It’s that time of year when Santa Claus is on the prowl, checking out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. But in the world of chocolate, it isn’t that simple. While lovers of the cherished foodstuff will be anxiously awaiting their Christmas hampers, hoping to find a bar or two of their favourite nibble secreted inside, they know that despite the pleasure it brings, they can also have too much of a good thing.
Chocolate over the years has received an indifferent press, and in many people’s eyes, it’s regarded as simply a tasty treat that causes weight gain and skin problems. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The past few years has seen a plethora of research which shows that chocolate is basically “the good guy” and has many health benefits.
- Chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which are known to be beneficial to the cardiovascular system. They are also found in onions, apples and peanuts, to name but three other sources, and while nobody is suggesting that anyone should substitute chocolate for those in their daily diet, it does demonstrate that, taken in moderation, chocolate can be a healthy choice.
- The University of Westminster found that just sniffing chocolate can increase antibody levels and so give the body’s immune system a boost. Mind you, if you can sniff and not eat, you must be made of pretty strong stuff to start with!
- Still in London, researchers from Imperial College claim that theobromine, a substance found in chocolate, outperforms codeine by thirty per cent in the matter of clearing up a person’s cough. In addition, it doesn’t produce drowsiness like codeine does, a further benefit to anyone operating machinery or driving.
- If you’ve ever wondered why chocolate has a strong association with romance, it could be because the tryptophan in the chocolate is converted by the brain into serotonin, a substance that brings forth happy feelings.
However, you should bear in mind that while chocolate does contain a whole host of good things for the body, it should only be consumed in moderate amounts, as it can also be responsible for weight gain and its saturated fats are certainly no friend of the heart. Additionally, the sugar that it contains is bad for your teeth.
But don’t despair, if you limit your intake and switch to dark chocolate that contains a minimum of seventy per cent cocoa solids and low levels of cocoa butter, and you clean your teeth after indulging, you can still enjoy your chocolate goodies over the festive period. Happy Christmas!