By Lisa Guy, naturopath and founder of Bodhi Organic Tea
Looking forward to a little chocolate fix this Easter. The good news for all you chocoholics out there is that a little chocolate is actually good for you. Good quality dark chocolate that is, not the milk variety. Dark chocolate is loaded with disease fighting antioxidants, and has a protective effect on your cardiovascular system.
Dark chocolate contains potent antioxidants called phenols, the same type found in red wine. These antioxidants prevent bad ‘LDL’ cholesterol from clogging up arteries, lower total cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.
Now this doesn’t mean you should go wild and overindulge. All you need is one small square of dark chocolate a day to reap its antioxidant benefits.
Any chocolate lover will tell you the great pleasure they feel while eating chocolate. Well there is a good reason for that. When you eat chocolate you release the same chemicals as when you are in love. You get an increase in endorphins, which are the brain’s pleasure chemicals.
Darker chocolate contains more antioxidants than milk, and contains around 70% cocoa butter. Cocoa butter provides stearic acid which has shown a tendency not to raise bad ‘LDL’ cholesterol levels in the same way as other saturated fats. Stearic acid is converted in the liver to oleic acid, a heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat.
Milk chocolate on the other hand is lower in antioxidants, usually higher in sugar and calories, and contains mostly butterfat, which can increase cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
So this Easter if you are looking for a healthier chocolate egg, buy a good quality dark chocolate egg, but try not to overdo them. I like to buy organic chocolate. You can also get sugar-free chocolate for those who want to prevent Easter sugar overload. As long as the majority of your diet is healthy a little chocolate here and there is nothing to feel guilty about. Have a lovely Easter!
Some top tips for making Easter healthier for your family
- Get baking: Instead of buying hot cross buns make your own healthy versions at home. There are lots of great recipes available online using wholesome ingredients, along with gluten-free and sugar-free versions. This is a great holiday activity to do with your kids too.
- Quality chocolate not quantity: Choose a smaller good quality dark chocolate egg over large amounts of poorer quality ones. The darker the chocolate the better.
- Healthy chocolate alternative: Giving your kids sugar-free carob Easter eggs is a great way to prevent sugar overload on Easter day. Carob is also a source of bone strengthening calcium.
- Healthy treats: Make some delicious healthy treats for you kids to enjoy on Easter day instead of just having sugary foods. Healthy ice blocks made with yoghurt and fruit, frozen bananas on sticks or dark chocolate or carob dipped strawberries.
- Balance out your day by having some fresh veggie juices, iced teas, smoothies and salads, made from lovely fresh seasonal produce. Visit your local growers market to stock up in season fruits and veggies.
- Make sure you start the day with a healthy breakfast like eggs with avocado toast, natural muesli with natural yoghurt and fresh fruit, or a green smoothie - before you tuck into some chocolate eggs.
- Having tasty healthy protein-rich snacks on hand for your family to munch on will help keep them satisfied and less likely to overeat sugary treats. Try these delicious Strawberry Bliss Balls, or Chocolate Date and Brazil Nut Bites