EXPERT ADVICE: THE REAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE!
Does dark chocolate live up to its ‘superfood’ health claims? Dietitian Nicole Senior has some bite-sized facts that you might want to devour.
The science behind which types are the best
What’s so good about chocolate (well … besides the obvious)?
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans that are naturally rich in flavonoid antioxidants. These have been shown in scientific studies to reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, and help our blood vessels be more flexible. They have also been shown to prevent our blood from becoming ‘sticky’ and forming clots, reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood pressure.
It’s about the antioxidants
Chocolate comes in several forms. Cocoa powder has the most antioxidants, containing 10 per cent by weight of flavonoids. Next comes dark chocolate, and the higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidants it contains. Milk chocolate has half as much as dark chocolate, and white chocolate has no antioxidants.
Remember, chocolate is high in saturated fat and kilojoules, so go easy. Cocoa powder is a delicious way to enjoy that great chocolate taste (as a drink or in baking) and contains much less fat than chocolate. Having chocolate with nuts is a good way to combine heart-friendly nutrients in an enjoyable way.
What about chocolate bars?
Chocolate bars with added ingredients like caramel, nougat, marshmallow and biscuit/wafer are lower in chocolate flavonoids and higher in kilojoules.
Manufacturers are making them bigger and more widely available. Avoid grabbing one as a quick snack and instead, enjoy a modest portion of rich, dark chocolate in a relaxed way. Many people say dark chocolate is more satisfying than other chocolate because of its richness and intensity.
Antioxidants in beverages
Researchers from Cornell University in the US have discovered that hot cocoa is higher in total antioxidants than red wine or tea. Hot cocoa had the highest level of phenolics and flavonoids, followed by red wine, then green tea and black tea.
Can chocolate lower your cholesterol?
Being high in saturated fat, it isn’t a cholesterol-lowering food. Sorry! This is why portion control is so important.
Savour quality chocolate over novelty bars for the maximum benefits
Cocoa powder has the highest antioxidant content of all chocolate