How dull would life be without chocolate? However healthy most people are, and I like to include myself here, a piece of chocolate or even a bar, every now and again can be just yummy.
And it can actually be good for us too! If you eat the right stuff - apparently some Swedish researchers have been looking into the effects of eating chocolate and heart disease and have discovered that chocolate eaters (2-3 times a week) are up to three times less likely to die of heart problems than those who avoid it. Isn't that the best news you've heard in a while??!!
The thing to remember before you all rush out and stock up on the sweet sugary stuff is that all chocolate is NOT created equal! Although the Swedish study did not actually distinguish between types of chocolate, most research indicates that it's only the dark kind that's good for your heart.
Dark chocolate, ideally go for the 70% cocoa solids or higher (90% is fabulous, an acquired taste that's worth acquiring!) still contains sugar, around 12g per large bar, but the cocoa packs a healthy punch that may counteract the detrimental effects of the sugar. How cool is that? The key ingredient in cocoa are flavonoids. These are natural antioxidant plant compounds which have been known for some time to have healthy heart effects.
Chocolate also contains fat but much of it is present in stearic triglycerides (dark still by the way, milk contains other fats which are not so good!) which is good HDL cholesterol. The fat also slows down the rate at which the sugar is released into the bloodstream so you won't get the blood sugar 'spike' which you WILL get from the other varieties of chocolate.
Dark chocolate eaten in small doses but regularly can help prevent diabetes too, as it improves insulin sensitivity - again please note this is only the DARK variety. Other types will have the opposite effect.
Dark chocolate bars are now largely available in most supermarkets and even small convenience stores mainly thanks to Green and Blacks (Bournville has been around for a while but its cocoa solid content is too low for it to be included as a 'healthy' treat). Also, Green and Blacks is organic so you can avoid unnecessary chemicals.
Seeds Of Change have a great range, some of which include berries and nuts and spices, and is also organic, and exceedingly tasty.
Raw chocolate is becoming more prevalent now ,too, and is well worth a sample. Available on the Internet, and in larger health food shops it's worth trying but beware that tastes vary enormously.
I've conducted a major study over the years (very pleasurable) and have recently come across a range that is made on my doorstep in Wetherby, and sold through the Good Life in the market place. It's called Sweet Revolution and comes in a range of flavours, but all made from 100% natural ingredients and with no high temperature heating so the nutrients reach us virtually untouched. Worth a try - for guilt free indulgence, and for the kids no sugar spike that sends them crazy for half an hour!
100% cocoa bars and blocks are available in Hotel Chocolat and also Waitrose, and work very well when grated onto berries with coconut milk with a bit of cinnamon for a sweet dessert. Also great for cooking with.
So there you have it, it really is OK to eat chocolate - great news to my ears. But please avoid those great big tins of Quality Streets and Celebrations they're selling as 'buy one get one free' for Christmas, in Salisbury's at the moment; they'll do you NO favours however nice they taste.
Choose 70% plus and enjoy!