So Easter is upon us, which usually means plenty of chocolate too! The good news is, when eaten in moderation, the right type of chocolate can actually be good for us. Something to think about when choosing your Easter eggs this year...
The healthiest forms of chocolate are dark chocolate (70% cocoa content or higher) and cacao nibs, the original, natural form. (Just in case you are wondering, the health benefits of milk or white chocolate, and any of the processed sweetened stuff are slim to none!) Here’s what it can do for your health.
1. Fights against disease Dark chocolate and cacao nibs are high in antioxidants, which help fight free radicals that can damage the cells in your body. Two groups of antioxidants found in dark chocolate are flavonoids and polyphenols. The higher the percentage of cocoa in your chocolate bar, the greater the number of antioxidants.
2. Good for heart health Research also shows the flavonols in dark chocolate have a positive effect on heart health by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the heart and making blood less sticky and able to clot.
3. Better brain function Eating chocolate also increases the flow of blood to the grey matter in the brain. It’s been suggested that cocoa flavonols would benefit conditions associated with reduced blood flow to the brain, including dementia and stroke. A study of the elderly that looked at consumption of flavonols lead to better cognitive function.
4. Makes you happy! The essential amino acids in dark chocolate help increase the production of the happy hormone serotonin, which can help alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression. Chocolate also contains the chemical phenylethylamine, which occurs naturally in your body and gives you the same boost you feel when you fall in love.
Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bar
350g dark chocolate 125g blanched almonds, toasted and chopped 100g unsweetened dried fruit (eg cranberries or mango) Pinch of sea salt Line a baking sheet with parchment. Melt the dark chocolate by filling the bottom of a saucepan with couple of centimetres of water and bring to a simmer over a medium-high heat. Put the chocolate in a glass bowl and set over the simmering water, stirring occasionally.
Once melted, tip into the prepared tin and smooth with a spatula so the chocolate is evenly distributed. Scatter over the remaining ingredients and chill in the fridge until the chocolate sets (about 30 mins). Peel off the parchment and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to a month (if it lasts that long!).
Rebecca Tucker is a Registered Nutritional Therapist practising at The Natural Healthcare Centre, Burton. For more healthy recipes or to book a complimentary 30 minute call and discover how nutritional therapy could help you, visit www.nourishbalanceglow.com