Reviewed by: Lisa Donaldson, APD, M.Nutr&Diet, B.Edu
There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t read that this food is ‘good’ and this one is ‘bad’. One of the biggest claims in recent years (much to chocoholics delight) is that chocolate is really, really good for you. Claims ranging from it being a great treatment for anaemia to asthma and everything in between make it seem like the humble candy bar has been a miracle cure under our nose the entire time. And who doesn’t justify a bit of dark chocolate because “it has antioxidants”.
Where do the health claims come from
The culprit of all these far reaching claims is from the seeds of the theobroma cacao tree, dating back over 2000 years having spread from the Aztecs and Mayans to Europe via the Spanish conquistadors. The Aztecs treated this as the foods of the Gods and it was seen as a medicinal plant. However, by the 1800s, chocolate became cheap enough for the masses in Europe and the Americas to afford, and sugar and fat content was added to develop milk chocolate.
In recent years, branding experts have copped onto the fact that our society has become a lot more health conscious. What we are seeing as a result is a plethora of choccie products labelled organic, natural, single-origin and cacao-rich. Basically, manufacturers are screaming at us that dark chocolate is good for you.
Despite the multitudes of studies on the health benefits of chocolate coming out (most of which are funded by chocolate manufacturers, the only health claim that is actually supported by the European Food Safety Authorityis that processed dark chocolate contains 200mg of flavanols which contribute to normal blood circulation.
Still not convinced? Even Mars SVP Matthias Berninger concluded “Chocolate is a treat you should enjoy occasionally and in small portions, not a health food,”
Which is the bad Chocolate and which is the good one?
The answer is simple. The good one is the one you like. In moderation. Should you cut any food out completely? No, but understand portion control, and save it for special occasions.
Of course, recognise something like white chocolate doesn’t even have the cacao plant, so if you’re going to ease up on any of the chocolates specifically, white chocolate contains a lot more sugar than something like a 70% cacao dark chocolate. Be wise with your treats and if you find sugar triggers you, know the signs and be prepared.