As it's Easter and there's bound to be plenty of chocolate within relatively easy reach, you might like to assuage some guilt by discovering a handful of convincing health reasons for eating (more) chocolate. In times of stress, happiness, boredom, lockdown, self-isolation, Friday night, any night – many of us turn to chocolate to put a smile on our faces.
We're not (sadly) suggesting that you scoff a whole bag of Cadbury's Creme Eggs, but it's nice to know that a little square of good-quality dark choccy here and there not only lifts our mood, but has a range of other medicinal benefits, too. That's right, chocolate is healthy (within reason; the darker the better). Here are some more scientifically* established health benefits of good chocolate.
Chocolate makes you feel better: Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins.
It's good for the heart and circulation: A study found that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels - both common causes of artery clogging.
It reduces risk of stroke: Researchers in Finland have found that chocolate consumption lowers the risk of suffering a stroke - by an average of 17% in the group of men they tested. (Sorry ladies, they only focused on men!)
It's mineral rich: Dark chocolate is packed with beneficial minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium, and a 100g bar of dark (70% or more) chocolate provides 67% of the RDA of iron.
It reduces cholesterol: Consumption of cocoa has been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol and raise levels of “good” cholesterol, potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It's good for your skin: The flavonols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage (though nobody suggests abandoning sun cream).
Chocolate is good for the brain: Flavanols are thought to reduce memory loss in older people, and the anti-inflammatory qualities of dark chocolate have been found to be beneficial in treating brain injuries such as concussion.
* Warning: most scientific studies are sponsored by 'Big Chocolate' who clearly have a certain bias. But, hey ho, it's Easter! Let's just think about the positives and enjoy a bit of naughtiness.