Why was it perceived as bad?
The simple answer is that a lot of chocolate is laden with hydrogenated fats, sugar and other nasties that we don't really want. The difference between eating a bar of something off the shelf that is just regular chocolate, and something a little more expensive, with less ingredients (more cacao), can be significant. And if you can step away from generic chocolate and retrain your palate to something a little less sweet, you can still get your chocolate hit.
What are the benefits?
It has been researched at Aberdeen University, which looked at the eating habits of more than 20,000 people. They found that (by comparing those who did and those who did not eat chocolate) that those who ate a small bar daily were 11% less at risk of cardiovascular disease and had up to a 23% reduced risk of stroke.
Of course, like any research, the research also pointed out that eating chocolate doesn't make make you healthier. It was an observational study. (Source: BBC.co.uk)
Other findings have shown that, dark chocolate in particular, can help lower blood pressure and reduce stress. (Source: NHS.uk)
No matter where you look online, there is conflicting evidence for both sides. Some of the studies have been conducted by commercial chocolate manufactures saying how good chocolate is for you, whilst others disagree, saying the evidence is lacking.
There has been a link between cocoa with high levels of flavanols and increased blood flow, meaning better cognitive skills and memory function. Also, epicatechin, a type of flavanol, might have anti-inflammatory effects, which in turn protects the inner walls of blood vessels. In short, this means that chocolate could be accredited for keeping blood vessels smooth and increasing blood flow. (Source: circa.ahajournals.org)
What do I eat?
The simple choice is to eat organic, 70% cocoa (or higher) chocolate. These have much less fat and sugar than a regular bar, less chemical ingredients and are just a purer form of chocolate. If you, like me, love chocolate, then it is a hard thing to give up. Eat small quantities, treat yourself to a good bar and have a couple of squares a day.
You won’t pile on the pounds by doing this, and lets face it, you will burn it off on your next workout. If dark chocolate is too bitter for you, then eat regular chocolate. Just keep the “everything in moderation” mantra in mind, and it will do you no harm.
To eat or not to eat!
Chocolate isn't bad, eating too much of it is. The same rule applies to any food with additional sugar or chemicals. It could have some health benefits, and I for one, am more than happy to eat a small amount every day in the name of science. If it improves blood flow, all the better for my heart and my workouts. If it reduces stress, then I am happy with that. The bottom line is, chocolate will always be a love that I won’t give up, but I will see on occasion and continue to enjoy it.