Chocolate can actually be beneficial for your health, as long as it’s dark – really dark – minimum 70% cocoa solids, though 85-90% is even better. The cocoa bean – or raw cacao – is a rich source of antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, lower inflammation and insulin resistance, and may also improve brain function.

Among the many naturally occurring compounds in chocolate are theobromine, a stimulant and vasodilator, which increases blood flow to the brain; phenylethylamine, which stimulates the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and motivation; and anandamide, the neurotransmitter which activates pleasure receptors in the brain (the word comes from the Sanskrit ananda, which means joy, bliss, delight).

Studies have shown that there is an inverse relationship between a regular intake of dark chocolate and the concentration of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. CRP is a marker for inflammation, indicating risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and many cancers.

On the other hand… when you eat milk chocolate you are eating more than fifty percent sugar, as well as the addition of cheap vegetable fats such as palm oil or shea oil, and possibly other harmful additives, depending on the brand. It is well documented that sugar is an anti-nutrient: as well as contributing to weight gain, erratic energy levels, disturbed moods, and many long-term clinical conditions, it actually depletes other beneficial nutrients. Furthermore, sugar is addictive, and diehard milk chocolate fans will rarely stop at one or two bites – they must finish the whole bar.

The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the lower the sugar content. That’s one reason you should be eating dark chocolate. Another reason is to derive all those great health benefits from the far higher cocoa content. And finally, there is infinitely more enjoyment from the far superior taste: its deep, rich flavour gives you a potent hit, so you need just a small amount to satisfy that craving.

<a href="https://summertownclinic.co.uk/author/maureen/" target="_self">Maureen Houston</a>

Maureen Houston

Nutritional Therapist

If you'd like an appointment with Maureen please ring us on 01865 558561
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