Sweet like chocolate!
Feel guilty every time you eat chocolate?
Health & the City’s dietitian and fitness expert Caitlin Reid, shows you how to enjoy your chocolate minus the guilt.
Chocolate – it’s something few of us dislike! In fact, it has a long history as a flavoured food of many cultures including the Aztecs and Mayan. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, the seeds of the cacao plant. Cocoa beans are naturally rich in flavonoid antioxidants called procyanidins (catechin and epicatechin). These antioxidants have been found to play a role in keeping our body healthy. While many of us would like to think this is enough to call chocolate a health food, in reality it’s something we still need to enjoy in moderation.
What’s in chocolate?
The nutritional content of chocolate varies depending on the recipe, but generally chocolate contains fat, sugar, caffeine, vitamin E, minerals including calcium, magnesium and iron, and antioxidants. Chocolate is particularly high in saturated fat, of which about half is stearic acid. Unlike many other types of saturated fat, which raises cholesterol levels, stearic acid seems to have no effect on blood cholesterol levels. Chocolate is also high in kilojoules – approximately 2200kJ per 100g – so overconsumption can make weight management hard.
Antioxidant content of chocolate
Cocoa powder is by far the best source of antioxidants, followed by dark chocolate. The higher the cocoa content of dark chocolate, the more antioxidants it contains. Milk chocolate contains about half the amount of antioxidants found in dark chocolate, while white chocolate (which is not really a chocolate at all, because it contains no cocoa solids) contains no antioxidants.
Will chocolate improve my heart health?
While the antioxidants in chocolate have been shown to improve cholesterol profile, improve the flexibility of blood vessels, reduce the likelihood of clots and lower blood pressure, everyday chocolate products don’t contain enough antioxidants to help lower our risk of heart disease. According to the National Heart Foundation, for heart benefits we need to consume high polyphenol cocoa or chocolate. Raw cocoa powder and beans have high levels of polyphenols and are thought to be beneficial for heart health. However, most common chocolate products are low in polyphenols, as processing removes the original antioxidants. High polyphenol chocolate is not readily available.
Chocolate is not a health food
While chocolate definitely has its positive points, unfortunately this is not enough to consider it a health food. Chocolate is high in fat and sugar, two nutrients that are not good for you in large amounts. However, small amounts of chocolate (a serve is equivalent to 25g or 6 small squares) does have a place in a well-balanced diet containing plenty of wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Eating your chocolate in moderation ensures you can enjoy it guilt-free.
Tips for enjoying your chocolate the healthy way:
- Add dark chocolate pieces to your fruit and nut mix for an indulgent snack on the go.
- Savour a piece of good quality dark chocolate with your coffee after a meal
- Make a hot chocolate using raw cocoa powder, skim milk and a tiny bit of sugar.
- Grate good quality dark chocolate over a scoop or two of low-fat ice cream.
- Use raw cocoa powder, skim milk and a tiny bit of sugar to make an iced chocolate.
- Melt good quality dark chocolate and dip your 4-5 strawberries in it for a guilt-free dessert.
Website address: www.healthandthecity.com.au
Twitter ID: http://twitter.com/CaitlinReid
Bio of me:
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Caitlin Reid, studied a double degree in nutrition & dietetics and exercise science at Deakin University in Victoria. She has since moved to Sydney when she was worked with Sanitarium Health Food Company, Good Health Solutions, Foodwatch and Healthy Life Media. Currently, Caitlin is the club dietitian for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and lectures on sports nutrition at the Australian College of Physical Education. She is a regular contributor to the Healthy Food Guide magazine, MBF’s in2life message and Ninemsn’s Shape Mate Website. She also writes a weekly Health & the City.
Caitlin is also the author and director of Health & the City®, where she spires individuals and companies to achieve the elusive work-life balance through healthy living. She also writes a weekly Health & the City® blog. You may have seen Caitlin discussing nutrition and health topics on Kerri-Anne, TNT, Today Tonight, A Current Affair and Swish TV, or heard her provide health advice on numerous Australian radio stations including ABC, 2GB, 2UE, Pulse FM and 4CC.
Caitlin has a private practice at Balmain Sports Physiotherapy in Rozelle where she provides both nutrition and exercise advice. Her areas of expertise are in healthy lifestyles, sports nutrition, corporate health, weight loss and women’s health. Caitlin also provides nutrition advice to people with special dietary requirements such as Coealic disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and osteoporosis, just to name a few. With a keen interest in getting the most out of life, Caitlin knows how hard it is to juggle career goals, family and friends, a relationship and personal development, all while trying to make health a priority in life. Forget about being too busy – Caitlin almost effortlessly entwines health into the lifestyle of any hectic urbanite.
Info about Health & the City
Most of us know that we need to lead a healthier life; we just need a little inspiration about how to go about it. That’s while Health & the City is the perfect companion to keep you inspired all year round. Complete with your very own health challenge, Health & the City provides bite-sized tips especially for hectic urbanites trying to navigate their way through this fast-paced, urban existence. Health & the City will help improve your lifestyle, giving you the time and energy to pursue the things that really make you happy. You’ll barely notice the effort, but you will notice your health and fitness improving.
“Health & the City takes a realistic approach to health and fitness… [and] takes you back to a simple and real life slant. Caitlin’s genuine passion and thoughtfulness shines through in her book, supported by fantastic health and fitness tips.” Michelle Bridges, Celebrity Trainer, The Biggest Loser