Easter, for many, is a time associated with an abundance of chocolate eggs. But is chocolate a saint or a sinner? Should you be avoiding it or loving it?
In general, we are advised by health bodies, not to eat chocolate as it is has high amounts of sugar, it’s high in fat, and diabetic associations tell us it’s ok only if it’s eaten as an occasional treat.
But could chocolate be good for you?
The answer to that really depends on how you define “chocolate”.
The ‘goodness’ in chocolate comes from the percentage of cocoa solids which contain ‘flavonoids’ – plant substances which appear to have benefits for your health.
However, most chocolate bars are made from milk chocolate which means extra fats and sugars have been added to the cocoa solids to give a sweeter taste and the healthy flavonoids have been filtered out during the manufacturing process as most people find dark chocolate too bitter.
On the other hand, if you like the taste of dark chocolate, and many people do, there could be some health benefits when eaten in moderation.
Here are 7 health benefits of dark chocolate or cocoa that are supported by science.
- Very nutritious.
- Powerful source of antioxidants.
- May improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.
- Raises HDL and protects LDL from oxidation.
- May reduce risk of heart disease.
- May protect your skin from the sun.
- Could improve brain function.
Remember it’s all about the flavonoids from the cocoa that has the potential health benefits, and don’t think that scoffing a load of milk chocolate bars will enhance your health, it won’t!
However, although milk chocolate is not good for your health, it might give you a brief “high” and short-term feeling of satisfaction and contentment.
Chocolate contains the “love molecule”!
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), an amphetamine like substance that has been labelled the chemical of love. Hence many people feel good when they have eaten chocolate. Phenylethylamine triggers the release of dopamine and norepinephrine transmitters in the brain. Norepinephrine stimulates and produces adrenaline, which can make your heart race and Dopamine is the neurochemical that is released when we feel good and affects our brain processes which can make us talkative and excitable.
On the negative side, although chocolate is not addictive, it can cause irresistible cravings and if you eat too much there could be unwelcome health consequences, such as high cholesterol from the saturated fat content and insomnia and headaches from the caffeine.
However, everything in moderation. It is a fact, that if you are feeling down, a small amount of chocolate might just give you the lift in mood that you need.
Maybe for this reason, there is no stopping the sales of chocolate on a worldwide basis and in the UK alone, 660,990 tonnes of chocolate are eaten every year – around 11kg of chocolate per person. As of 2023, the global chocolate industry is worth a staggering $127.9 billion USD.
Overall, chocolate is loved by millions of people and is proven to boost our mood. So, make someone happy and give a little gift of chocolate.