As Easter approaches, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to justify your celebratory consumption. Just what are the health benefits of chocolate if there are in fact any?
Personally, I would always choose dark chocolate, dairy free, soy free, sugar-free or chocolate from a company that I can guarantee the use of quality ingredients. My personal favourite brands are Ayni Chocolate, lovingly prepared by Pru at Creatively Paleo, The Raw Chocolate Pie company (based in the South of England) and finally Mast Brothers who are an American company that even have some Goat and Sheep milk chocolate. Their bars can be purchased in Harvey Nichols at the moment or in their shop in London.
So what reasons could there be to eat dark chocolate? It is packed with nutrients that could positively enhance your health. It is truly one of the strongest sources of antioxidants discovered to date. Studies have shown that these antioxidants could improve health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Be aware that this is only relevant to good quality chocolate, not the sugary kind.
If you purchase a 100g dark chocolate bar with 70-85% cacao/cocoa you are purchasing a decent amount of soluble fibre and the following minerals –
- 11 grams of fibre
- 67% of the RDA for iron
- 58% of the RDA for magnesium
- 89% of the RDA for copper
- 98% of the RDA for manganese
It also contains potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
However, 100g is a relatively large quantity to consume and I would suggest that consumption is kept to a moderate amount. The fat profile is excellent and it is beneficial to an extent that those following a ketogenic diet allow it to assist them in improving their macro intake. One study showed that cacao and dark chocolate contain more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than other fruits they tested, which included blueberries and Acai berries.
There are some very positive studies and some that are less favourable which have attempted to show beneficial effects in relation to lowering BP and reducing heart disease. In the event that it could have positive effects at the very least the consumption won’t harm you and it may give you a psychological boost which can only help you.
The bioactive components in dark chocolate may also assist with protecting your skin, as the flavanols could help to protect against sun-induced damage. This component may also improve blood flow to the skin, increase the density and the skins ability to hydrate.
If you think all this sounds too good to be true, your reasons for consuming this sweet treat continue. Dark chocolate may even improve the function of the brain. There have been studies performed on volunteers over five days in which they consumed high flavanol cacao and the results showed improved blood flow to the brain. Cacao may also help the elderly to improve their cognitive function and speech fluency. There may be something in the adage of older generation insisting on that cup of cocoa before bed!
In short, the consumption of chocolate, or more specifically high-grade raw cacao and dark chocolate, could, in fact, provide health-boosting benefits. This isn’t a green light to go crazy on dairy milk, but indulge in a moderate amount of a carefully selected source.