Easter Chocolate - how to enjoy it without the guilt

Diabetes, Weight loss, Diets | April 5, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

weight gain, diabetes

Easter Chocolate - how to enjoy it without the guilt

Give That Chocolate Away! Oh but can I Have a Little?

Australians love Easter but it seems we love Easter eggs more. Without a doubt, Easter is the most significant holiday for the chocolate industry—with Australians spending 50% more on chocolate during the Easter break.

But with all the research on chocolate saying it is good for us, can we still indulge and be guilt free?

Unfortunately it does depend on what type you eat and how much you indulge.

Many of the studies claiming health benefits are conducted on good quality dark chocolate which is only eaten in moderation per day.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Dark chocolate, rich in theobromine and anti-oxidants is the best choice for Easter chocolate this year for both children and adults. Eating dark chocolate avoids the “chocolate gorge” as the taste isn’t as sweet and slightly bitter so you don’t feel the need to consume as much.

Milk chocolate contains very small amounts of cocoa and is high in fat and sugar making it an unhealthy choice for Easter.

Chocolate bunnies with smarties will also contain high amounts of artificial colours and flavours which can be detrimental to health.

And then there’s white chocolate. As it contains no cocoa at all and is high in fat and sugar, there’s really is no nutritional value at all!

 

How to avoid the craving

If you think your cravings are for chocolate… you are wrong! Cacao is a rich source of magnesium and your body could be deficient in this very important mineral. Boost your levels with magnesium rich foods such as bananas, fish, beans, dark-leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds. If your also experiencing pre-menstrual syndrome, high blood pressure, fatigue, muscle cramps, anxiety and high blood pressure, perhaps supplementing with a good quality form is needed.
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Chromium is another mineral to help with sugar cravings and regulating blood sugar levels. Foods rich in chromium include brewer’s yeast, broccoli, eggs and oats. Chromium can also be taken as a supplement to avoid the sugar cravings.
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Eating a low glycaemic index diet and keeping your blood sugars regulated is also key to avoiding a chocolate binge. Avoid skipping meals, eat wholegrains, fruit and veg and fresh unprocessed foods.

But here’s the trick— eat protein! Incorporate it into every meal and snack and watch your sugar cravings disappear! Protein is found in eggs (not chocolate ones), nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, fish, meat and good quality dairy such as natural yoghurt and hard-cheeses. A good-quality protein shake may also be helpful for a “quick fix”.  Avoid refined sugar in the diet as it allows your blood sugars to rise quickly, plummet suddenly— leaving you craving more.
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Add cinnamon to foods such as cereals, smoothies, baking and casseroles. Scientific research has shown this humble spice is effective in maintaining healthy blood sugars and insulin levels—reducing a craving for sweets and carbohydrates.

The result of bingeing

Bingeing on all your sugary Easter treats at once can certainly have its consequences. The high amount of sugar suppresses the immune system and can increase the growth of certain pathogens in the body—mainly parasites, bacteria and candida. The excessive sugar can lead to weight-gain (if not burnt off) and can leave you feeling tired and lethargic after your sugar crash. The high amount of fat puts an added burden on the liver and gallbladder as these organs work hard to process it.

The health benefits of dark chocolate

Cocoa is an important source of polyphenols, mainly flavonoids such as epicatechin, catechin and proanthocyanidins.

They act as antioxidants in the body, mainly benefiting the cardiovascular system and your brain.

Here’s four reasons to eat small amounts of good quality chocolate regularly

1. Decrease your risk of stroke and heart attack

A Swedish study found that eating more than 45 grams of chocolate per week led to a 20 percent decrease in the risk of stroke in women. In another Japanese study, regular chocolate consumption reduced the risk of stroke in women but no significant difference was found in men. Other studies show that eating chocolate prevents blood clots and reduces blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Blood platelets clump together more slowly in chocolate eaters, the study reveals.

2. Brain food

The flavonoids found in chocolate also display several beneficial actions on the brain, mainly by increasing blood flow. They also promote formation of new blood vessels and neurons, mainly in the regions of the brain that are involved in learning and memory. Epicatechin improves various aspects of cognition and preserves cognitive abilities in ageing brains, lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Chocolate consumption also boosts mood, explaining why it is involved in emotional eating.

3. Live longer

Harvard researchers found that eating chocolate actually adds two years to your life expectancy. Jeanne Louise Calment lived to the age of 122—the oldest anyone has ever lived. She ate approximately 1kg of dark chocolate per week.

4. Chocolate may prevent cancer

Cocoa contains a compound called pentameric procyanidin which disrupts cancer cell’s ability to spread. When researchers from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre treated cancer cells with pentamer back in 2005, the proteins necessary for cancer growth were suppressed and the cells stopped dividing.

Fair-trade chocolate

Another thing to consider is whether the chocolate you buy is fair trade—free from forced, child and trafficked labour. Look for the fair trade, UTZ or Rainforest Alliance certification on the packaging. And if it’s palm oil your worried about then check for a palm oil free chocolate product on the Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia website.
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…So don’t just start bingeing on chocolate this Easter! Many of the chocolate is heavily processed with little of the healthy antioxidants left in it. Opt for dark chocolate that has been ethically and sustainably sourced and only eat small amounts at a time. If your cravings are out of control, then look at ways to improve your diet and supplementing with magnesium and chromium may prove beneficial.

 

References

Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Arranz S, et al. Cardioprotective effects of cocoa: clinical evidence from randomized clinical intervention trials in humans. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Jun;57(6):936-47

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23650217

Dong JY, et al. Chocolate consumption and risk of stroke among man and women: A large population-based, prospective cohort study. Atherosclerosis. 2017 Mar 4;260:8-12

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28324761

Nehlig A. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;75(3):716-27

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22775434

https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/sweets/chocolate/articles/ethical-easter-eggs

http://www.orangutans.com.au/Orangutans-Survival-Information/Helping-you-buy-responsibly-Palm-oil-free-alternatives.aspx

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