Dark chocolate as part of a healthy diet

The world of chocolate is as complex as wine. From one bean, the magical cacao, comes a thousand different tastes; and just like wine, chocolate should be enjoyed with a developed taste. It is one of the spices of life.

And just as scientists and doctors argue that in moderation wine can actually benefit health, the same may be said of chocolate. In its natural state chocolate is bitter from the flavonoids the bean contains. These flavonoids are celebrated for their antioxidant properties, neutralising “free radical” molecules in the bloodstream that damage cell walls and cause cancers. But an even bigger benefit is the (mild) poison in flavonoids, which alerts the cells of our bodies to produce defensive proteins that combat more damaging toxins.

With milk chocolate the imbalance between carbohydrates (sugars) and flavonoids is extreme, and that sort of chocolate won’t help much except to put on weight and harm your teeth. But nearer its composition of natural, bitter darkness - at least 70% cacao solids - chocolate contains even more flavonoids than green tea, and this is when its natural benefits begin to appear.

Dark chocolate has a glycaemic index of only 22 - that’s lower than walnuts, apples and rye bread. For comparison, mashed potato is 90 and cornflakes 95. What this means is 70%+ chocolate helps get rid of sugar in the bloodstream quicker, taking pressure off the body’s insulin response and lowering the risk of diabetes and damage to eyes, kidneys and blood vessels, among other organs. Research has also shown that dark chocolate stimulates cardiovascular response: just 10g or about 4 squares will show an effect after twenty minutes, making you feel more alert and aiding concentration (due to vasodilatation). By "lubricating" platelets in the bloodstream, 70%+ chocolate can also help lower hypertension - by as much as five points in pre-diabetic patients, a better result than from many medicines.

The bitter taste of flavonoids are naturally unpleasant, like many other of the finest “acquired” tastes are in the beginning. But if you gradually work up to the strong stuff - even 95%+ - it can be as enjoyable as drinking a fine wine. Try dark chocolate grated over strawberries - possibly the best breakfast ever.

For more information on how dark chocolate can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet, check out our YouTube video.

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