How many of us eliminate chocolate from our diets when we are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle? Now, groundbreaking research conducted by the University of Aberdeen could change how we view the nation’s favourite guilty pleasure forever.
The study found that eating 100g of chocolate a day appears to play a part in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. The team analysed the snacking habits of 21,000 people throughout a 12-year period and found that people who consumed the equivalent of two chocolate bars had reduced their risk of heart disease during that time by 25%, plus their risk of having a stroke fell by 23%.
What is the reason behind this? Professor Phyo Myint, who headed up the research, commented: "Cumulative evidence suggests that higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events.This may indicate that not only flavonoids, but also other compounds, possibly related to milk constituents, such as calcium and fatty acids, may provide an explanation for the observed association."
Move over from the dark side
For years dark chocolate has been labelled as the healthier option, but this study suggests that milk chocolate may provide just as many positive nutritional benefits.
The people in the research snacked on milk chocolate as opposed to dark chocolate, which has traditionally been accredited with containing a greater amount of protective molecules called flavonoids. This suggests that there are other components in the milk chocolate that contain disease-fighting properties, such as calcium and fatty acids, as Phyo Myint stated, which may help to protect our cardiovascular systems.
Chocolate with a pinch of salt
As much as we’d love to believe this information, hold off from unwrapping that chocolate bar just yet. Despite what the research suggests, there is also a huge amount of evidence carried out over the years that counteracts this study.
Chocolate is full of refined sugar, saturated fat and it is high in calories, which can make up around 90% of an average bar of milk chocolate. Having an excessive amount of any of these things can cause fat to build up in your body, increasing your risk of heart disease and raising the level of cholesterol in the blood. It’s important to consider other factors before deciding to add chocolate as a significant part of your diet, including the amount of exercise you do and other components of your diet and your genetics.
If you are reasonably active, then indulging in chocolate once in a while probably isn’t going to hurt, because you will be able to burn off the calories while still reaping the nutritional benefits. However, the research probably isn’t intended to kid people into thinking that simply eating chocolate will reduce your risk of serious diseases.
Eating chocolate releases a chemical reaction in the brain triggering it to release endorphins, which make you feel happy and content. The good news is that exercise also triggers this hormone! Unlike the minimal amount of research we have on the benefits of chocolate, there is an extensive amount of knowledge about the multiple benefits that exercise has on your health. So the next time you feel like you need a chocolate pick-me-up, reach for a different kind of bar at the gym and raise those serotonin levels naturally!
If you are looking for more direction in your health and fitness plan, book a free consultation with a personal trainer - many are trained in nutrition, so they will be able to offer you expert advice and guidance. Every personal trainer is different, discover what skills they each have here.