Healthy Chocolate

Healthy Chocolate

Ever wondered why so many people can’t stop eating chocolate? It’s not surprising really – you just have to look at a person’s expression as they melt a piece against their palate to know it delivers an instant bliss hit.
The taste, the texture, the slow melt – it’s salivating stuff, but how many people indulge without a pang of guilt? It’s time to do away with the myth that chocolate is a junk food because you’re about to discover the astonishing truth about its disease-busting, life-enhancing qualities.
As early as the 17th century, cocoa beverages were prescribed for their medicinal properties, right up to the early 1900s when they fell from grace and were considered a fattening, if not wicked, indulgence.
But the tides are turning once again as scientific research unwraps the very real health-promoting benefits of chocolate. So far, they’ve found that chocolate contains over 300 compounds and micronutrients, rich in the minerals magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium and zinc, and also B-vitamins riboflavin and niacin. It also contains high levels of immune-boosting antioxidants that actively combat cancer-causing free radicals.
A 40 gram serving of milk chocolate typically contains around 400 milligrams of antioxidants, about the same quantity as a glass of red wine – without the hangover!
And you needn’t be worried about chocolate causing acne or rotting your teeth. In fact, chocolate helps fight against plaque and mouth bacteria by neutralising sugar acids. British researchers have also discovered that theobromine in chocolate works just as well as codeine in suppressing coughs.
The good health news doesn’t stop there. Psychiatrists are finding that chocolate can have a positive psychoactive effect on our moods and emotions. It can trigger the same brain chemicals, such as the neurotransmitters serotonin and endorphins, in much the same way that anti-depressants do. That would explain why many crave chocolate comfort as an instant de-stressor.
The phenethylamine in chocolate not only produces the ‘in love’ feeling women, particularly, respond to, it can also have a mild aphrodisiac effect. It was not for nothing that Mexican emperor Montezuma drank chocolate before visiting his harem!
You can self-medicate with chocolate then, but how much becomes too much? Six squares of milk chocolate contain 8.3 grams of saturated fat (the daily recommended intake is 16 grams), and mass-produced bars contain a lot of sugar which can lead to obesity. Many quality chocolate manufacturers, such as Lindt, have cottoned on to consumer health needs and are now offering dark chocolate blocks with anything between 50 per cent and 99 per cent cocoa solids.
Remember though, the higher the cocoa content, the more bitter the flavour. It’s an acquired taste and you may have to work your way up to it. Like most things in life, moderation is a good rule to live by so you should limit yourself to just three or four pieces a day.
Chocolate is not actually addictive, like nicotine and caffeine, so why is it the most commonly craved food in the world? Quite simply, it’s the pleasure principle – the sensual ritual of smelling, tasting and savouring the texture of melting chocolate.
First, there’s the anticipatory delight of unwrapping and looking at the tempting shape of chocolate. Connoisseurs also talk about good chocolate giving an audible snap, like a fresh carrot. Taking in all the smoky, exotic aromas, in itself, creates a feeling of wellbeing. Chocolate flavours can cover all sorts of ‘notes’ from the earthy and spicy to fruity and floral. Savour the texture and overall ‘chocolatey-ness’ as they come up through the palate.
So now you know, you no longer need a good excuse to indulge in this delicious food. Just snap to it and enjoy!