Chocolate – the good, the bad & the interesting!

This is the time of year I get asked ‘Is chocolate really good for you or not?’

Chocolate has been the focus of a breadth of research over the years. While there is not enough long term evidence to definitively say chocolate is good for you, a 2011 review of the evidence so far in the British Medical Journal concludes there is good evidence to show that high quality cocoa (note: not regular milk chocolate) is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disorders and favourable changes to markers of heart health.

The health benefits of chocolate should probably seen as a bonus, rather than a reason to eat significant quantities as plenty of other foods will provide similar antioxidants. Excess weight gain caused from excess chocolate will quickly negate positive impact.

Often chocolate lovers consider themselves ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’ when indulging on their sweet treat and this sets up an unhealthy food relationship and potential to overeat while feeling guilty, a ‘lose-lose’ situation. Rather, look at chocolate for what it is, a tasty, high calorie food (and if you choose quality dark chocolate complete with some bonus nutrients) and enjoy small amounts – ‘win-win’!

So in summary, it would be hypocritical of me not to say, it is quite appropriate to enjoy small amounts of good quality chocolate regularly and preferably >60% cocoa solids if you are going for health benefits. Scrap the ‘junk’ food label and consider it a ‘small amount’ food – eat slowly, savour and enjoy. Don’t use the ‘but it is Easter excuse’ to binge over this weekend, that’s not what Easter is about.

I was going to finish by reminding everyone to buy Fair Trade this Easter but was surprised to find out that my favourite chocolate, despite sourcing cocoa ethically, is not eligible for the Fair Trade badge because of locally sourced ingredients.  It seems a shame you can’t support local industry and be Fair Trade but Haighs will stay the top of my list!

-Tanya Lewis

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