My mantra is everything in moderation and yes even chocolate. The average Brit eats 10kgs of chocolate a year and I put my hands up to being one of them (though hopefully not that much). The question is, can chocolate ever be healthy and part of a balanced diet? The answer is yes. In moderation, chocolate has not only found to improve mood through boosting endorphin levels but is reported to play a role in prevention of various chronic diseases.
BUT HOW CAN IT EVER BE GOOD FOR YOU?
In general, chocolate, quite rightly gets negative press for its high fat and sugar content. However, darker chocolate has many positives and one in particular is its high level of antioxidant flavonoids. Studies show these antioxidants can have multiple cardiovascular benefits primarily being anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic and vasodilatory, hence being good for your heart. A good tip to remember is the darker the chocolate (70% cocoa+), the higher the flavonoid content and the better it is for you. Dark chocolate also has less sugar than milk chocolate but how does the fat content compare? Fat from the cacao bean does contain saturated fat but most of it is steric acid. Studies suggest that it does not raise blood cholesterol levels like other fatty acids hence when choosing your chocolate make sure it is made with cocoa butter rather than, for example, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil that you may find in other chocolate. Dark chocolate also contains a number of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium all vital for all round good health.
REMEMBER - ALWAYS IN MODERATION!!
Despite this, it is important to remember that ALL chocolate has one thing in common and that is calories. The health benefits may disappear if you are eating over and beyond your calorie requirement. Research suggests 2 squares of high cocoa content chocolate a day is enough to provide you with the potential health benefits dark chocolate boasts.
SOME DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE TREATS......
I think, for most people, a little bit of what you fancy does you good and in the month where how to survive on green juice and herbal teas is a popular topic (though I must confess to also loving these :)), try a couple of these to treat yourself. Home baking is the way forward. You know what you are eating and you can be sure the ingrediants you use are fresh and good quality. Here are a few recipes that will be featured in the next edition of the wonderful Trail Running magazine.
Dark Chocolate and Beetroot Muffin
322kcals per 80g muffin
41% Carb 6% Pro 52% fat
3 beetroots (fresh, peeled and grated)
265g SR flour
30g Cocoa powder
100g brown sugar (you can reduce sugar if you want less sweetness)
180g butter (melted)
150g dark chocolate (melted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Set oven at 180 and line muffin tray with muffin cases. Sift flour, cocoa powder into a bowl. Stir in the sugar followed by beetroot, eggs and butter. Add melted chocolate and vanilla extract, mix together and place in muffin caBake for 25 minute