Twenty eighteen is already flying at an alarming pace and Easter weekend is somehow just around the corner. Amazingly, Easter treats descended on the shops on Boxing Day, making them very hard to resist over the past few months.
Every chocolate lover wants to believe that the rumoured antioxidant content and health benefit of chocolate is true, so what is the truth? Are we doing our health a favour by tucking into our favourite chocolatey treats? And is dark chocolate really better for us than milk chocolate? Let’s break it down before you break into the chocolate eggs.
The ingredients of chocolate.
Chocolate is traditionally made from a few basic ingredients including cocoa solids, cocoa butter, vegetable oils, sugar and milk powder.
The percentage of these ingredients will vary depending on the type of chocolate. Dark chocolate is around 70 to 80 per cent cocoa, which is what gives it that rich, more bitter flavour. Milk chocolate is around 35 to 40 per cent, which is why it tends to taste sweeter in comparison. Right at the other end of the spectrum is white chocolate, which many debate if it should be considered chocolate at all as it does not contain cocoa powder.
Regardless of your personal favourite, there is no denying that chocolate is an energy dense food. It contains a considerable amount of sugar and saturated fats – both of which we know can be problematic if we eat large amounts. But what about those antioxidants?
Antioxidant power of chocolate.
The supposed antioxidant power of chocolate is linked to the cocoa powder.
Cocoa is extracted from cocoa beans, a process that typically requires the beans to be roasted. Unfortunately, the use of heat causes most of the antioxidants to be lost during processing.
Majority of the chocolates and cocoa powders on the market are made using this process, so your standard go-to chocolate from the supermarket is unfortunately an unlikely source of antioxidants.
Raw cocoa, or cacao powder as it is more commonly known, is a little different. This is processed without the use of heat and therefore retains more antioxidants.
The reality is that there are many places for us to get antioxidants through diet. Red wine, green tea, and good old fruit and vegetables are all sources of antioxidants, too. So while we may not be able to justify relying solely on chocolate for our antioxidant hit, that certainly does not mean we have to steer clear of chocolate altogether.