Chocolate originates from cocoa beans from the Theobroma cocoa tree. The beans are fermented, ground and separated to cocoa butter and powder.
Cocoa has been used for many used as a medical aid. It is rich in flavonoids which have potent antioxidant functions. These include being :
- Helping blood vessels to dilate so helping reduce blood pressure.
- Increasing insulin sensitivity
- Decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis.
- Positive affect on cholesterol: increase HDL (the good guys) and decrease LDL oxidation.
- A reduction in cardiovascular risk factors.
However we don’t eat cocoa on its own. Milk chocolate has a variety of other ingredients added in. It is high in energy, free sugars and saturated fat. One point to note here is that not all chocolate is equal. The darker the chocolate (higher % cocoa) the higher the flavanol content and the less sugar. White chocolate is not actually chocolate as it doesn’t contain any cocoa powder or cocoa solids but cocoa butter mixed with milk and sugar. The chocolate in eggs can be of a lower quality with lower flavanols and mineral content so watch out! Check the cocoa solids.
An easy way to remember a portion of chocolate is “the size of your index finger”. That is about 2 squares for a child and 4 squares for an adult.
So chocolate is something that can definitely be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. The key is thinking about the quality of the chocolate you are having and the portion size. Space that chocolate out and enjoy it, rather than gorging on it all in one go. Savour it and eat it mindfully,