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.
Are the sugar-police ruining Easter for kids? Do you set limits on Easter Eggs, or let the kids dig in? We discuss, on our podcast for imperfect parents. Post continues after audio.
Chocolate and our health.
Let’s get one thing straight for all our chocoholics (myself included) – chocolate absolutely has a place within a healthy diet (yas!)…the key is portion size. Around three squares from a block or a fun size bar is the best amount to aim for as part of a balanced diet. It is important not to deprive yourself.
You are far better off having a small amount each day than munching through a family sized block all to yourself on the weekend. Sorry.
The type of chocolate you choose is really up to you. Not everyone is a fan of the intensity of dark chocolate. Go for your favourite, and really savour it. There are many organic and raw chocolates on the market which suggest an additional health benefit. Keep in mind that an organic or raw chocolate will still be quite high in kilojoules, so the same applies when it comes to portion.
A trend at the moment that is worth a try is chocolate bark. An easy one to DIY, just melt down your favourite chocolate, and spread it out on a lined baking tray so it is a few millimetres thick. Top with whatever you like – nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, and dried fruits are all delicious. Allow it to set and then break up into smaller pieces to enjoy! A really thoughtful Easter gift for loved ones too.
If it’s maximum antioxidants you are after, then try raw cacao powder. You can buy this from health food stores and some supermarkets. Add it to smoothies, healthy muffins, pancakes or make some bliss balls. Chocolate pancakes for breakfast? Yes please.
So, the bottom line – while we cannot justify our chocolate devouring habits to be for the sake of antioxidants, chocolate and a healthy diet can definitely co-exist.
Watch your portions and experiment with some cacao powder to make chocolatey treats that are a bit outside of the (chocolate) box, but just as delicious! And remember one of the most important things – guilt doesn’t have a place when it comes to eating chocolate.
Be sure to take the time to enjoy and savour each bite! It’s just too bloody delicious not to! Happy Easter!