Chocolate: Guilty pleasure that’s actually good for you!
Chocolate lovers everywhere can relax; you can feel free to indulge in your favourite treat! It has had a bad press for being high in calories, but chocolate actually has some surprising hidden benefits for your health. Comforting, stimulating and even an aphrodisiac... there are many reasons to give in to temptation!
The original guilty pleasure, chocolate is not only delicious, but also good for your mood and for your health! On top of its nutritional goodness, there are also no less than 500 different active mood boosting substances in chocolate!
High in calories yes, but...
Certainly, with more than 500 kcal per 100g, chocolate is very high in calories. But if you know how to moderate your intake, a couple of squares during the day won’t be a problem. This energy essentially comes from fat (30%) present in cocoa butter, and carbohydrates (50-60%) contained in cocoa and the added sugar. An interesting fact is that how rich the cocoa content is affects the amount of fat in chocolate. In this way, dark chocolate, very rich in cocoa, has more fat than milk chocolate, while the latter has more sugar.
These calories are not empty of nutritious value however. Chocolate also contains minerals, oligo-elements like iron and copper, and some B vitamins.
A closer look at chocolate
Every type of chocolate has its own benefits for your health.
Dark chocolate: This chocolate’s secret weapon is magnesium. With 110mg per 100g, it is one of the foods which are richest in this nutrient. A 30g bar supplies the body with more than 10% of the daily recommended intake. Knowing how often we all become deficient in magnesium, a square of dark chocolate at the end of a meal can only be good for you!
Milk chocolate: The same cannot be said of milk chocolate as it contains half as much magnesium as dark chocolate. On the other hand, it does contain calcium thanks to the milk... not enough to cover your daily needs however as 30g of milk chocolate contains the same amount of calcium as a drop of milk in a glass.
White chocolate: As for this type of chocolate, it contains cocoa butter mixed with milk and sugar. Nutritionally, it is similar to milk chocolate, but it contains a bit more fat. Most notably, it does not contain cocoa at all, and so has no polyphenols with their well-known health benefits.
Chocolate with nuts: Chocolate is even more delicious with nuts but what about its nutritious value? Oleaginous fruit like nuts contain good quality polyunsaturated fat, as well as magnesium, phosphorus and a small amount of vegetable iron. Be careful of the overall number of calories however...
Anti-depressant and natural stimulant
Chocolate is proven to lift your mood! On top of the magnesium it contains, known for its relaxation effect, chocolate contains numerous psychostimulants including seratonin and phenylethylamine which have an anti-depressive effect. Caffeine and theobromine are alkaloids which act exactly like stimulants on the nervous system.
Eating chocolate also releases dopamine and endorphins into the blood stream and these substances play a key part in feeling pleasure and also have a calming effect. This is why it is so difficult to have only one bite of chocolate and stop yourself from wolfing the lot!
Cocoa contains polyphenols especially; substances with anti-oxidant properties that are present also in fruit and vegetables, tea and wine. They act by limiting oxidation of fats in the blood, and this protects the body from cellular ageing and the risk of heart disease. Polyphenols cause the bitterness which is characteristic of dark chocolate and it actually has double the polyphenol content of milk chocolate. But the quantities you would need to consume in order to benefit from its protective effects on the cardiovascular system remains unknown for the moment.
Combined with a healthy diet and eaten in moderation, you can munch chocolate without needing to worry! “Use it but don’t abuse it|” should be your motto so you get the most out of this comfort food!
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