Nikki Horton, 3, loves licking the bowl when mum Valerie cooks with dark chocolate.
Nikki Horton, 3, loves licking the bowl when mum Valerie cooks with dark chocolate. Karleila Thomsen

Dark chocolate can be good for you

IT’S A guilty pleasure; a treat we know we should not be indulging in.

But what if it was good for us?

What if it actually helped our hearts instead of hindered them?

As Easter eggs start calling out to chocolate lovers from store shelves, there is good news – chocolate can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

But we’re not talking any old variety; only dark chocolate is allowed.

“As soon as you go 60 per cent cocoa or more you can justify eating dark chocolate for your health,” says Hervey Bay dietician Peter St Henry.

“Studies show that it is high in antioxidants which help to reduce blood pressure and is also known to reduce the bad cholesterol.”

Everything is in moderation, however.

Mr St Henry, from Health Divine in Torquay, says 20 grams of dark chocolate a day is recommended, while nobody should eat more than 60g a day.

“In England, researchers did a study and gave all post-cardiac patients 25g of dark chocolate a day. They all came back with less chance of heart disease.”

The dietician of nine years says it is also good for your mood: “It has a product which can increase serotonin levels – the happy hormone. It’s an endorphin.

“Dark chocolate with chilli is really good if you want to be adventurous. You can have that with a glass of shiraz.”

Mr St Henry explains chillies also have antioxidants, giving their consumers a double dosage of goodness.

Kylie McMaster, co-owner of Mary Delicious in Maryborough, was previously unaware of the health benefits of cocoa despite spending nearly every day whipping up delicious treats with it.

But she says it is her dark chocolate creations, which include chocolate-covered dates, aniseed bites and ginger, that are the most popular with customers.

Ms McMaster has noticed that people feeling down about their day have brighter spirits after sampling her dark chocolate.

“They usually come in and are having a terrible day and need a pick up,” she says.

Despite the extensive selection at Mary Delicious, most chocolate sold in grocery stores is not good for you because of the large amounts of sugar.

“I encourage people to taste the chocolate. Often we gulp down a block but we should taste the flavours,” says Mr St Henry.

“It’s quality over quantity.”

COCOA FACTS

Cocoa beans have always been an important part of South American cultures with Mayans grounding them to use in a drink for marriage ceremonies

The beans were also used as money in South America, with ancient peoples trading them for animals such as horses

In the mid-1600s in France, the cocoa bean drink was praised as a delicious, health-giving food enjoyed by the wealthy. Around the same time the first hot chocolate shop was opened by a Frenchman in London

Today more than three million tonnes of cocoa beans are consumed every year

Source: World Cocoa Foundation


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