be so beneficial!
High quality dark chocolate has been shown to be heart-healthy by helping to restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels - both implicated in cardiovascular disease. It is high in iron (but then so is spinach) and reduces levels of 'bad' (LDL) cholesterol whilst raising 'good' HDL. It has a beneficial effect on the skin, protecting against sun damage (like all antioxidant rich foods) and has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce memory loss in older people.
Most chocolate bars of course come with a fair amount of added sugar and often emulsifiers in the form of soya lecithin. In small amounts that's generally not worth getting too worked up about but if you want a healthier option still then organic raw cacao powder is chocolate in it's purest form. Add it to warm almond milk for a delicious hot chocolate (you may need a tiny bit of maple syrup if you like a slightly sweeter taste) and into raw cakes and candies. It's not worth cooking with it though because the 'raw' benefits are lost when it's heated.
So with Easter on the horizon it's a good time to think about your chocolate consumption. Could you do better in terms of nutritional choices? All of the health benefits listed above are only relevant to high quality dark chocolate that is minimally processed. What if you spent your money a bit more wisely buying from artisan producers who support organic farming and Fairtrade practices? Like most things to do with nutrition and health, less is quantity and more in quality is usually the way to go.
Tagged as: Chocolate
Share this post: