The health benefits of chocolate

By Joanna Tovia

Is Easter the excuse you need to give in to your chocolate cravings? Joanna Tovia looks at the latest research to find out whether we need an excuse at all.

Chocoholics rejoice! Easter is upon us and with it comes permission to enjoy chocolate eggs, bunnies and bilbies without the guilt such reckless consumption normally elicits. 

Of course, some chocolate lovers manage to keep guilt at bay throughout the year. Chocolate is good for you, they claim, and there are numerous scientific studies to prove it.

A recent study confirming the health benefits of chocolate was conducted by The University of California, San Diego. It found people who ate chocolate a few times a week have a lower body mass index than those who ate it less often. What? Chocolate makes you thin? If that’s not an invitation to overindulge, I don’t know what is. 

Its researchers also backed up other studies by claiming chocolate’s antioxidants could be responsible for lower blood pressure and cholesterol. In fact, according to Psychology Today, chocolate has more heart-protecting proanthocyanidins than blueberries, more brain-saving catechins than green tea and more heart-healthy phenols than red wine. And that’s not all. Two tablespoons of cocoa have more antioxidants than four cups of green tea.

Though the researchers involved in the latest study aren’t sure why eating chocolate more than twice a week results in a lower BMI, they do know that chocolate contains polyphenols, which studies on animals have found boost the number of energy-burning mitochondria inside cells and improve blood flow. Both of these factors could boost metabolism and prevent weight gain, says Beatrice Golomb, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

“Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight,” Golomb says. “In the case of chocolate, this is good news – both for those who have a regular chocolate habit, and those who may wish to start one.”

Unfortunately, the study of 1000 healthy adults has been called into question by other scientists and nutritionists and the oft-heard “eating in moderation” message is being trotted out, lest people start increasing their chocolate intake with complete disregard for its high fat and sugar content. 

Chocolate is the most widely and frequently craved food, and not just because it tastes amazing. Perhaps the reason we want it so badly is because we know it should be eaten with restraint. 

When it comes to chocolate, I believe in quality over quantity, regardless of the time of year. For me, it is far more pleasurable to have a few squares of fine chocolate than a block of mass-produced chocolate of inferior quality. Give in to the cravings, I say. Life is short. Just make sure every bite is worth it.


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