In just under a week Lent will be over and we can all indulge in whatever it is that we decided to forsake over the past month or so. For a lot of you I suspect that might mean you are free to tuck into an Easter egg or two on Sunday. But how bad for us is chocolate and should we be avoiding it completely?
One thing I have noticed is that when you tell people you write a health and fitness blog, the first thing they respond with is a mountain of questions. “Can I eat…? How much… am I allowed?” The answer is rarely straightforward and that is not good enough for some people. Along with red wine, dark chocolate is often found in the sentence, “I’ve actually heard… is really good for you.” This attitude can be dangerous but where does the reputation come from?
Well just to set the record straight, all chocolate comes from cocoa beans, with differing amounts of sugar and fat added to them. So just like milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains both sugar and fat. As the name might suggest, it is milk that is absent from its make-up. So where milk chocolate might have a relatively low percentage of cocoa, dark chocolate will often have between 70%-90% cocoa content.
So why is this important? Simply put, any reported health benefits that can be gained from chocolate come from the cocoa, not the fat or the sugar. So it is the chocolate with the higher percentage of cocoa that can offer more benefits. And oh boy, are there some reported benefits. I have heard everything from protecting your skin on a sunny day, to helping to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Cocoa is quite high in nutrients such as fibre and iron but the problem is that to access good quantities of these nutrients you would have to eat quite a lot of dark chocolate – 600 calories worth in fact. That doesn’t mean a little bit can’t do some good though.
As with any food that has a lot of fat and sugar, it should be eaten in moderation. Sitting and eating mountains of dark chocolate just to access the few benefits that the cocoa bean possesses just wouldn’t work.
But we aren’t talking about incorporating it into your long-term nutritional plan though. We are talking about one weekend, hopefully spent celebrating with friends and family. So if you are found guilty of indulging in one Easter egg, you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. Yes, eating dark chocolate is more advisable. As long as you don’t go over the top, you will be absolutely fine.
Just don’t forget, just because something has the reputation of being great for you, doesn’t mean that it is. Make sure you do your own research and know what it is that you are putting into your body. Then just make sure that the things that are less beneficial are only consumed in moderation.
Then all you need to do is make sure you enjoy yourself and have a safe and happy Easter!
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