Chocolate often gets a bad rap for being an unhealthy food responsible for piling on the pounds, but can chocolate really be eaten as part of a healthy diet?
The Good News…
Chocolate, one of my favourite functional foods, actually has some incredible health benefits. However… before you do a supermarket sweep down the confectionary isles, note that not all chocolate is created equally! There are some big differences between the nutritional values, ingredients and quality of the various bars of chocolate on the market!
What to Look Out for when Choc-Shopping
The ingredients listed on the back of a bar are the first thing I will look at when searching for my perfect piece of chocolate. I always want to see cocoa mass (or cacao the raw version of cocoa), listed as the first ingredient. This tells me that the first ingredient is what it should be, chocolate, not sugar! As the list progresses, you want to see ingredients you recognise, or ingredients added for their health benefits. If it reads like a foreign language, full of ingredients you don’t recognise as food, the chances are it’s a highly processed product.
Cocoa butter naturally contains tryptophan, tyrosine and PEA, amino acids that support serotonin and dopamine production, helping with feelings of happiness and motivation. This can be particularly helpful for us ladies when serotonin levels can lower as oestrogen levels lower in the two weeks leading up to our period, creating lower mood and irritability. Seeing cocoa butter listed high up on the ingredients list is also something I look out for.
Added Functional Foods
Finding simple ways of adding in functional foods, that support our everyday health, particularly mood and energy, is an easy win. Funky Fat Choc’s addition of MCT, to support higher ketone levels, coffee beans, for an extra boost of the functional food caffeine, are simple ways of upgrading your daily chocolate fix.
Keeping it Low!
Checking the sugar content is a must when it comes to chocolate. There are so many great benefits to eating a rich, dark bar of chocolate, from the high magnesium, iron and copper levels, to the super source of antioxidants. However, we don’t want to negate all of the wonderful health benefits by choosing a chocolate loaded with sugar. High-sugar foods deplete us of zinc and magnesium and can end up perpetuating sugar cravings and sending us on a blood sugar roller coaster.
Checking the Nutritional Value will provide key information as to the true sugar content of your favourite bar of chocolate. Companies become very savvy at disguising sugar in their ingredients list!
Know your Nutritional Values
Look for a bar that keeps the net carbs below 3-5g per 50g, this gives you a guideline as to the sugar content. Always check the weight of the bar, so that you can relate the values printed on the pack, to the size of the bar. Some companies will provide the bar weight value, others provide ‘per 100g.’ If the bar you are eating is 50g, you need to take that into account!
Organic or not organic… ?
I do try and choose organic when it comes to chocolate. The price between non-organic and organic chocolate is often not a great difference, and yet the care and cultivation of the cocoa beans when choosing organic, makes a difference not only to the farming practices, but potentially even to the nutritional values of the bar. Organic bars will be free from herbicides, pesticides and other synthetic fertilisers. Pesticide use is common practice in congenitally grown cocoa production. Becoming conscious of the ingredients we consume on a regular basis, and their long-term impact on our health, particularly as potential hormone-disrupting compounds such as pesticides, can help the many ways in which we can optimise our long-term health and wellbeing.
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