The Benefits of Chocolate

15/10/2008 - 00:00
This National Chocolate Week (13th – 19th October) find out more about the health benefits of chocolate – you might be surprised…

Chocolate gets a lot of bad press, and is frequently blamed for the UK's growing obesity problem. But eaten in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet, chocolate could actually provide several health benefits, according to health and fitness website Cocoa, the basic ingredient of chocolate, contains powerful antioxidant substances called flavonoids. Sam Howells (M.Sc., B.Sc., M.G.H.T.), resident nutritionist and director of BlueSkies Fitness explains more: "Antioxidants help our bodies to resist the damage that can be caused by 'free-radicals'. Free-radicals are created by normal bodily processes and also by exposure to environmental toxins such as smoke and pollution. "If free-radicals are not kept in check by antioxidants, they will damage the cells of the body and can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis as well as other conditions including cancer and diabetes. As flavonoids are found in cocoa, it follows that the higher the cocoa content of chocolate the higher the antioxidant content." Apart from the flavonoids found in chocolate, chocolate also contains: • Fibre – 100g cocoa powder contains 20-33 g fibre – it is recommended that we consume 30g fibre per day for digestive health. • Vitamins and minerals – cocoa contains lots of vitamins and minerals including vitamins D & B12, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc. • Caffeine – cocoa contains various substances including caffeine to stimulate your mind and body. Sam added: "Eating chocolate causes the release of 'happy hormones' or endorphins so how can it possibly be bad for us?" But before you go out and buy every Snickers bar in the country, be warned; dark chocolate is usually seen as having more health benefits than milk or white chocolate, and as chocolate is relatively high in calories it's best to eat it in moderation. "The key is moderation, and to make sure you're eating the right chocolate," says Marie Bonheim, assistant editor of "Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of healthy cocoa and is often lower in calories, so where possible choose organic dark chocolate. You'll also feel satisfied sooner thanks to the stronger flavour." research into chocolate bars has found that the best lower-calorie chocolate options include Boots Shapers Double Choc bars at 94 calories, Kit Kat at 107 Calories for a 2 finger bar, Milky Bar at 137 calories a bar, Aero and Kit Kat Senses, both at 165 calories per bar and Galaxy Ripple at 175 calories a bar. And the worst chocolates? "If you're dodging calories avoid Yorkie bars, which weigh in at 367 calories, Boost bars at 315 calories a bar, Mars bars at 284 calories and Snickers and Twix, both at 280 calories," concludes Bonheim.

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