If someone asked you to compile a list of healthy foods for living a healthy life, it is unlikely that chocolate would be at the top of the list.
However, recent studies have shown that some types of chocolate can have positive health benefits and when eaten as part of a balanced diet can be both a sweet treat and the healthy option – which is why we include our Dark Chocolate Treats in our Healthy Mummy Range
The problem with many of the mass produced types of chocolate which adorn the shelves of the supermarkets is that they are high in fats and sugars, but surprisingly low in actual cocoa. Brands such as Cadbury’s Dairy Milk only contain 26% cocoa.
Dark chocolate generally has a higher percentage of cocoa solids in the bar of chocolate, but in order to get the maximum health benefits the chocolate should have at least 70% cocoa solids. The percentage of cocoa solids in a product will always be clearly stated on the packaging. Quality chocolate may be more expensive than cheaper products, but is well worth the investment and you can click here to see The Healthy Mummy dark chocolate range.
For people who prefer to drink their chocolate, opt for a cocoa or hot chocolate drink which is similarly high in cocoa solids.
A good quality chocolate which contains at least 70% cocoa solids is rich in vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, Vitamin E and Vitamin A.
It is an extremely rich source of magnesium, which is essential in the body for keeping muscles and nerves healthy. People who are deficient in magnesium can be a contributory factor in diabetes, high blood pressure, migraine and bone problems such as osteoporosis. Apart from bran, dried herbs and pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate is the best source of magnesium out there.
Pre-menstrual tension, also sometimes known as pre-menstrual syndrome, is something which affects a huge number of women in the days leading up to the start of their menstrual period. PMT encompasses a whole range of symptoms and the severity of the syndrome varies from woman to woman.
Scientific research has shown that women who do not get enough magnesium in their diets are more prone to the mood swings and irritability which often go hand in hand with pre-menstrual tension. Ensuring that you are eating enough magnesium-rich foods can make a huge difference to mood swings and chocolate is a tasty way of doing this.
Many women also find that they crave chocolate in the days before their period, and eating a couple of squares of good quality chocolate can be enough to fight the cravings and have a positive impact on health too.
The health benefits of chocolate are not limited to the mineral content in the product. Good quality chocolate has also been shown to have a role in reducing blood pressure as they contain flavonoids, chemicals which balance out hormones in the body.
Chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, which fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals contribute to premature aging and also to heart disease, so eating a couple of squares per day of good quality chocolate can lessen the possibility of coronary heart disease in the future. Flavanols in chocolate can also prevent the changes in the body which can lead to the development of diabetes and protect against insulin resistance.
Antioxidants found in chocolate are known to fight signs of aging and also help keep the heart and circulatory system healthy. Antioxidants are also thought to play an important role in cancer prevention, and it is thought that moderate consumption of 70% cocoa solids chocolate can help guad against certain types of cancer. The medical jury is still out on the health benefits of chocolate as a cancer prevention strategy, but given the other health benefits of dark chocolate, a couple of pieces a day can help keep health levels high.
Many people trying to lose weight or live a healthy life immediately start to cut out all the products they perceive as high calorie and “fattening” such as potato chips, chocolate or sugary drinks.
It’s certainly true that there are limited health benefits to consuming chips or fizzy drinks, but dieters shouldn’t be too hasty to ditch the chocolate. As discussed above, good quality chocolate carries significant health benefits and is a great source of magnesium.
As part of a calorie controlled weight loss diet (such as The Healthy Mummy plans), chocolate can easily be put into the eating plan as a treat after a meal or as a mid-afternoon snack. Dieters who cut out favourite foods completely often find they crave the food more, so allowing yourself a small daily dose of chocolate can help fight off those cravings and beat the desire to binge on a huge bar all at once.
If you are ready to lose weight then The Healthy Mummy plans offer a healthy and safe exercise and diet routine that are safe if you are breastfeeding.