Did Easter pass you by in a blur this year? Either you gave in to temptation (and why not, now and then?!) and indulged in some sweet chocolate, or you were good. And you passed up chocolate on a day where practically every other living soul in England were enjoying themselves. If you stand in the latter camp, well done! But let me tell you this- chocolate doesn’t have to be all bad! Here are three little ways that it is good for you.
Not all chocolate is created equal
Before we begin, it’s important to know the difference between good and bad chocolate. Basically, common sense is a must here! Loaded with caramel, nuts and nougaty sweetness= bad. Dark, pure plain chocolate= good.
Mass produced, milkier chocolate tends to have the flavanols removed to make it taste less bitter, and this is where the problem lies. It’s the flavanols that have all the health benefits- but even without them chocolate can still be good for you.
Cacao beans become cocoa beans after processing, and are therefore higher in nutrients and antioxidants, which means that when you choose your chocolate you need to go for a bar that is not only organic, but has been through as little processing as possible.
And on to three little ways that chocolate can be good for you…
For your emotions
We ALL know that a little bit of what you fancy does you good, but did you know that it’s been proven that chocolate helps to improve your mood? Research has found that the compound called phenylethylamine (PEA), a brain chemical that’s released when we’re experiencing emotional euphoria, is found in chocolate. And not only that, but chocolate also contains a neurotransmitter called anandamide, which is produced naturally by the brain and gives you an emotional rush, or high when you eat it. At the very least, chocolate can help you to feel less anxious and more relaxed- so it’s little wonder we want to reach for a bar of something sweet when we’re feeling down.
Next time you’re feeling stressed or in need of an emotional lift, try this quick (and healthy) recipe for coconut macaroons. All you need is:
- 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- quarter of a cup of coconut oil
- half a cup of almond flour
- a third of a cup of pure maple syrup
- half a teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoon cool water
- 2 ounces dark chocolate
Set the water and chocolate aside, and combine all the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl. Make sure the coconut is fully mixed, then add the water. The mixture should start to stick together to form balls.
Melt the chocolate (using a double boiler) and while it’s doing that, line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Shape the coconut mixture into small balls and pop onto the baking sheet, then pop into the freezer to harden. Use a spoon to dip each ball into the melted chocolate, return to the baking sheet and allow to cool. Delicious- and filled with mood boosting ingredients to boot!
For the good of your heart
Yes, chocolate is good for your heart. Really! It’s jam packed full of antioxidants that protect against damage to the lining of the arteries, and helps to prevent blood clots too. Not only that, but chocolate can help to stabilise cholesterol levels (and play no part in elevating them) and can help with the production of nitric oxide- essential for the regulation of blood flow and for lowering inflammation and blood pressure.
So, have your chocolate bar and EAT it!
For your waistline
Did you know that chocolate can help with weight loss too? Studies have found that those who eat chocolate regularly have a lower BMI and its thought to be down to the flavanoids once more. Moderate consumption really can help you to lose weight…
When we eat chocolate we feel good, and our body feels satiated. This satiety (and the fact that we are not denying ourselves a little pleasure now and then) helps to curb cravings and means we’re less likely to reach for unhealthy food options too. An average bar of good quality ark chocolate contains enough fibre, protein and healthy fats (in the cocoa butter) to make you feel full and satisfied- which means you’re less likely to snack between meals, and your portion sizes are more controlled too.
With this in mind, when you combine what we know about chocolate making us feel emotionally happy it’s little wonder that chocolate can actually contribute towards weight loss. When we’re happy, satisfied and full of energy we’re more likely to exercise, and to enjoy doing so too. Bonus!
Enjoy your chocolate treats without the guilt! Try this recipe for chocolate and raspberry brownies. You need:
- 8 pitted Medjool dates
- Half a cup raw almonds
- a quarter of a cup buckwheat
- Half a cup cacao powder
- Half a cup raspberries
- A quarter of a cup chopped dark chocolate
- 4 Tbsp. hot water
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 2 tsp. vanilla essence
- Half a tsp. baking powder
- A quarter of a tsp. sea salt
Preheatyour oven to 195˚C, then pop the almonds and buckwheat in a high speed blender and bend. Mix the baking powder, cacao powder and sea salt with the flours and set to one side. In a separate bowl mix all the wet ingredients, hot water, maple syrup and vanilla essence together. Add the wet mixture to the the dry and combine well. Then add the Medjool dates and mix until it becomes a sticky gooey consistency.
Cut up the dark chocolate, fold intp with the mixture, then fold in the raspberries too. Line a bread tray or a small pan with baking paper and spread the mixture pressing gently until flat.
Bake into the oven for 15 minutes.