Most of us love a bit of chocolate now and then, especially at Easter. But the key to keeping it healthy, is to keep it to just ‘a bit’, and to also think about what type of Easter eggs we eat.
Because, like most things in life, not all chocolate is created equal.
Some chocolate is higher in the nutrients that come from cocoa than others, whilst some is just higher in sugar and fat.
Let’s start with the different types of chocolate.
Most experts agree that if you are going to eat chocolate, dark chocolate is better, and preferably dark chocolate that is at least 65% cacao. (Although the words ‘cocoa’ and ‘cacao’ look almost identical, and both come from the cocoa bean, there is actually a difference. Cocoa is fermented from the bean, then roasted at high heat, whereas cacao is fermented then processed at lower temperatures so it can be classified as raw.)
Cocoa is the base ingredient (and ultimately the healthiest one) of all types of chocolate. And generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the higher percentage of cocoa it contains. Or, to put it another way, it means that it has less of the unhealthy ingredients.
Dark chocolate is sometimes referred to as ‘semisweet’ and really dark chocolate with a very high cocoa component is called ‘bittersweet’. So that gives you an immediate hint as to why it’s healthier – less sugar.
Also, dark chocolate tends to fill you up more, and quicker than milk chocolate, so you don’t need (or even want) too much of it.
So here’s the ‘healthy’ thing about chocolate in general.
Cocoa contains flavonoids, a special class of anti-oxidant. And the more cocoa the chocolate contains, the more anti-oxidants you’re getting.
Flavonoids are a diverse group of phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, wine (yay!) and, (double yay!) chocolate. They are known to improve vascular function, help lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation in the body. Some studies even suggest that a flavonoid-rich diet can also reduce the incidence of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and heart disease.
So chocolate’s not all bad, but despite the positives, it makes sense to keep it to a minimum.
One way of doing that is by looking not just at the type of chocolate your eggs are made of, but the size and shape of them.
Just one well known chocolate bunny comes in at a whopping 4416kJ – that’s a lot of walking, running or hopping you’d need to do to burn that off. Alternatively, 72 mini eggs equal almost the exact same number of kilojoules. But you’re not going to eat 72 of anything, right? So even if you just eat a quarter of those, you’re still getting 18 eggs and you’re consuming 75% less kilojoules.
But Easter’s not just about chocolate. What about that other delicious Easter treat – the hot cross bun?
The average 80g hot cross bun with butter contains around 1200kJ. To burn that one bun off, you’ll need to take around 8,000 steps. And if your daily step target is 10,000, that’s a fair chunk of them accounted for already.
So maybe walk instead of drive to the shop to get those – and probably not to the nearest shop, either.
At HeadUp we know that a healthy mind and body is all about balance, not deprivation. Good health takes some degree of effort and effort should be rewarded. It keeps us engaged and enthusiastic.
And even though health is its own reward, at the end of the day, (or four days in the case of Easter), everyone deserves a treat now and then.
The key (as always, really), is to not overdo it. Try taking a few less bites and a few more steps. And maybe go for less buns and more runs.
Have a happy, safe and healthy Easter!