Is chocolate a health food?

Sweet news for the sweet-toothed: there are chocolates out there that we don't have to feel guilty about eating.

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We’re at that time of year when well-meaning friends and family contribute to filling our homes with chocolate. Depending on your perspective, this is either a welcome or unwelcome development. Sure, chocolate is delicious, but isn’t it also unhealthy? While we shouldn’t be racing to replace the broccoli on our dinner plate with a big block of chocolate, in the appropriate amount, chocolate can happily be part of a balanced diet. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your chocolate choices:

1.  Go dark.

Cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, is a rich source of antioxidants. It’s also a source of other minerals like magnesium, iron and chromium. Many dark chocolates will list what percentage of cocoa they contain, so to get the most bang for your buck, aim for the highest percentage for the most antioxidants and minerals in the smallest package.

2. Skip the fillings.

While good quality dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants, the same cannot be said for those gooey fillings, which are basically just a hit of refined sugar. Whether it’s caramel, strawberry or any other flavoured filling, you’re better off skipping these and going for plain dark chocolate or for a change, dark chocolate with nuts.

3. Suitable serves.

Just because a good quality dark chocolate is high in antioxidants doesn’t mean we should be eating a whole block every day. Milk chocolate is lower in the good stuff and high in refined sugar and fat, and even high quality dark chocolate is still energy dense, so stick to the moderation rule.

So what’s the takeaway? To get the most out of your chocolate pick a dark chocolate with a high cocoa content and savour a few squares rather than downing a whole block.

Fun facts about chocolate

Fake chocolate. To qualify as “real” chocolate, a chocolate needs to contain cocoa solids or what’s known as cocoa liquor. White chocolate only uses the cocoa butter.

Worth more than its weight in gold. In Mayan civilisation, cocoa beans were used as currency and considered to be worth more than gold. Just like modern day currency, production was controlled to ensure the value remained consistent.

Swiss chocolate. The Swiss don’t have a reputation for just making some of the tastiest chocolate in the world, they love to eat it as well. The average per person consumption in Switzerland is 11kg a year.

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