Easter Sunday is the day when everyone can indulge his or her love of chocolate without feeling guilty-and rightly so. Chocolate is universal. It is said that nine out of ten people say they like chocolate and the tenth is lying.
So why is there guilt about chocolate, and do we need to feel guilty? Simple answer – NO Chocolate is not intrinsically bad for us. At levels of cocoa of 70% it is actually good for us. What applies to you will depend on how much you eat and the quality of the chocolate.
So lets look at the “health benefits” of chocolate. The good feeling you get is not imagined. Chocolate contains a phyto-nutrient, which is an endorphin. The “high” from eating chocolate can be similar to the high runners get. It comes from the endorphins (the bodies natural happy hormone). Chocolate is virtually an antidepressant. Is it any wonder people turn to chocolate when they feel down? A Swiss study showed that eating 40g a day of dark chocolate lowered stress hormones in the bloodstream making people more resilient to stress.
Research has looked at the health benefits of dark chocolate and the results are impressive. A Swedish study showed that after a heart attack, those who ate chocolate at least twice a week had a three fold increase in survival over an eight-year period. Meanwhile a Canadian study showed a decreased risk of stroke in those who ate chocolate once a week compared to those who do not.
The benefits come from the flavinoids in cocoa, which are a potent anti oxidant. These flavinoids have also been shown to protect our genes (DNA) from oxidative damage. This potentially makes chocolate an anti-aging compound.
Chocolate is viewed with suspicion because it tastes so good. As a “pleasure” it has been seen as sinful. There are also linkages between chocolate and that other great “sin” of humanity-sex. Hence, the association of guilt.
Dark chocolate has lots of minerals including potassium, zinc, copper, chromium and magnesium. Many women turn to chocolate if they have pre menstrual symptoms. This is related to low magnesium. Again the body knows what it needs.
Cocoa is rich in antioxidants (10g dark chocolate has the same amount as a cup of green tea). The glycaemic index (GI) of chocolate is 40. Polyphenols in cocoa can reduce LDL, which is the “ bad cholesterol. There are also good fats in chocolate.
Now this is all well and good, you may say, but you can get the most of the same minerals and antioxidants from other sources. This is where the extra dimension of chocolate comes in. Fun is one of the pillars of DIY Health. Apart from providing goodness for us, our food needs to give us joy. Chocolate scores ten out of ten on this one.
So as I said above, there is no need to feel guilty about eating chocolate on Easter or on any other day. This does not mean a bar a day and yes you can get all the above nutrients from other sources, perhaps without the same amount of enjoyment. The best is 70% cocoa and organic is great if you can get it.
As part of a balanced DIY health program chocolate hits the spot.
Enjoy your Easter!
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.