So did anyone have a whole lot of chocolate last weekend at Easter? My hand is raised, oh yes indeed (even though the amount was far smaller than years gone by). I find if kids are a part of your Easter, eating chocolate is almost inevitable. And let’s face it, the Easter egg hunt is tons of fun. But if eating healthy is our goal, do we really need to feel guilty about eating our chocolate? The knee-jerk reaction is perhaps yes: chocolate is often considered a sweet and didn’t we say sweets are bad for us? Yes we did. But perhaps we have been too hasty to lump chocolate in with sweets? Perhaps there’s a little bit more to know about chocolate before we disregard it.
Recently I was listening to The Healthy Eating Show hosted by Samantha Heller on XM Radio (great show by the way. She always has interesting guests and gives lots of excellent tips for healthy eating). So in this show they were discussing recent research on chocolate and how positive it is, even if weight loss is your goal. Rumours that chocolate can be “healthy” for us have circulated for a while but initially it seemed that you needed to eat huge amounts to reap the health benefits. For weight loss, large portions prove problematic since chocolate is very rich in fats and can be combined with large amounts of sugar. Recent research has been able to isolate that the healthy benefits of chocolate come in a portion of 40 grams per day. That equates to about 4 squares of a Lindt chocolate bar. Hmmm….
So let’s talk about quality. Candy bars are chocolate, right? Although the answer is yes, candy bars will not improve your health. Research shows that the chocolate we need is high in cacao. Chocolate is basically processed cacao beans. Cacao is a great source of anti-oxidant flavanols. Anti-oxidants help prevent cell damage in our bodies. Research shows that “healthy” chocolate is at least 70% cacao. So, 40 grams of 70% chocolate per day is the suggested amount to reap the health benefits. If you enjoy chocolate that is higher in cacao than 70% your portion can be smaller than 40 grams to get the benefits. Higher percentage cacao can make the chocolate taste bitter… be suspicious if you are eating chocolate that says it is 90% cacao yet it tastes sweet. One last word about quality: it goes without saying that since we can’t grow Cacao trees locally, look for the best quality organic dark cocoa powder or chocolate you can find.
If you don’t like the taste of the high cacao chocolate there are other ways to consume cacao that don’t lead to adding more sugar to your world. One of my favourite movies of all time was Chocolat. It weaves a whole story around consuming chocolate. Although they do make “chocolates” which have sugar, they also make savoury dishes adding cocoa and chili peppers to the sauces. Very different but perhaps fun to experiment with a good quality dark cocoa powder in gravies, stews, chili and sauces.
However you choose to consume your chocolate, eat it mindfully, savouring taste and texture while you carve out a quiet, peaceful moment in your day. And I hope you check out the blog on Friday when I will share a link to some of the current research findings on the benefits of chocolate. You will be pleasantly surprised how healthy dark, organic chocolate actually is! Next year, I hope your Easter Bunny gifts you with this yummy health boost.
Lisa Goddard BA, BScOT, Certified Pilates Mat & Reformer Instructor, Owner