We're taught from a young age that chocolate should be eaten in moderation and that it's bad for our health. But is it really? Can you eat chocolate and still be healthy?
Why is chocolate not healthy?
The simple answer is that a lot of chocolate is laden with hydrogenated fats, sugar and other chemicals that are definitely bad for our health. The difference between eating a bar of regular milk 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 of eating chocolate?
A study at Aberdeen University 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)
Other findings have shown that dark chocolate in particular can help lower blood pressure and reduce stress. (Source: NHS)
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)
So is it really that bad?
The simple choice is to eat organic, 70% cocoa (or higher) chocolate. These bars have much less fat and sugar than a regular bar, less chemical ingredients, and are just a purer form of chocolate. Eat small quantities, treat yourself to a good bar and have a couple of squares a day.
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.