Chocolate: A Healthy Treat

Here’s some good news for all you chocoholics – eating chocolate is good for you! Well, hang on a minute; let’s not get too excited just yet. I’m not saying that you can clear all the fruit and vegetables out of your cupboards and fill them with oversized chocolate bars and biscuits. ‘Everything in moderation’ as they say. ‘You can have too much of a good thing’ but ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’. Enough of the sayings and phrases and let’s talk facts.

Cocoa contains an antioxidant called flavanol and it’s this little component that could potentially have health benefits such as lowering blood pressure. As this is contained in the cocoa itself, you should obviously choose a chocolate bar with a high cocoa solid content, specifically dark chocolate. Dark chocolate generally has a much higher cocoa content than milk chocolate and the milk itself will dilute the effects of the flavanols. As white chocolate often doesn’t contain any actual cocoa, this won’t have any effect.

The downside is that as chocolate is high in both fat and calories, it’s difficult to really balance out the benefits compared to the fat intake and there’s a very fine line between the two. The obvious solution is to just have a small amount and that way; you’re getting a sweet treat but not over indulging. If only I could follow my own advice – I find it very difficult to open a bar of chocolate and just limit myself to a couple of squares. It doesn’t tend to last very long I’m afraid but maybe the answer is to just buy a very small bar, really enjoy and then know it’s gone. If there’s opened chocolate hanging around, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

Fair Trade Cocoa

The cocoa bean market is a pretty volatile one and prices can really fluctuate on a yearly basis. As many cocoa farmers have small holdings they are completely reliant on the sale of their cocoa beans for their income. This income is pretty low at the best of times so if world cocoa prices take a nosedive they can pretty much lose their livelihood for the year.

As the harvest has to sustain the whole family for the year this can be devastating. The aim of Fair trade is to provide a constant, fair price to cocoa farmers for their beans, enabling them to have a reliable income and to plan for their expenses and their futures.

Although the Fair trade scheme has existed for over forty years, it has only been on chocolate bar labels since the late 1980s. Despite this, until just a few years ago it was fairly difficult to get hold of Fair trade products and they were generally only stocked in specialist shops. Nowadays, however, there’s no excuse for not buying, or at least being aware of Fair trade chocolate.

Big manufacturers have begun to take notice of the demand for these products as consumers have become more aware of the conditions that some farmers live in, due to the poor prices paid for the beans. Obviously, it comes down to taste and I’m not suggesting you just buy Fair trade for ethical reasons. At the end of the day, the chocolate has to taste good, as well. However, I’d recommend giving it a go. It’s fairly obvious from the packaging if a bar of chocolate is Fair trade.