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Chocolate Easter Eggs - We look at the health benefits?

By Adam Shelverton
Senior Rehabilitation Consultant

What is chocolate and where did it come from? The origins of chocolate can be traced back as far as the Mayan and Aztec civilisations in Central America. Chocolate has always been a highly prized food and the Mayan Indians used to drink their chocolate in a spiced drink called “Chocalati” made from roasted cocoa beans. 

In fact it was the Aztecs that are believed to have introduced cocoa to the Spaniards who in turn took it back to Europe in the 16th century. Chocolate back then was very expensive and could only be afforded by the rich. Chocolate was previously only ever drank until the Victorian times when a technique for making solid edible chocolate was discovered.

Real chocolate (Dark) is made from cocoa bean, the dried seeds that are found in pods on the cacao tree. The purity of chocolate today often denotes its price with cheaper chocolate being mixed with cheaper products like vegetable fat.

What are the benefits of chocolate? Sadly these benefits only apply to dark chocolate with a high Cocoa content.

  • Nutritious: It is  rich in Fibre, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and other minerals.
  • Antioxidants: Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavanols and catechins amongst others. In fact unprocessed cocoa beans are one of the highest antioxidant containing foods known and studies have shown it to have more antioxidant activity than blueberries and acai berries.
  • Blood pressure: There are many studies proving it improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure although the effects are mild.
  • Heart disease: There is growing body of evidence showing a reduction in heart disease risk for the people that consume the most chocolate. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol.
  • Sun damage: Flavonol – as an antioxidant ( in high quantities) improves blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage. Studies have shown this has improved skin protection against UVB rays.
  • Brain function: It’s not conclusive but studies have shown cocoa to improve blood flow to the brain and also help improve the cognitive function in elderly people.

Summary

There are many positive health benefits associated with chocolate and cocoa.

Unfortunately a lot of the chocolate consumed today is milk chocolate. Milk chocolate combines sugar and fat to cocoa, this increases its sweetness but many of us know the negative health effects of too much sugar and fat in our diet.

Chocolate is like any food, it is fine if eaten as part of balanced diet, but if you could make the change from milk chocolate to dark you will benefit more from the health benefits listed above and have more excuses to eat it than not.

Britain is a nation of chocolate lovers. It's a treat that can be enjoyed by all ages including vegans and vegetarians. Collectively we eat more chocolate than any other country in Europe, in fact we account for a third of the consumption in the EU.

Your contact

Your contact

Adam Shelverton

Adam Shelverton

Rehabilitation Manager

Tel: +44 113 290 6321