How to have a guilt-free chocolatey Easter – and even benefit your health by eating chocolate
Easter time brings chocolate; chocolate eggs, chocolate rabbits and chocolate bars, along with various other chocolate-shaped animals, cakes and biscuits!
But worry not, our health experts at Freedom Leisure think you should just enjoy it, because it’s ok to treat yourself every now and again.
However, if you are still feeling the guilt, we can help you!
Firstly, did you know that there are many health benefits of eating chocolate?
Made from tropical Theobroma cacao tree seeds, chocolate is one of the world’s best-loved foods and according to Rashed Latif, who published a review of the health effects of chocolate in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine, eating chocolate is not all bad news.
He says: "The recent discovery of biologically active phenolic compounds in cocoa has changed this perception and stimulated research on its effects in aging, oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation and atherosclerosis."
Today, a little chocolate is regarded for its health benefits, with the NHS website even covering some of these.
Ok, so the higher the cocoa content, the more health benefits there are and the lower the sugar content the better it is for overall health. This means that yes, dark chocolate is better for you than milk types, but that being said, all chocolate can be of benefit and can be enjoyed in moderation.
11 benefits when enjoying chocolate in moderation...
1. It makes you feel better
No this is not just an excuse we all tell ourselves, all chocolate, whatever the colour, does actually make you feel better!
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA) which is the same chemical that your brain makes when you fall in love. PEA then encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins and your mood is lifted!
2. It is good for the heart and circulation
Research shows that dark chocolate can restore flexibility to your arteries and prevent white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels – both are common causes of artery clogging, which in turn can cause cardiac arrest.
3. It reduces cholesterol
Consumption of cocoa, the main ingratiate of chocolate, has been shown to reduce levels of bad cholesterol and raise levels of good cholesterol, which can potentially decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
4. It can help you lose weight
Chocolate can help you to lose weight. Yes really! A small amount of chocolate slowly melted in the mouth 20 minutes before a meal, triggers signals in your brain which say “I’m full” – this can cut down the amount of food you then eat.
Going on to have another small amount after your meal can prevent snacking later. Studies also suggest that dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
5. It reduces risk of stroke
Research from Finland suggests that chocolate consumption lowers the risk of suffering a stroke. Doing so by 17 per cent in the group of men they tested.
While the NHS website says: ‘A recent study carried out in Norfolk in 2015 looked at chocolate consumption and cardiovascular disease. It reported that people who ate the equivalent of two chocolate bars a day had a slightly lower risk of stroke than people who never or rarely eat chocolate. But this study failed to establish a direct cause and effect relationship.’
6. It's mineral rich
Dark chocolate is full of minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium, and a 100g bar of 70 per cent, or more cocoa chocolate, provides 67 per cent of your recommended daily amount of iron.
7. It may prevent diabetes
Cocoa has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. So dark chocolate might delay or prevent the onset of diabetes.
8. It is good for brain health
It is believed that flavanol in chocolate can reduce memory loss in older people. While the anti-inflammatory qualities of dark chocolate have, in medical trials, been found to help with brain injuries such as concussion.
9. It could protect against cancer
The NHS website says: ‘Some limited animal and laboratory research suggests a cocoa-rich diet could offer protection against bowel cancer. But it's impossible to conclude from research carried out in a laboratory that cocoa can protect people against bowel cancer.’
10. It can make you brainier
Next time you're under pressure at work or school; don't feel guilty about grabbing some chocolate. It will it help your body ward off the effects of stress, but it may also boost your brain power when you really need it.
The University of Nottingham found that flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain for two to three hours, which can improve performance and alertness in the short term.
11. It can help with an upset tummy
South American history dating back to the 16th century reveals people treating diarrhoea with cocoa. Scientific research more recently does show that the flavonoids act to bind protein which controls fluid secretion in the small intestine, potentially stopping diarrhoea quite quickly.
Now if all these health benefits aren’t enough to have you reaching for a giant Easter egg without any guilt, then here is a guide on how to cancel out those calories.
We all know calories are hard to burn off, sometimes it can seem like a lot of effort for the smallest reward but that’s how it goes we’re afraid – However the good news is that you can burn it off and it may not actually be as hard as you think.
Our 75 UK leisure centres offer visitors the opportunities to swim, gym, play sport or enjoy classes, so it’s really simple to ensure you create a calorie deficit* this Easter.
*Everyone burns calories at different rates based on their gender, weight and fitness level, so please use the below as a guide.