Easter is a time for cracking open the chocolate eggs and chowing down on one of the worlds’ most favourite comfort foods.The beauty of chocolate is that it is delicious to eat and has the potential to deliver health benefits thanks to its main component, cacao. Cacao comes from beans that grow on pods of ‘Theobroma Cacao’ trees.
Chocolate for heart health
Chocolate is scientifically proven to be good for the heart when eaten as part of a balanced diet. This is because it is rich in flavanols, which help to keep blood vessels healthy, lower blood pressure and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. A study published in the British Medical Journal reported that people who ate the highest level of chocolate had the lowest risk of cardiometabolic disorders.
If you love chocolate AND want to reap the rewards of its health benefits, choose minimally processed bars with a high cocoa percentage (sometimes described as non fat cocoa solids). The Raw Chocolate Company’s 72% Pitch Dark bar (42g) is a perfect example of carefully crafted chocolate created with Peruvian cacao beans which are only partially fermented and unroasted. Minimal processing means flavanols are less likely to be destroyed during chocolate making.
For a low fat choccy treat, try blending 2 teaspoons of raw cocoa powder with hot or cold almond milk and a dash of sweetener like coconut sugar or xylitol. At Natreco, we are really impressed with Aduna Super Cacao- the first brand of cocoa powder with an EU approved claim for heart health. Each serving of Aduna Super Cacao is guaranteed to have the right amount (200mg) offlavanols needed to gain the heart benefits, when taken on a daily basis.
Chocolate as an energy kick
Just the mention of ‘chocolate’ is enough to start up the salivary glands.Rich, creamy and comforting, it is a powerful food and something that can most definitely help to recharge the batteries.Cacao is rich in vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy diet, along with antioxidants and phytochemicals. In fact, there are around 800 chemical compounds in cacao
including a marijuana like substance called anandamide,along withthe stimulants caffeine and theobromine. Combined with a host of mood boosting compounds, including tryptophan and phenylethylamine,no wonder we are hooked to the stuff.
Chocolate for the calorie conscious
Chocolate tastes so good because of its perfect mixture of sweetness and fat. However, eating too much sugar long term can lead to obesity and cause disease. Sugar is also terrible for teeth. Try chocolate sweetened with xylitol – a natural fruit sugar, which is low in calories. Xylitol also protects teeth by increasing saliva flow and, unlike regular sugar, doesn’t encourage bacterial growth in the mouth.Plamil No Added Sugar Alternative to Chocolate has the equivalent of ¼ of a teaspoon of sugar per 45g serving.
What about the high fat and calorie content of chocolate? Interestingly, a small study of 21 people found that eating a bar (46g) of dark chocolate every day for two weeks did not increase cholesterol, body weight or BMI. However, to gain the heart benefits, a 10g dose (about 2 squares) of dark chocolate is probably all that you need.
Chocolate for vegans
If you’re looking for an organic dairy free bar that tastes like milk chocolate, look no further than Moo Free Dairy Free Alternative to Milk Chocolate. Their award winning vegan chocolate is made to taste like milk chocolate with rice powder instead of cow’s milk and has a balanced flavour and creamy texture. For a perfect Easter treat, The Moo Free Original Organic Egg With Buttons is highly recommended for kids and adults alike. The Moo Free factory does not manufacture any milk or gluten based products and their chocolate is free from lactose, gluten, wheat, casein and soya. All in all, a winner for chocolate loving vegans and those on ‘free from’ milk, soya or gluten diets.
Credit to Luke H Photography