Close up of dark chocolate

Q & A: Can chocolate be good for you?

“ I am a confessed chocoholic and although I know that when it comes to chocolate moderation is key, I read somewhere that chocolate contains antioxidants. Is this true and if so, which types are healthiest?”

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer answers.

The good news is chocolate has many health benefits, but it needs to be the dark variety with between 70 and 90 per cent cocoa solids. Cocoa is naturally rich in flavonoids – plant compounds with antioxidant properties. So chocolate naturally stimulates the immune system and protects against the ageing process as well as degenerative diseases.

And that’s not all. It also contains a wealth of trace minerals including iron, which is needed for energy, plus magnesium, which helps to keep stress at bay.

The flavonoids in dark chocolate also stimulate the release of nitric oxide, which encourages arteries to relax. This can help reduce blood pressure, as well as help manage the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. This in turn helps protect against heart disease.

However, the best news about dark chocolate may be its aphrodisiac properties. It’s known to stimulate the brain chemical phenylethylamine, which is also released when people fall in love! What better excuse to eat chocolate? However, do eat in moderation, perhaps a couple of squares a day, as it does contain sugar. Enjoy!