Can chocolate be healthy?
Chocolate is a food most of us enjoy, although the belief that it’s unhealthy can take the edge off its delicious taste. But don’t let guilt spoil your pleasure, because good-quality dark chocolate actually has many health benefits.
What is cocoa?
Cocoa, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, is an even richer source of antioxidants than healthy foods such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables. Antioxidant compounds protect us against the damaging free radicals generated by refined sugars and over-cooked foods. Antioxidants also slow the digestion of sugars, giving dark chocolate a low glycemic index (GI).
The cocoa in chocolate is also an excellent source of important minerals such as iron, magnesium and chromium. In fact, cocoa is one of the best vegetarian sources of iron and can help maintain healthy levels in our blood. The magnesium in cocoa helps our body produce dopamine, which enables us to better cope with stress. And chromium is an important trace element that helps protect against the onset of diabetes.
Recently scientists have discovered that compounds in cocoa “switch off” genes in our DNA that encode for fat synthesis and fat transport. This means that cocoa partly blocks the mechanism for storing excess calories as fat.
But what about the fat in chocolate – isn’t it saturated?
Actually, one third of it is similar to that in olive oil; another third is a saturated fat that our body converts to an olive oil-like fat; and the last third is a saturated fat that helps strengthen our cell membranes. A number of studies have shown that the fat in dark chocolate does not increase cholesterol levels, as other saturated fats do.
So the health message is – choose dark chocolate, and enjoy in moderation! Check out our chocolate recipes here.
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