I went shopping for chocolate last week and was amazed at the wide variety of chocolate available on the market. Rather than shop in the supermarkets, I thought I’d support local producers. So off I went, firstly to Eve’s Chocolates in Dennehy’s Cross, and then into O’Connaills chocolate shop in town. In both these places, I was given a range of top quality chocolate to choose from and even bought some for myself! There have been a number of health benefits linked to chocolate, yet there are also a number of things to watch. So what do you need to look for?
As always, start with the ingredient list. Many of the commercial chocolate companies use high amounts of vegetable oils in their products. I often find that the top 2-3 ingredients in most chocolates you find in the shops are either sugar or vegetable oils. These vegetables oils have been linked to an increase in cardio-vascular disease, as well as Diabetes and obesity. And due to the rather horrible taste of these oils, manufacturers have to add large amounts of sugar to offset the taste. As a result, most mass produced chocolate contains a high amount of sugar. Good quality producers rarely use any oils at all – you’ll notice when you read the labels. We are lucky in Cork to have a range of top quality local producers.
It is also good to note that research has been highlighting the benefits of chocolate recently – however almost all of this research has been done on 70% chocolate. This chocolate contains large amounts of cocoa and smaller amounts of sugar. Cocoa is packed full of antioxidants such as polyphenols, catechins, and epicatechins, being linked particularly to heart health. In addition, it is a good source of the protein, tryptophan, which helps us to feel good.
However, like any stimulant, it is best to keep your chocolate consumption to a minimum, enjoying a few squares of dark chocolate every day is the best way to keep healthy, but also keep that weight under control.
Chocolate with fresh fruit
1 punnet of fresh strawberries or raspberries
250 mls natural yogurt (low fat or ordinary)
1 dash of vanilla extract
2 oz dark chocolate
Fold together yogurt, vanilla and berries.
Melt chocolate in a glass bowl over a simmering saucepan of water.
Place berries and yogurt in individual bowls and drizzle with melted chocolate.