Easter is full of chocolate treats !

Nutrition
Par Marketing - le 11 April 2022
Dark, brown or white... whether in the form of bunnies or eggs, Easter is full of chocolate treats! But what benefits does chocolate have on our health? What are the differences between the various chocolates?

Benefits of chocolate

Cocoa, which is present in greater quantities in dark chocolate, has been shown to have beneficial effects on health. More specifically, it is the flavanols, a class of polyphenols, present in cocoa that play an antioxidant role for our bodies. Thus, the consumption of cocoa or dark chocolate could improve neurological functions in the elderly, have a positive impact on cardiovascular health, or increase anti-inflammatory bacteria in the intestinal microbiota.

Flavanols are responsible for the bitter taste of cocoa. This is why some manufacturers deliberately remove flavanols from chocolate to reduce the bitterness. This leads to a reduction in the beneficial effects. It can be deduced that the benefits are more present in the more bitter dark chocolates. The processing of chocolate also reduces the flavanol content. This is why, despite the fact that the consumption of cocoa flavanols has been shown to be beneficial, it is still difficult to estimate, on the one hand, the flavanol value of a chocolate, and on the other hand, the quantity of dark chocolate to be consumed to obtain the positive effects mentioned.

Finally, it is important to point out that several studies have evaluated the health benefits of cocoa and not of dark chocolate itself. Moreover, because in the processing of chocolate, cocoa loses some of its flavanol-type polyphenols, the role of chocolate on health cannot be completely compared to that of cocoa.

Nutritional aspect

The preparation and composition of chocolate varies from one chocolate to another. Based on the general nutritional values for each of the chocolates, we can say that dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa) is the most caloric of our trio, followed by white and brown chocolate. This can be explained by its higher fat/lipid content, linked to its higher cocoa butter content than its companions. In particular, saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are in greater proportion in dark chocolate. However, SFAs are a category of fat that should be consumed in a limited way. As far as sugar/carbohydrates are concerned, white chocolate contains the most, followed closely by dark chocolate, while dark chocolate contains half as much.

These differences can be observed significantly per 100g, with differences of 30 kcal between one type of chocolate and another, or 30g of sugar between dark and white chocolate. However, if we consider a 20g portion (about 1 line), the differences remain smaller, particularly in terms of calories. We can therefore conclude that if the calories are negligible in a portion of dark, brown or white chocolate, it is ultimately the distribution of the different macronutrients (in this case carbohydrates and lipids) that will vary.

We often hear that dark chocolate is an interesting source of magnesium. Indeed, dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa) contains considerably more than the other two. However, a 20g portion of dark chocolate contains about 40mg of magnesium. Knowing that the recommended daily intake of magnesium for a healthy adult is 350 mg for men and 300 mg for women, a man would need to consume 290 g of dark chocolate a day to reach the daily intake. However, chocolate should be eaten in moderation and occasionally.

So which chocolate should you choose?

Although dark chocolate is more popular for its antioxidant effects, we have seen that the flavanol content, which is responsible for its benefits, is difficult to estimate. It also contains more fat. Each chocolate has its own characteristics but this does not allow us to rank them from best to worst. Chocolate remains a food that should be eaten in moderation and for pleasure. My advice? Eat the chocolate you like best! Your moment of sweetness must remain a pleasure. And the pleasure you feel when you eat chocolate will ultimately have more benefits for your body and your mood, as opposed to guilt or forcing yourself to eat a type of chocolate you don’t enjoy as much by convincing yourself that “it’s better for your health”.

How to manage your chocolate consumption at Easter?

In any case, chocolate remains a food that is not nutritionally indispensable to our diet. This is why it should be consumed in moderation, ideally 20 g per day (about 1 line). During the Easter period it is more difficult to follow this recommendation. First of all, it is important to remember that it is not serious to exceed this consumption during the holidays. It will be enough to reduce your chocolate intake on the following days. But how can this be done in the long term? After all, Easter lasts a month! Between the shops that sell their Easter products over long periods and the bunnies/eggs that you receive and accumulate, it lasts a while.

To limit its consumption, portion out the chocolate you eat. Explanation: by eating one egg after another or cutting off a piece of bunny at a time, you don’t realise how much chocolate you are eating. So take a bowl, cut off a separate part of the rabbit (e.g. the ears), if you wish weigh the part to see how much you have eaten, and then put the rest of the rabbit away. The same goes for the eggs, taking some in a bowl and putting the packet away afterwards. Finally, take the time to enjoy the chocolate you put in the bowl. There’s no better way to enjoy the sweetness of Easter and be sensible about it!

Happy Easter to all of you,

Lea De Stefano
Dietician HES

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