What’s in your chocolate bar?

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So we are told chocolate, especially the dark type, is healthy – bursting with antioxidants, flavonoids and mood-enhancing serotonins. Yes, chocolate is a sweet and comforting food but when you get to know what’s in it, you may change your mind about indulging in it excessively. Here are the facts.

The fat connection…

The main fats in cocoa butter – stearic and oleic acid – are not bad fats, so in that sense chocolate is healthy. Although stearic acid is a saturated fat, it’s been found not to raise blood cholesterol levels. Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat (like that found in olive oil), doesn’t raise cholesterol either and may even reduce it. However, it’s worth noting that cheap milk and white chocolate may contain more saturated fat than dark chocolate. This is because some of it comes from added vegetable and dairy fats, and is therefore likely to be less healthy.

Most chocolate confectionery is not considered a source of unhealthy transfats, but check the ingredients of chocolate products such as cakes and biscuits to make sure there are no added vegetable and dairy additives. When it comes to the waistline, however, the type of fat is irrelevant. A bar of chocolate a day will make you put on half a pound a week. So chocolate is definitely not for weightwatchers.

The sweet fact…

You may not put seven spoons of sugar in your tea, but that’s what lurking in the average 100g bar of chocolate. Your daily recommended sugar intake is 90g, so a bar of chocolate wipes out half your daily sugar allowance in one go. Dark chocolate is a better alternative as it has 35g less of sugar for every 100g bar than milk and white chocolate. To keep your sugar intake in check if you are a chocolate lover, avoid chocolates with more than 10g of sugar per 100g bar.

The poison truth…

You all know chocolate is made from cocoa obtained from the cacao tree. These are grown in plantations, some of which are sprayed with some chemicals, which have raised health concerns throughout the world. Some of these chemicals have been reported to cause health problems such as cancer and infertility – all linked with organopesticides. There are also the hidden nasties, such as the milk from animals fed on genetically modified (GM) foods and hormones and treated with antibiotics. To be on the safe side, spend a little bit more and buy organic chocolate. It may seem an indulgence, but why not if it could protect

your health?

And the additives…

Coloured fillings and artificial flavours add to the nutritional price tag. Along with added fat and dried egg white, some chocolates contain banned food colourings. Other flavourings used by chocolate makers include butter, beans, sugar and vanilla. If plain chocolate does not give you the comfort of the flavour you are looking for, opt for the healthiest flavourings. For example, fruit and nuts will add vitamins and minerals to the chocolate bar, hence a healthier alternative. But make sure you check nutrition labels. Nuts often increase the fat content, and dried fruits add to the sugars. As a rule of thumb, avoid coloured

chocolates and stick to the dark variety.

Choosing a chocolate…

To avoid trans fats, steer clear of caramel, flavoured and coloured fillings. Try organic dark chocolates – the higher the percentage of darkness, the better. Go for

those with 70 per cent or more, but note you will pay a bit more. Avoid cheap chocolates, particularly giving them to children who could become addicted because of the high sugar and fat content. Chocolate and other processed comfort foods are linked to obesity in children. Also ensure you check the expiry date as there are shopkeepers who keep chocolate bars on the shelves well past their best buy date. Also ensure the chocolate bar is hygienically displayed on the shelves as you could get food poisoning from contaminated chocolate.

You may not put seven spoons of sugar in your tea, but that’s what lurking in the average 100g bar of chocolate. Your daily recommended sugar intake is 90g, so a bar of chocolate wipes out half your daily sugar allowance in one go. Dark chocolate is a better alternative as it has 35g less of sugar for every 100g bar than milk and white chocolate. To keep your sugar intake in check if you are a chocolate lover, avoid chocolates with more than 10g of sugar per 100g bar.

1 Comment
  1. Eric Wambugu says

    Informative article. kudos

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