Can chocolate be a part of a healthy diet?
Facts on chocolate
Chocolate is made using cocoa solids, cocoa butter, vegetable oils, sugar and milk powder. Depending on the type of chocolate the percentage of these ingredients will vary. Dark chocolate usually contains 50 – 90% cocoa solids, making it taste more bitter compared to milk chocolate which contains 10 – 50% cocoa solids. Unsurprisingly, the other difference between these varieties is that milk is added to milk chocolate giving it a creamier texture. Finally, white chocolate sits on the complete opposite end, as it does not contain any cocoa. That’s why I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it should even be classified as a type of chocolate.
The supposed health benefits of dark chocolate are related to the plant compound called flavanols, which are a type of antioxidant that is found in cocoa. Research has shown that flavanols help reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of heart disease. There is also some research to suggest that it may reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults. The greater the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, the more antioxidants you will get and vice versa. That’s why dark chocolate has far greater antioxidants than milk chocolate. Dark chocolate also contains a variety of important micronutrients such as magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.
So, should I eat dark chocolate for its nutritional benefits?
Unfortunately, most of the dark chocolate that is currently on the market may not actually have high amounts of antioxidants remaining due to the processing that is undertaken to improve the flavour and shelf life of chocolate. That’s why we should aim to get our antioxidants by eating an abundance of fruit and vegetables. Also, even though dark chocolate may contain some antioxidants, chocolate is still high in calories and can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess on the regular. Furthermore, chocolate contains a moderate amount of saturated fat, which can have the opposite effect on our heart health by increasing blood cholesterol levels.
Can I still eat chocolate and if so, which chocolate should I choose?
It might surprise you to hear that chocolate can still be a part of a healthy diet. This doesn’t give the green light to eat a block each day but, if your diet mainly consists fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and lean protein, then having chocolate every now and then won’t have a huge impact on your health and your goals.
When it comes to the type of chocolate you eat, the choice is yours. Not everyone prefers the intensity or bitterness of dark chocolate, so go for your favourite and savour it.
Consider trying this 3 – 4 minute mindful eating exercise over Easter to fully enjoy the experience.
- Consider the wrapped chocolate: Does the wrapper make a sound? What colour is it? What does it say? Where did it come from?
- Open the chocolate, slowly: Do you feel a sense of anticipation, or an urge to immediately put the chocolate in your mouth?
- Look at the chocolate: Consider its texture, colour, weight… Smell the chocolate – does the smell trigger any other senses?
- Place the chocolate in your mouth but WAIT Before you eat it, how does it feel as it melts? Where in your mouth can you taste it? What is the consistency? What is happening with your mouth, teeth, tongue, lips as it melts?
- Move the chocolate around your mouth: Does the area of taste change? Does the taste itself change? What is happening to the chocolate? How do you feel?
- Swallow the chocolate: Focus on the sensation. Is there a lingering taste? How do you feel physically and emotionally? Take a little while to consider the experience.
How Lite n’ Easy can help!
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