Chocolate is an indulgent treat. We know it tastes great but is it good for you?
Is chocolate a super food?
Not quite. Cocoa, an ingredient found in chocolate, is reported to have blood pressure-lowering qualities and is a good source of nutrients such as iron and magnesium. It also contains the antioxidants catechins and procyanidins (sounds impressive, right?), but the level of cocoa in an average processed and sweetened chocolate bar is 5 per cent or so, meaning you’d have to eat an awful lot to gain any of its super food powers. Think of it as one step forward and 40 steps back if your plan to prevent heart disease is by eating chocolate.
Does it improve your memory?
Again, you’d have to eat an awful lot of the stuff for it to have any effect on your brainpower. A recent study carried out by Columbia University and New York University found that 50-69-year-olds who had a high cocoa flavanol-containing diet had an improved memory compared to those who had a low intake over a three month trial. But, before you reach for that tin of Celebrations, take note. Those taking part in the study consumed a specially prepared product that contained about 1 gram of the brain-boosting flavanols. To get the same level pure unrefined cocoa powder you’d need to eat a kilo of the stuff, or around 400 Mars bars, which is 92,000 calories. A day.
What type of chocolate is best for you?
As stated above, we’re not saying chocolate has any miracle cures, or will do your waistline any wonders. But, if you must eat some (and who’s blaming you, everyone deserves a treat every once-in-a-while!) then dark chocolate is the way forward. Although milk chocolate contains on average less calories and fat, the dark varieties (those bars with 70 per cent-or-more cocoa) have higher levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (the healthy kind), and less sugar and salt than their milky alternatives. Look for varieties that haven’t been “processed with alkali”, as this will contain less of the good stuff in it!
How much chocolate is too much?
As long as chocolate is kept to an occasional treat rather than a staple of your diet, you should be fine. A square of Lindt Excellence 70 per cent Cocoa Chocolate for example contains 56 calories. Just try and limit it to one square!