April 15, 2017
Easter is once again upon us and for many people it is a time when a little more chocolate than usual is consumed. Chocolate gives many of us pleasure mainly because it has physiological effects that make it moreish – if not downright addictive.
<p>Some <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822302000329">research studies</a> even claim that certain types of chocolate are a “super food” – something that’s particularly good for us. After all, one of the ingredients of chocolate is cocoa, which is a good source of iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc. But is this really the case?</p><p>In dark chocolate – which has a high cocoa level – there is some evidence to show that small amounts may reduce the risk of heart disease. This is because of the <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2004.10719361">presence of flavonoids</a> – a type of plant chemical.</p><p>Flavonoids are said to be a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. Health benefits include better blood sugar control and better insulin sensitivity – which are both indicators of protection from diabetes.</p><p>There are, of course, a <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Peter_Hollman/publication/40131264_Content_of_potentially_anticarcinogenic_flavonoids_of_28_vegetables_and_9_fruits_commonly_consumed_in_The_Netherlands/links/547ee64d0cf2d2200edeb065/Content-of-potentially-anticarcinogenic-flavonoids-of-28-vegetables-and-9-fruits-commonly-consumed-in-The-Netherlands.pdf#page=44">lot of other foods that contain flavonoids</a> – vegetables, for instance – but maybe they are not as marketable as a bar of dark chocolate.</p><h2>Other ingredients</h2><p>But despite this evidence, few neutral studies have been done, and work has only ever been done over the short term.</p><p>So before we can say for certain whether chocolate is actually a super food, there need to be far longer trials – that are not funded by chocolate manufacturers.</p><figure class="align-center"><img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0a171a72f986755951605f93e0b4281e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-runner-src="https://www.alternet.org/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU5MDQ5NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzk2MDM0N30.fT7ULEhuXPazzOWO1vDxKxhGsfNh_E_KoV56ayf3e8w/image.jpg?width=980" height="503" id="32469" type="lazy-image" width="754"/> <figcaption> <span class="caption">Easter egg bounty.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Pexels.</span></span> </figcaption></figure><p>There is also the issue of the other ingredients apart from cocoa – given that your average Easter egg is likely to contain more sugar and saturated fat than plain cocoa.</p><p>There’s also the fact that there is little or no nutritional benefit to standard milk chocolate. So the only reason to eat it is because it gives us pleasure.</p><p>But whether its dark, milk or white, if you only binge on it once a year, the type of chocolate is not going to make much difference. What matters most is the rest of your lifestyle – what your diets like over the rest of the week, and how much you move around and exercise.</p><h2>Healthy chocolate?</h2><p>Maybe instead of worrying about the health benefits of chocolate, we should just see it for what it is – an indulgence or a treat – leaving us to get on with enjoying it occasionally.</p><p>With this in mind, we recently <a href="http://www4.shu.ac.uk/mediacentre/trevor-simper?filter=Food-and-nutrition">conducted an experiment</a> that split people into three groups. The first group consumed a drink which contained calories from sugar only. The second group drank the same beverage but then did some gentle walking. And the third group drank a beverage with the same calories but from protein and a little fat, and not so much sugar.</p><figure class="align-center"><img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7151f300940be8a1140e7014b4484d2a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-runner-src="https://www.alternet.org/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU5MDQ5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3Nzg2NzM4MH0.p0G3wiHkVY6XUFTRp58EzifKEJGuv49-oFpNrfW1qPc/image.jpg?width=980" height="503" id="c097e" type="lazy-image" width="754"/> <figcaption> <span class="caption">The joys of spring.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Pexels.</span></span> </figcaption></figure><p>When we traced everyone’s blood sugar levels over the next two hours, we found that the second and third groups had a much lower spike in blood sugar.</p><p>This is a good indicator that gentle exercise after eating or consuming foods which contain a mixture of protein and fat – rather than sugar alone – helps us to maintain steady blood sugar levels.</p><p>So maybe rather than worrying about chocolate as an occasional treat you should just enjoy it this Easter – and combine it with a nice spring walk.</p><p>Because at the end of the day, Easter is once a year, and your annual chocolate egg is unlikely to make a huge difference to your overall health or weight. So go ahead and enjoy – because that’s what Easter eggs are for. Just take advantage of the bank holiday to go for a walk as well.</p><p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/trevor-simper-352622">Trevor Simper</a>, Senior Lecturer/Researcher in nutrition and health, <em><a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/sheffield-hallam-university-846">Sheffield Hallam University</a></em></span></p><p>This article was originally published on <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a>. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-eat-chocolate-without-piling-on-the-pounds-this-easter-76096">original article</a>.</p>
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