Yes, chocolate is rich in fat, rich in sugar…and rich in calories. It’s moreish, delicious and for many, hard to say ‘no’ to. But the good news – especially in this month with Easter creeping up on us and chocolate is seemingly everywhere – is that it has some virtues. Here we highlight some of these good points while encouraging you to check out the new website www.Betreatwise.net, which has great advice on how to include chocolate yet still have an overall healthy diet.
A 100g bar of milk chocolate packs in 520 calories – the same as over 10 apples. The sugary, fatty combination in chocolate feels delicious partly because it is the only food, which melts at body temperature and therefore also melts in your mouth as you eat it.
If it’s a choice between the two, chocolate has been found to cause less dental decay when eaten between meals than caramel confectionary. This could be down to cocoa butter in chocolate coating the surface of our teeth, creating a form of physical barrier against attack from sugar and bacteria, which damage enamel and cause decay. It is best for your teeth however to have a chocolate treat as part of a meal.
Scientists say that the supposed connection between chocolate and acne probably originates in folklore. Things like hormonal changes, both in adolescence and in women at different life stages as well as stress, can be scientifically linked to acne and spots more than a love of chocolate.
A review of various studies does show that over short periods of time, including dark chocolate in your daily diet does seem to lower blood pressure slightly. However, we don’t know if this reduction goes on to lower the risk of heart disease or stroke. And we don’t know what the ideal ‘dose’ is of the plant compounds called flavanols in the dark chocolate, which seem to be having this effect. If you tuck into a diet that keeps salt levels down, is rich in fruits and vegetables and helps you to shed any excess weight as well as taking regular exercise and controlling stress in then a little bit of dark chocolate is fine.
It does, but it is worth remembering that blueberries and tea are also great for these powerful super nutrients. It’s worth remembering that while blueberries have just 45 calories per 100g serving, tea with a splash of milk has around 20.
A small study in Scandinavian has shown that eating a couple of squares of dark chocolate mid-morning helped participants to eat up to 18 per cent fewer calories at lunchtime compared to normal. Researchers think this may be down to the specific types of fatty acids in dark chocolate that take longer to digest and therefore keep you feeling fuller for longer. Remember, they did only eat a couple of squares and it was a very small piece of research!
If you eat a 50g bar of milk chocolate you get 119mg of calcium. This is just over a seventh of our daily target for this vital mineral and is about the same as you find in 100ml of milk. However, while 100ml of skimmed milk provides just 33 calories, the 50g bar of milk chocolate gives you 260 so it’s hard to promote chocolate over milk to help build bones.
Most saturated fats tend to trigger the liver to produce more ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. However, ‘stearic acid’, one of the main saturated fats in chocolate has been consistently shown to be less able to raise bad cholesterol and to be less likely to cause atherosclerosis than other saturated fats. Not a reason to overindulge, but an interesting fact nonetheless.
Unlike boiled sweets, gums, toffees and so on, chocolate does not cause a big rise in blood sugar after eating. In fact, when studied, it has a glycaemic index of just 49, making it a ‘low GI’ food. This means that after eating, less insulin will be produced, putting less of a strain on the pancreas and making it less likely to lead to a sugar roller coaster ride where more sweet foods are craved shortly after the initial sugar-hit.
Some people who are intolerant to the milk sugar lactose can cope with small amounts between 2 – 10g a day in their diets without adverse effects. This means that a few pieces of both milk and dark chocolate are likely to be fine if you have this problem with milk sugar. Check with your GP or a Registered Dietitian before tucking in though.
Research suggests that it is unlikely that an average 50g bar of chocolate is involved with triggering the majority of headaches. Before laying the blame on chocolate, it is worth trying to work out whether it is a coincidental association between chocolate or another more reliable trigger for headaches such as stress or tiredness, or withdrawal from or simply too much caffeine, for example.