It’s rich, creamy and sweet. It soothes many of life’s problems.
We treat chocolate almost as if it has magical properties. The Easter Egg market is worth £220 million in Britain alone, and the average spent on Easter Eggs per child is £56. But is there anything medically ‘good’ inside those perfectly packaged, cute little eggs? And as a whole, why does chocolate make us feel so good?
A lot of the research centres around dark chocolate as it contains a high percentage of cocoa. The Kuna Indians of Panama drank cocoa as their main beverage and their blood pressure was generally very low, which means they had less chance of getting heart disease and stroke. Cocoa is a source of iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc. It also contains the antioxidants catechins and procyanidins. It’s clear that dark chocolate is packed with nutrients that have a positive effect.
Other types of chocolate, that most Easter eggs are formed with, contain more sugar and fats, which is the tipping point that labels it ‘unhealthy’. But milk chocolate still contains cocoa, so does that mean that it could still be good for us?
Alison Hornby, a dietician and BDA spokesperson brings us down to earth by stating that because the process of making chocolate means combining cocoa with sugar and fat, it’s still an ‘unhealthy choice’. It’s like salad in a burger. Or…eggs in a cake. It’s still cake.
So, what about the magic?
Tryptophan, an amino acid is found in chocolate and is known to make us produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of happiness. Phenylethylalanine is also found in chocolate and is associated with the initial euphoria of falling in love. This combines with dopamine naturally present in the brain to have an anti-depressant effect. Scientists at the Neurosciences institute in San Diego also claim that chocolate contains substances that have an effect on the brain similar to that of cannabis.
So, it’s proven to be good for our mood and in small quantities, our health. And if you like dark chocolate, even better. But as for the sweeter stuff, isn’t it better to eat all the healthy nutrients found in cocoa with a bit of sugar and fat to sweeten the deal than just sweet treats that contain sugar and fat alone? Of course it is. Now go forth and eat chocolate eggs.