Chocolate – Is It All Bad?

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There are so many food based traditions associated with the changing seasons in the UK. It goes without saying that the original and best is the Christmas turkey, and most of us associate the great British summer with sausages and burgers sizzling on a BBQ, or in most cases, grill in the kitchen because of the rain – while autumn leads us to think of hearty soups and bonfire night fare, to mention just a few.

Spring, however, of for most of us the time of all things chocolate, which can be a cruel temptation for those still locked in a failing battle with the aftermath of the Christmas excesses in the hope of conforming to our society’s perception of beauty in time for the long, bikini-clad days of summer which by now are seemingly fast approaching. For others this is simply the guilt free excuse they have been longing for in order to satisfy their sweet tooth with wild abandon. Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day kick things off, but it is Easter Sunday that provides the ultimate opportunity for legitimate, full blown chocoholism, and in a great cause to boot. Eggs have been associated with a new beginnings since ancient civilisations used to exchange them during festivals celebrating the arrival of Spring, and Christians thoughtfully adopted this tradition to remember the resurrection of Jesus soon after the event,. However, it was Cadburys who changed this concept forever with the production of their first chocolate Easter Egg in 1875 and the rest, as they say, is history.

So is all that chocolate really so bad? I have heard a great number of people (mainly chocolate addicts) argue that chocolate is good for you, and the evidence suggests that it may well be in the same sense that red wine is ‘good for you’ – it undoubtedly contains some excellent nutrients alongside some ingredients of more questionable benefit, and although those nutrients are available in other foods without the bad stuff, the fact remains that chocolate can indeed be good for you –sometimes!

Recent research has confirmed that certain types of chocolate can have a measurable beneficial effect on health, mainly in terms of lowering blood pressure. Unfortunately the research revealed that only dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa solids produces this result with white and milk chocolate having no impact. The people involved in the study ate 100grams of dark chocolate daily and their blood pressure decrease by an average for 5 points over a few weeks, while in another study not looking at blood pressure it was noted that people eating dark chocolate had much higher levels of antioxidants in their blood after eating it. So that’s all good, surely?

Well, not really. 100grams of chocolate is a fair amount to get through on a daily basis and even the good quality dark variety contains a number of calories that would be prohibitive to most of us attempting to maintain even a basic control of our waist lines. So in order to rake advantage of this limited health benefit some other food would need to be removed from the diet in order to prevent substantial weight gain and an associated increase in blood pressure, which would defeat the whole aim of the exercise. Still, all of that is possible, and for individuals with only slightly raised blood pressure and an ability to control their food intake, chocolate in this form may be one solutions (there are better ones!)

But the reality is that most of us prefer mild or white chocolate, both of which have not discernible health benefits in terms of blood pressure so unless you are willing to make the change to dark, and dare I say it, expensive variety, there is little to be gained.

There is some goodness though. All chocolate is thought to increase serotonin levels in the brain, which is one of the reasons that it cheers us up so much. And after all, it tastes so good to most of us that even the most marginal of benefits would indicate that it is worthy of consumption even if it means eating less of something else.

So what does all of this mean for us? I would suggest that Easter Sunday is just one day a year so throwing caution to the wind on that occasion can be great idea as long as you are otherwise in good health and eat a generally balanced diet the rest of the time. As for every other day, if you are planning to eat chocolate, why not choose the healthier option? And as we always say here at Fit For Life Forever, be Spirit led – if you don’t have peace about it then don’t eat it and conversely, if you have peace about the chocolate in front of you then please eat it, enjoy it, and most of all thank God for his abundant provision of something so delicious!

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