Love Chocolate? Why It’s Not Always A ‘Guilty’ Pleasure!

Here’s a little Easter chocolate history, and why a bit of chocolate in moderation might actually have a few benefits.

Anthony Brown

13 April 2017 - 5 minute read

Easter is on the way, a time when many of us indulge in a hot cross bun or a little chocolate treat or 10! But while eating too much isn’t a healthy thing, the happy news for anyone who loves the sweet velvety taste is that chocolate isn’t all bad.

A little history lesson

Chocolate has a long history, dating back to the Mayans and Aztecs who invented an invigorating drink made from cocoa beans. According to the History Channel’s Hungry History website, this would often be flavoured with vanilla, honey, chilli and various spices, and was considered to have mystical properties.

Chocolate continued to be consumed as a beverage for many centuries – probably much like we enjoy tea and coffee today. ‘Eating chocolate’ was not created until the early 1800s, and would have been bitter to taste until sugar (and later milk) were added.

Chocolate at Easter

Easter as we know has become chocolate season. According to Cadbury, eggs have long been associated with Easter, but chocolate eggs didn’t come into being until the 19th century. Cadbury attributes the success of hollow chocolate eggs (and any fine eating chocolate for that matter) to the invention of the Dutch cocoa press for separating cocoa butter from cocoa beans, and the introduction of pure cocoa – both of which occurred in the 1800s.

Early Easter eggs were made from dark chocolate, and finished with piped decorations – which added to the artistry and also helped to cover any flaws.

This all changed once milk chocolate came into existence, and these days, Easter eggs are predominantly of the milk variety. Early Cadbury hollow eggs also contained treats like sugared almonds – which have been replaced today by sweets or small chocolates. And of course small solid eggs, chocolate bunnies, bilbies and other moulded novelties abound at the shops every year during the Easter season.

Should you avoid chocolate?

People often admit to feeling guilty for eating chocolate. Certain words and expressions are also associated with it – such as ‘wicked’, ‘decadent’, and ‘death by chocolate’, as if somehow chocolate is something forbidden and a bit dangerous.

There’s no doubt that eating too much of it can be detrimental to the waistline, given the sugar and fat it contains. And while sugar has long been associated with issues such as diabetes and obesity, new UK research now suggests excess sugar may also be linked to the development of Alzheimer’s – one of the leading causes of death in Australia.

But believe it or not, the news about chocolate isn’t all bad. Some studies indicate that chocolate may actually reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke due to the antioxidants it contains. And chocolate also contains some nutrients such as iron and magnesium, and calcium in the case of the milk versions. In fact, a study of 21,000 adults by a number of British universities found that moderate consumption of chocolate significantly reduced heart disease and stroke risk and the levels of inflammatory protein in the body.

How much chocolate should you eat?

The university research on chocolate was observational and based on dietary surveys. But it may indicate that chocolate (especially dark chocolate) should not be feared, and doesn’t need to be avoided altogether if you are concerned about health and it’s something you enjoy.

However as with anything, moderation is the key. As well has having some beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, chocolate is also usually high in sugar and fat, and overdoing it is not likely to do you any favours!

So, enjoy some chocolate this Easter, but do so as part of a healthy balanced diet.

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Sources:

Hungry History, The Sweet History of Chocolate, viewed March 27 2017

Cadbury Australia, The Story of Easter and Easter eggs, viewed March 27 2017

Science Daily, Sugar’s ‘tipping point’ link to Alzheimer’s disease revealed, viewed March 27 2017

University of Aberdeen News, Eating up to 100g of chocolate daily linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk, viewed March 27 2017

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