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Is it healthy to enjoy chocolate eggs this Easter?

Added March 31, 2010, Under: Health, Nutrition

With the Easter weekend coming up and those tempting chocolate Easter eggs and bunnies in all the shop window displays, is it alright for us to indulge?

A billion people eat chocolate everyday so probably you will find 2 or 3 billion will eat chocolate over the Easter weekend!

According to the WABI-TV5 News Desk, the ingredient cocoa in chocolate can be very healthy. Dr. Jonathan Wood tells us that the indigenous peoples from islands off the Panamanian coast, called the Kuna, have virtually no hypertension even as they grow older. Apparently, the reason is cocoa. The Kuna drink an estimated 5 cups of a native cocoa drink each day. It is their primary drink and contains large amounts of flavlanols which is a naturally occurring antioxidant and blood vessel relaxer.

Dark chocolate has more flavanols than milk chocolate but be aware that many manufacturers remove flavanols because of their bitter taste and you may end up with a product that is full of fat and sugar – which can be actually harmful to the heart and arteries.

Dark chocolate can be deceptive as when chocolate manufacturers make confectionery, the natural cocoa solids can be darkened and the flavanols, which are bitter, removed so even a dark looking choclate can have no flananols. Consumers are kept in the dark about the flavanol content of chocolate because manufacturers rarely label their products with this information.

The devil in dark chocolate is the fat, sugar and calories it also contains.

But you can buy healthy chocolate – I have researched online and it seems that you can change to healthy chocolate that is good for you and you can even eat it everyday as part of a healthy lifestyle diet. So if you are keen to find such a chocolate, do your own research.

In a story today fromhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr//f/r/-/2/hi/health/8593887.stm the BBC reports that Easter eggs “may be healthy” but provided you only eat small amounts!

A study of over 19 000 middle aged men and women over eight years and published in the European Heart Journal found those who ate half a bar a week had lower blood pressure with a 39% lower risk of heart attacks and strokes. It compared the health of those who ate the most and least chocolate and the difference between the 2 groups was just 6 grams a day or one small square of chocolate.

Dr Brian Buijsse from the German Institute of Human Nutrition, Nutheta, commented: “Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-sense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable”.

But a warning comes from Victora Taylor, Senior Heart Health Dietician, at the British Heart Foundation.

She says: “This sounds like a dream for chocolate lovers and just in time for Easter too, but it is important to read the small print with study. The amounts consumed on average by even the highest consumers was about one square of chocolate a day or half a small chocolate Easter egg in a week, so the benefits were associated with a fairly small amount of chocolate. Some people will be tempted to eat more than one square. However, chocolate has high amounts of calories and saturated fat which are linked to weight gain and raised cholesterol levels. Two of the key risk factors for heart disease”.

The good news is that you can indulge in some chocolate this Easter.

The bad news is that if you get given a whole lot of Easter eggs, you are going to have to ration them out quite severely to half a small egg per week.

I am sorry to put a dampener on the celebrations!

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