Be Chocolate Aware. The BDA Essential Guide to Chocolate
With Easter 2012 upon us, Dietitian and British Dietetic Association (BDA) Spokesperson, Anna Raymond, gives her views and advice on the number one selling gift for the occasion – Chocolate!
The truth about chocolate
“After the over-indulgence of Christmas – we can all just about fit back into the jeans we were wearing last year, and we might even be thinking about the bikini we want to wear for this year’s summer holiday! However, the next big feeding frenzy is coming upon us – Easter! And, with that comes chocolate in all shapes and forms, and plenty of it.
“For most of us, chocolate is a naughty treat that doesn’t usually fit in with our healthy eating regimens. However, more recently there has been a lot of press coverage about the supposed health benefits that chocolate can offer us, hence convincing us as the consumers to purchase more of a product that surely is good for us? But, before we start myth-busting, perhaps we should remind ourselves what exactly is chocolate and why does it taste so good??
What is it?
“It is thanks to the discovery of the cocoa bean in 1502 when Christopher Columbus arrived on Caribbean shores and was offered cocoa beans in exchange for other goods. He took the beans back to Europe, but didn’t know what to do with them so tossed them to one side. Thankfully another explorer brought more beans back many years after that, and chocolate was discovered.
“The beans come from the cocoa tree producing large pods which when mature can be cut open to give approximately 40 seeds, which can be scraped out. These are the cocoa beans and need to be fermented first for 5-6 days with water, then collected and dried out thoroughly in the sun before being gathered and stored. The beans are then transported to factories that produce chocolate all over the world where they are roasted and then some of the outer layers of bean removed so that the inside can be ground to a pulp to produce the common chocolate flavour (cocoa mass) which is added to sugar, more cocoa butter and milk (depending on if it is milk chocolate) to give us the treat that we all know and love!
Why could it be good for us?
“It is thought that cocoa beans have been considered to have health benefits from as long ago as the Aztecs where they used the beans in many of their medicinal concoctions, to treat a number of common ailments. In more recent years, analysis of the beans has shown that the cocoa liqueur contained in the bean is rich in polyphenols and thought to have antioxidant effects within the body. The type of polyphenols in the beans are known as flavanoids, and are similar to those found in green tea leaves and red wine. It is the presence of such chemical components that word has been spread, that no longer is chocolate so bad for you after all, but may actually be good for your health! And there is some evidence to support such claims that the antioxidant action may help to protect our hearts, but only as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
“The nutritional composition of chocolate will vary depending on the type we consume, and whether or not other ingredients have been added such as dried fruits, nuts and honeycomb or caramel fillings.
|Per 100g dark chocolate (approx)|
|86% cocoa solids||567 kcals||9.7g protein||30-50g carbohydrate||50.2g fat|
|70% cocoa solids||561 calories||8g protein||30-50g carbohydrate||45g fat|
|64% cocoa solids||521 calories||8g protein||30-50g carbohydrate||37g fat|
|Per 100g milk chocolate|
|567 calories||6.7g protein||51g carbohydrate||37.3g fat|
|Per 100g white chocolate|
|543 calories||8g protein||58.3g carbohydrate||30.9g fat|
“As you can see, the fat and total calorie content in all chocolate is high, hence we don’t suggest you start eating it every day. But there is no reason why you can’t have a few pieces as a treat on occasion. Remember it’s not just weight issues that we are concerned about, but by consuming large amounts of chocolate you are also taking in large amounts of saturated fat. Saturated fat is a “bad fat” and may increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your levels of cholesterol.
Hence if you have already had your usual treat, why not reach for a piece of fruit instead to satisfy your sweet tooth?
Which one – dark or milk chocolate?
“There is some evidence to suggest that the polyphenol content in dark chocolate will offer more antioxidant effects after consumption than milk chocolate. And the theory behind looking for percentage cocoa content in each chocolate bar is right as this indicates a higher percentage of polyphenols after the chocolate has been made. However, although this may be the case it should only be consumed as part of a balanced and healthy diet rather than in huge amounts, as this will still give us too many calories from fat and sugar, as well as minimal nutrients compared to snacking on a piece of fruit. White chocolate doesn’t contain any of the cocoa liqueur and therefore doesn’t contain polyphenols offering the potential antioxidant effects.
Much more research is needed to investigate the health benefits chocolate consumption does have to offer and although some evidence is there it still doesn’t indicate how much chocolate would need to be eaten to show these benefits?
5 most common myths linked to chocolate
- Dark chocolate contains less calories than milk chocolate.
False! Both dark and milk chocolate contain roughly the same amount of calories per 100g, which is about 550kcals.
- Chocolate gives you acne.
False! There is no evidence to support this claim. Although some people feel that they are more sensitive to chocolate and this is reflected in their skin health so they prefer to avoid it.
- Migraines are caused by chocolate.
False! Chocolate does contain small amounts of tyramine and phenylethylamine, amino acids from the protein in chocolate, both of which can trigger a migraine. However there is no evidence to suggest that chocolate alone can cause them but perhaps as part of a number of triggers?
- Chocolate makes you fat.
True and False! It all depends on quantity consumed. If you were to eat a large chocolate bar every day on top of your usual daily intake then this could contribute to too many calories and therefore lead to some weight gain. However as part of a healthy and balanced diet and if you exercise within government recommendations for good health (30 mins moderate intensity 5 days per week), chocolate as a treat will not make you fat!
- You can’t eat chocolate if you have diabetes.
False! The myth behind avoiding chocolate if you have diabetes is well out of date. Yes it contains carbohydrates which when broken down into glucose it will raise your blood glucose levels. However if you have good control of your blood glucose and are not consuming too many carbohydrates in one sitting – there is no reason why you can’t have chocolate as a treat on occasion just like those who don’t have diabetes.
|For more information / interview requests, please contact Steven Jenkins the BDA Press Office on: 0800 048 1714|
Notes to the Editor:
- Visit the BDA website at www.bda.uk.com.
- Registered dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
- Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, Non Government Organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.