Not all varieties of chocolate are created equal – discover your best choices!
It’s the dark, glossy treat with a powerful hold on our taste buds. Aussies eat five to six kilos of chocolate every year, on average. And with Easter approaching, many of us will eat much more chocolate than at any other time of the year. While we commonly refer to chocolate as a ‘naughty’ or ‘sinful’ indulgence, it’s okay to enjoy the odd chocolate treat as part of your usual healthy diet.
Chocolate has enjoyed a growing reputation as a type of ‘health’ food. Cocoa, the basic ingredient in chocolate, contains an abundance of flavanols, a group of antioxidants that have many benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and protecting skin from UV damage. Flavanols have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by keeping arteries elastic. The problem is most chocolate confections contain very little pure cocoa.
The best choice is dark chocolate with more than 70 per cent cocoa mass, meaning it’s the highest in flavanols. It has a stronger, slightly more bitter taste, than your average choc treat. By contrast, your regular dairy milk chocolate contains only around 20 per cent cocoa mass, while white chocolate has none at all.
What makes milk and white taste so good is they are roughly one-third fat and half sugar. Not only do they lack the magic antioxidant benefits, they also pack a hefty kilojoule punch.
Another health claim made for chocolate is it has ‘good’ fat, because cocoa butter doesn’t raise LDL cholesterol levels. This is only true with dark chocolate (minimum 70 per cent cocoa mass). Due to the milk solids and palm oil added, milk chocolate has a high 8.5g ‘unhealthy’, saturated fat per 50g bar, and white chocolate more than 10g saturated fat per 50g bar (which is almost half of the recommended daily limit).
Is it addictive?
Chocolate has earned a reputation as a ‘love drug’ because it triggers the body’s production of serotonin, sometimes dubbed the ‘happy’ hormone. But it’s thought our chocolate cravings are largely psychological – it’s the lure of a slightly indulgent treat that makes us feel so good. Those mid-afternoon cravings are more about a need for all those feelings we’ve wrapped around the chocolate bar, rather than any chemical impacts it may have – beyond a sugar hit.
What to buy?
For health perks, buy dark chocolate where the first listed ingredient is cocoa mass and it contains at least 70 per cent cocoa. If you’re worried about the high kilojoule content, particularly of milk chocolate, there’s a growing range of low-fat/sugar options. While it’s not something we’d recommend eating daily, 20g (three or four regular-sized squares, a fun size bar or a Freddo frog) as part of a balanced diet is something we can all treat ourselves to.
These healthier swaps will allow you to enjoy Easter, without adding too many kilojoules to your diet.
Cadbury mini caramello egg
Cadbury solid milk chocolate egg, save 116kJ and 1.4g fat
Cadbury creme egg
Milk Lindt Lindor ball, save 73kJ and 14.4g sugar
1 large Lindt milk bunny
5 mini bunnies, save 1125kJ
Milk chocolate chips
Dark chocolate chips, get almost three times the antioxidants!
Red Tulip Easter bunny
Sweet William rice crackle Easter bunny – dairy-, nut-, gluten- and lactose-free for anyone with allergies
Traditional Ferrero Rocher milk chocolate
Ferrero Rondoir dark chocolate, save 84kJ and 2.0g fat per piece!
Four small squares of quality dark chocolate make the ideal sized snack.