Easter is almost here which means the perfect excuse to enjoy serious amounts of chocolate. But before you eat your body weight in mini eggs, let’s get clear on the health benefits so you can tuck in totally guilt free!
Here are my Top 10 reasons to indulge this Easter
- Dark chocolate, especially over 70% can have enough antioxidant power to rival berries! Antioxidants are crucial for protecting our cells against oxidative stress caused by everyday bodily processes and external sources like environmental pollution and toxins. ‘Phytochemicals’ (healthy compounds found in plants) such as polyphenols, flavanols and catechins help to mop up free radical damage.
- Flavanoids have been shown to be protective against heart disease by helping to lower blood pressure and encourage blood flow.
- Cocoa has been shown to improve cholesterol levels by reducing unhealthy LDL and increasing healthy HDL.
- Chocolate is made from cacao beans which are an amazing source of magnesium. In a regular large bar of chocolate (100g), there’s approximately 170 mg of magnesium – around half your daily requirement. This multitasking mineral is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body and is most well known as ‘nature’s relaxant’. There’s an excuse to reach for the choccie when feeling stressed out, our body is simply telling us we need more! In addition, magnesium is essential for muscle function and why bathing in Epsom salts can ease tight, sore muscles.
- Chocolate also contains other essential minerals, including iron for red blood cells and the metabolism, zinc for skin, hair, nails and the immune system, as well as manganese and copper.
- It’s not only when we’re stressed that chocolate can be helpful, if you’re feeling low, snacking on a square or two may give you a lift by providing small amounts of a natural chemical normally produced by our brain called anandamide, claimed to have similar euphoric effects to cannabis! The jury is still out as to the effect on humans, but eating chocolate does encourage the production of other natural feel- good chemicals such as serotonin, so there’s no harm in experimenting with this legal high.
- If you’re still suffering with a lingering winter cough, chocolate can help to calm nerve endings in your throat and contains a compound called theobromine, which together help to suppress the urge to cough and has been found to be more potent than some codeine containing cough medicines.
- As long as it’s consumed in moderation, dark chocolate may be helpful for weight- loss. As a source of slowly digested healthy fats, including oleic acid (the same as olive oil) chocolate can help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
- The dark stuff is naturally low in sugar or even sugar free! We all know too much isn’t healthy, but it’s not just the impact on your waistline to be aware of. Eating sugar in excess or too frequently can disrupt blood glucose levels and lead to low energy and poor concentration. It can also negatively impact our gut – in turn affecting other areas of health such as the immune system and skin. Reduce or avoid milk and white chocolate which tend to be highly processed with lots of added sugar.
- Make sure you’re getting the most from your chocolate habit by opting for organic. This avoids chemicals used in processing that can be stressful for the liver to detoxify. Remember always focus on quality over quantity – this ensures you get the most nutritional bang for your buck.