How to enjoy Easter without feeling guilty about eating too much chocolate!
Want to enjoy Easter without feeling bad about eating too many eggs? Find out what type of chocolate is healthiest – and how to avoid food guilt
Eggcited for Easter? A second Easter in lockdown might not be what we had hoped for, but at least this time supermarket shelves aren’t empty and more companies will have options to deliver their ever-more-creative chocolate delights. With social contact still limited, it’s likely that more of us will indulge in our favourite chocolate eggs as something to look forward to.
In the UK, recent trends show a lean towards dark chocolate driven by its lower sugar content and presumed health benefits, which chocolate-makers are keen to promote. The question is, are there really health benefits to chocolate?
To find out, we asked Kimberley Neve, a Registered Associate Nutritionist who offers personalised nutrition consultations to help clients stop dieting, optimise their nutrition and feel happier.
The health benefits of chocolate
Firstly, the reason we all want chocolate to be a healthy superfood is because most of us love it. It’s tasty, and it makes us happy. In itself, this is a potential health benefit of chocolate. It’s not the ingredients or special properties of cocoa, but the fact we enjoy eating it has a positive effect on our mood.
Dark chocolate is a good source of magnesium, which our bodies need for a wide range of reasons, including energy conversion and muscle and nerve function. With approximately 176mg of magnesium in every 100g dark chocolate, that’s about half of the daily recommendation for women in one of those small bars of Green & Blacks.
Dark chocolate potentially has some polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant linked to reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The polyphenols found in cacao beans are called flavanols.
However, the processing of chocolate – from fermenting the beans to roasting them – can significantly reduce the levels of flavanols, so it depends on the quality of the product. That said, a lot of the health benefits linked to flavanols are based on studies with very high levels, which would not be found in your average dark chocolate Easter egg…
Another dark-chocolate-only benefit is its bitterness, as this encourages smaller portions, which can help you control your energy intake better.
Not eggsactly a ‘health’ food
Compared to other blogs online, these health benefits of chocolate might seem quite modest – but that’s because they’re based on evidence. It’s good to be aware that a lot of research and online content is funded by the food industry: it pays for you to think chocolate is healthier than it is. Chocolate, dark or otherwise, is no superfood, and most health benefits are unfortunately hyped up.
Does that mean you should go without the Easter chocolate this year, or only go for dark chocolate? Not at all! Food isn’t just about nutrition – it’s social, it’s emotional, and it’s a huge part of our lives. If eating chocolate makes you feel guilty, you’re missing out on the mood-enhancing effect of eating something tasty.
Practical tips to avoid food guilt
- Mindset: life shouldn’t be a constant diet. Eating chocolate for Easter should be enjoyable, so give yourself a break.
- Eat mindfully: savour the taste, texture and sensation of it to make it last longer and satisfy you more, which can help deter you from overeating.
- Portion off: if you’re worried you’ll eat it all in one go (and don’t want to), portion some off and put it in the freezer. You can always have it if you want it, but it might help break the circuit of mindless eating.
- Bake: if you have a lot, another way to portion it off is to use it in baking. You can’t beat a classic cornflake cake in my opinion…
- Share it: if you want to. Maybe.
If you’re worried about your weight but sick of dieting or restricting what you eat based on previous diet rules, check out Neve Nutrition and Wellbeing for more info about nutrition consultations.
Photo by Joanna Kosinska