There really is no better time than the week of Easter to talk about the positives of chocolate is there! But is there any truth to the claims that chocolate is healthy? Let us talk about the health benefits of chocolate.
Chocolate in its most natural form is made from cocoa solids, cocoa butter, vegetable oils, sugar and milk powder. Raw cocoa is thought to be one of the best dietary sources of a particular antioxidants. So does this mean we can go crazy with our favourite chocolate this week?
Studies have shown that including raw cocoa in your diet is helpful in reducing risk factors for heart disease, and can help in lowering blood pressure. The problem however is that many chocolates and cocoa powders on the market are not raw and therefore have lost most of their antioxidant benefits from the cocoa during processing. Furthermore, chocolate is quite energy dense and high in added fats and sugar. Due to this the Heart Foundation does not recommend the consumption of milk or dark chocolate for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. They do however recommend as part of a balanced diet, introducing raw cocoa powder (also known as cacao powder).
So what does this mean? We can absolutely still enjoy chocolate as part of a balanced diet. It just means that chocolate sits in the 20 percent of your 80/20 balance, as it really is more of an indulgence. We just need to enjoy mindfully and savour small amounts!
Aim for a good quality chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa that is palatable to you. Dark chocolate contains around 75-80% cocoa which gives it a very rich flavour. This often helps with portion control, as you feel satisfied after a couple of squares. Dark chocolate however does still contain sugars and fat which we need to be mindful of. Milk chocolate is usually somewhere around 35% cocoa, and therefore tastes much sweeter. Now of course, many people really do not like the taste of dark chocolate at all, and there is no point having it if you do not enjoy it! Stick to a small portion of your favourite and take the time to really enjoy!
To get the maximum benefit along with that delicious chocolatey taste, you can buy raw cocoa powder on its own, and add to smoothies, porridge or delicious raw treats to satisfy those chocolate cravings. This way you are getting a good hit of antioxidants, without the added fats and sugars in chocolate. It is also fun to get really creative with recipes too!
So chocolate is a delicious treat to be savoured over Easter as part of a balanced diet. As I wrote about last week, enjoying mindfully and guilt-free is an important part and helps to stop overindulging all at once! To get the antioxidant benefits, best stick to the raw cocoa powder. I wonder if the Easter Bunny delivers cacao bliss balls too?
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