Why is it that chocolate is so hard to resist?
If we look at the foods most people crave, chocolate is never far from the top of the list.
That’s why it always gets wall-to-wall coverage whenever there’s new information to suggest it’s good for you.
Some (must be chocolate fans) have gone so far as to say it’s a health food!
Well, we don’t buy into the mantra it’s a health food, but we don’t think it’s all bad either.
In this blog we take a look at why we celebrate with chocolate at Easter, the health benefits of our favourite secret treat and some surprising risks you might not be aware of.Find out why we’re so addicted to chocolate, and the health benefits and risks of everyone’s favourite indulgence. #chocolate #easter Click To Tweet
Chocolate eggs at Easter: what’s that all about?
Most people assume Easter eggs symbolise new life based on the biblical reference to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. But that’s not the case at all.
The Christian tradition of using eggs to represent the resurrection was in fact adopted from an ancient pagan custom celebrating the northern hemisphere’s Spring, fertility and new life. That’s why we see symbols of rabbits and chicks at Easter too.
Chicken and duck eggs have been decorated for centuries during Easter, and in the early 1800s the first chocolate Easter eggs were made in Europe.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and the link between Easter and chocolate eggs is firmly established.The tradition of eating chocolate eggs at Easter came from the pagan tradition celebrating fertility and rebirth in the northern hemisphere’s Spring. #chocolate #easter Click To Tweet
How healthy is chocolate, really?
There’s no escaping the fact that chocolate is packed with sugar and fat – thanks to loads of cocoa butter. That’s why it’s long been seen as an unhealthy food that should be eaten in moderation. It’s also the reason why it tastes so good.
Sadly, chocolate can make us more likely to gain weight, have high blood pressure, develop heart disease and diabetes, and get annoying spots on our face.
Thank goodness research started emerging several years ago showing that chocolate does, in fact, have some positive effects on your health – especially your heart.
Research suggests that chocolate could have cardiovascular health benefits, thanks to the flavonoids found in cocoa. Cocoa – the main ingredient in chocolate – contains the plant compounds flavanols, which reduce cell damage thanks to its antioxidant effects.
Flavanols can help cardiovascular health by reducing blood clotting and inflammation, and improving vascular function.
So while chocolate isn’t strictly as healthy as kale or broccoli, the higher the cocoa content, the healthier the chocolate is.Chocolate has health benefits thanks to flavanols, powerful antioxidants found in cocoa. #chocolate #health #easter Click To Tweet
It’s true, dark chocolate is better for you
Lovers of dark chocolate will be happiest here, because it’s dark chocolate with at least 70 per cent cocoa that’s best for you.
Dark chocolate has less sugar, while containing more cocoa. It’s also higher in flavanols, which deliver antioxidant benefits.
It’s rich in minerals – such as iron, magnesium, zinc, copper and phosphorus – too.
Dark chocolate can even reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, particularly in people with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Other research has found that the flavanols in chocolate are good for your skin by protecting against the sun’s UV damage, improving blood flow and increasing hydration.
Another study showed that eating cacao rich in flavanols for five days increases blood flow to the brain, suggesting it might hold promise in the treatment of dementia and stroke.
All of which is great news. That block of dark chocolate with 95 per cent cocoa – while not strictly speaking a health food – still has a lot going for it.Chocolate could protect you against heart disease, stroke, dementia, high cholesterol and even protect your skin from sun damage. #chocolate #health #easter Click To Tweet
The hidden health risks of chocolate
Sadly, there’s also a bit of bad news: cocoa-based foods can contain small traces of heavy metals.
There’s some evidence that cocoa beans can contain traces of the heavy metals lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. They’re all highly toxic and harmful to humans – particularly children.
Lead, for instance, can be found in cocoa due to the soil where cocoa is grown. This is made worse by use of fertilizers and pesticides, lead in the air where leaded petrol is used, processing with machinery containing lead, and shipping.
Traces of cadmium can also be found in chocolate. The heavy metal is naturally found in soil, especially volcanic soils. It can end up in cocoa beans depending on where the plants are grown and processed, and whether phosphate fertilizers have been used during growing.
In Australia, there are maximum levels of heavy metals allowed in food. And thankfully, researchers are now looking for ways to cut the amount of cadmium in cocoa.Chocolate can contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury #chocolate #easter Click To Tweet
Enjoy chocolate, but don’t overdo it
There’s some pretty clear evidence that chocolate has lots of health benefits – but it comes with a few health downsides too.
But as part of a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet, chocolate is one treat you can indulge in without too much guilt – as long as you eat it in moderation. A square or two (not 12!) of dark chocolate after dinner won’t hurt you, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest – that as an occasional treat – it might be good for you too.