Easter is just around the corner and the Easter eggs are already starting to appear in the house if you have kids. Many of us have read the newspaper articles in recent years that chocolate is good for you because it contains antioxidants. Does this mean that we should be stuffing our faces this weekend because chocolate is good for you or is it a myth after all?
Chocolate is made from cocoa which in its purest form, contains high levels of flavonoids, a group of chemicals found in plants, which are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body from damage caused by normal bodily processes as well as environmental toxins and are thought to be anti-cancer. Flavonoids have also been associated with improved blood flow around the body, reduced blood pressure and a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. There is evidence to support this, but there is a catch. The levels of cocoa in chocolate vary widely and depend on the type of chocolate you eat.
White chocolate contains around 20% cocoa, with milk powder, sugar and flavouring. It has the highest levels of sugar of all the chocolates. If you look at the ingredients list, the first ingredient and so the most plentiful is sugar. Gorging on white chocolate is guaranteed to give you a huge sugar spike, which is always followed by a crash and can lead to you storing the excess in your body as fat.
Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa than white chocolate but it’s always worth checking the ingredients to find the one which lists milk or cocoa first. This is probably the one to buy for yourself and your children. While dark chocolate is by far the ‘healthiest’ option, few children will be persuaded to eat it.
Dark chocolate has the highest concentration of cocoa, which is why you will see some bars marketed as ‘containing 70% cocoa’. Eating small amounts of dark chocolate has been shown to convey the benefits of the flavonoids and it boosts serotonin and endorphin levels, making you feel happier. If you’re looking for the ‘healthy’ Easter egg option, this is it. A small amount of dark chocolate, such as a few squares can be very satisfying, but leave it at that. Eating huge amounts of any type of chocolate is never a good idea.
However, being the pragmatist that I am, my advice is to enjoy Easter, eat chocolate but avoid the white variety and try not to eat an entire egg in one sitting!