With the Easter weekend fast approaching, that pesky bunny is busy filling shop shelves with chocolately treats designed to seduce and soften us.
Whilst I’m sure no one’s under any illusion that munching through your own body-weight in chocolate is a sensible way to spend your time, here at The Fitting Rooms we believe in healthy moderation, not absolute restriction, so we’ll let you in to a secret… not all chocolate is created equal and some may even be good for you.
The purest ingredient of chocolate is raw cacao which is made by cold-pressing cocoa beans to remove the fat whilst keeping the living enzymes in the cocoa. This cacao is highly nutritious and has a range of health benefits.
As well as boasting a healthy dose of fibre, iron and magnesium, cacao is rich in antioxidants which protect the cells in our bodies and have been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing blood pressure. Consumption of cacao has also been linked to lowered insulin resistance, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of diabetes. Additionally, cacao has become known as an anti-depressant as it contains compounds that enhance production of serotonin and dopamine (the feel-good chemicals in our brains), perhaps explaining why so many of us turn to chocolate as a comfort food.
Commercial chocolate uses cocoa powder which is produced by roasting the cacao at a high temperature to remove the bitter taste. Unfortunately the production process lowers the nutritional value quite significantly: raw cacao has four times the antioxidants as processed cocoa. However, the biggest problem with most chocolate is that the actual cocoa content pales in comparison to the high quantities of cheap sugars, sweeteners, additives and oils which are what make the chocolate so unhealthy and fattening.
Raw cacao is available at most health food stores and is a great home ingredient for baking healthy treats where you can use natural sweeteners, such as honey, to counter the bitter taste.
However, if only shop-bought chocolate will do this Easter but you want as many health benefits as possible then dark chocolate is the answer, and the darker the better. As the cocoa content goes up so does the amount of nutrients and antioxidants, whilst the sugar levels are significantly reduced: Green & Blacks’s 85% chocolate contains 13.5g sugar per 100g, compared to 56g in Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Studies also show that darker chocolate is a lot more filling than its milky cousin, meaning you’ll get your chocolate fix a lot quicker.
Happy Easter from The Fitting Rooms!