For most of us, Easter has essentially become a chocolate-filled, very long weekend. I for one am not complaining! The good news is, quality chocolate with a high cocoa content has a number of proven health benefits.
We love chocolate in the UK. Nearly one in six Brits (and a quarter of Londoners) eat chocolate every day with only 5% of people saying they never eat chocolate.
Of course, there is a big difference between your average Snickers or Mars Bar and high quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or above. As a general rule, the higher the cocoa % the greater the health benefits and lower the sugar content is likely to be. If you can pick an organic chocolate too, all the better.
Here are five proven health benefits of chocolate:
It's a good source of antioxidants
Antioxidants help to protect the body against free radical damage - linked to premature ageing and increased disease risk. Fruits and vegetables are amongst the best source of antioxidants but studies have also shown that good quality chocolate contains a variety of different beneficial antioxidants too. In fact, one study found that cocoa contained more antioxidants than many other 'super fruits' including blueberries and Acai berries.
It's good for heart health
Studies have shown that cocoa and dark chocolate may have a mild effect on helping to reduce high blood pressure. The antioxidants in chocolate have also been shown to help prevent against oxidised LDL cholesterol which has the potential to damage tissues such as your heart and arteries.
It can help protect your skin from sun damage
Though I wouldn't suggest you throw away your suncream just yet, the flavonols in dark chocolate have been shown to help protect our skin from the damaging effects of the sun. It's important to choose raw or minimally processed chocolate because the flavonol content of traditional chocolate is negligible.
It's rich in beneficial nutrients
As well as fibre, dark chocolate contains good levels of minerals such as iron, magnesium and manganese as well as zinc and selenium. Minerals are essential for many aspects of health and wellbeing.
It's good for your brain
Studies have shown that chocolate can help to promote blood flow to the brain and can benefit brain health in a number of ways. It may help to prevent memory loss, promote cognitive function and it has a positive effect on mood.
It goes without saying that even dark chocolate still contains a fair amount of sugar and should be consumed in moderation... but hopefully this will give you a reason to feel a bit less guilty about your chocolatey indulgences over the weekend!