I wanted the first column of 2016 to talk about ‘sweet stuff’, that’s why I have decided to tell you more about chocolates, everyone’s (almost everyone’s) favorite sugar fix. But actually there’s another reason for this choice too – the sad fact that apparently there is a crisis in chocolate-land building up, a supply problem of sorts. Well, at least this is what the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) seems to be suggesting: that by 2020 there won’t be enough cocoa left to address our compiled cravings. They are predicting a global shortfall of up to 1 million tons by decade’s end. Whoa!
So I say enjoy it while you can. And while, without doubt the divine taste is one big reason to celebrate chocolates, I am giving you lots more… (to help cut off the guilt associated with this sweet treat).
Bites Of Happiness
It is a bonafide mood enhancer. Cocoa stimulates the secretion of endorphins, producing thus a pleasurable sensation, similar to what a jogger feels after running several miles. Additionally, it boosts brain levels of serotonin – the “happy” neurotransmitter – which is an anti-depressant; and it also has theobromine and phenylethylamine, both of which have a stimulating effect. Now you know why one bite… and you are so gay!
Not Just Calories
Chocolate has nutrients too. Surprised? Well, chocolate contains essential trace elements and nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E. So, even if it is not the lowest calorie snack around, it is not a source of just empty waist expanding calories.
Totally A Sweetheart
It is truly our heart’s friend. Research now says chocolate is good for the heart (in more ways than just enhancing romance!). Scientists have reported evidence that chocolates keep the blood pressure down and help normalise blood flow to the heart; the potent phenolics in the chocolates do their bit too, to keep this super critical pump working fine.
Cocoa is chock-full of a wide range of antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, which help the body’s cells combat damage from free radicals (formed in the body and spurred by environmental pollution, stress, poor diet, alcohol and drug use, and smoking that damage cells and accelerate aging). And I say, while you are at it opt for a cup that’s hot and chocolatey. ‘Coz in a study done to measure antioxidants levels in tea, red wine and cocoa, guess what came out on top? Well, the study found that a cup of cocoa was twice as rich in antioxidants as a glass of red wine, up to three times richer than a cup of green tea and up to five times richer than black tea.
That chocolate contains ingredients beneficial to health, has been established without doubt. But the fact is that we cannot turn a blind eye to the calorie creep as most chocolate bars and candies tend to be high in fat, sugar and calories – and that is a cause of concern. So the lesson here is that while having a decadent piece of chocolate once in a while is pretty good for our health, excess isn’t. So moderation is the key, unless you want potential benefits bypassed by excessive weight gain. Also, when you want to indulge, choose the darkest and richest chocolate you can find. The higher the cocoa content the better is its health quotient.
Enjoy it while it is still around, and before it gets tagged as a super luxury, super expensive product, way out of reach of normal wallets.
Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan