Easter is coming and the shops are already full of chocolate products, from eggs to bunnies. But as is increasingly known, there’s a healthier option that’s equally delicious: dark chocolate. The health benefits of eating dark chocolate, with a cocoa percentage of seventy percent or more (ideally 85 percent), mean the once-decadent sweet treat has now entered the mainstream. Certainly, here at Neal’s Yard Holidays we love our chocolate. Who doesn’t?
Ironically, dark chocolate was around long before the more mainstream milk chocolate. The Mayans in Central America are believed to be the first to discover cocoa as early as 900 AD, although research continues into earlier consumption. Our predecessors learned that the beans inside the cocoa pods could be harvested and made into a delicious drink and even used the beans as currency.
Centuries on, dark chocolate still feels decadent yet research into the health benefits proves that it can lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease. Dark chocolate is also one of the best sources of antioxidants, the flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun damage; and in one study (referenced by BBC iWonder) they were found to increase blood flow to an area of the brain that promotes memory.
And why stick to after-dinner chocolate? Organic raw cocoa is sugar-free (and free from other additives) and easiest to use in powder form, so sprinkle some over your breakfast porridge, cereal or smoothies or over frozen banana slices, for a sweet treat throughout the day. For some great raw cocoa recipes see Mother Nature Network, and here’s a video on how to make simple, vegan, gluten-free Easter eggs.
Whether you’re buying chocolate or cocoa powder, try to look for organic and certified fair trade brands so you’re helping ensure workers get a living wage as you help yourself.
Last but not least, dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins mirroring the feeling of falling in love. Fittingly, this is how most of us feel about chocolate…
Jo Fernandez is a leading UK travel journalist, with much of her career spent working for the London Evening Standard where she was Travel Editor until 2015. Now a freelance travel journalist and copywriter, she lives in Essex and has one daughter. As a travel expert, she still enjoys jetting off to write travel pieces, with favourite destinations including Mexico, Croatia and, of course, Essex.