Why you can enjoy your Easter Egg guilt free
Thursday 13 April 2017

5 potential health benefits of eating chocolate – who knew?

As we enjoy our Easter eggs this weekend, and general chocolate extravaganza that Easter has become, it turns out that we  may not have to feel too guilty about it. Despite its reputation for causing everything from spots to weight gain, there are apparently a number of health benefits associated with this much-loved treat.  It has been discovered that chocolate has fantastic antioxidant properties and its potential health benefits may include:

Improving heart and circulation

Lowering cholesterol

Mineral rich content including iron

Prevention of cognitive decline

Lowering risk of diabetes

It is important to note that the possible health benefits mentioned come from one-off studies, this means that more research will be necessary before they are proven to be correct. However, they certainly make interesting reading.

Improving heart and circulation - Research, published in The BMJ, suggests that consuming chocolate could help lower the risk of developing heart disease by one-third but they did state that further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption.

Lowering cholesterol - According to one study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, chocolate consumption might help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, also known as "bad fats."

Mineral rich content including iron - Dark chocolate is packed with beneficial minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium. 100g bar of dark, high cocoa content chocolate provides 67 per cent of the recommended daily iron intake.

Preventing cognitive decline - Scientists at Harvard Medical School have suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older people. The researchers found that hot chocolate helped improve blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed. In a further study, published in 2014, researchers found that a cocoa extract - called lavado - could, perhaps, reduce or prevent damage to nerve pathways found in patients with Alzheimer's disease. This means that symptoms of the condition - such as cognitive decline - could be slowed.

Lowering risk of diabetes - Researchers suggest that consuming a small amount of chocolate every day could lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Still to be proven but an interesting theory!

The dietitian's opinion on chocolate

Alison Hornby, a dietitian and BDA spokesperson, says it's important to remember the studies on the health benefits of chocolate have focused on cocoa extracts, not chocolate.

She says: "A range of health benefits from the consumption of cocoa products have been investigated, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease, with early results showing promise.

"However, the potential health benefit of some compounds in chocolate have to be weighed against the fact that to make chocolate, cocoa is combined with sugar and fat.

"This means chocolate is an energy-dense food that could contribute to weight gain and a higher risk of disease. As an occasional treat, chocolate can be part of a healthy diet. Eaten too frequently, it is an unhealthy choice."