Chocolate has some unexpected nutritional properties. Eaten at the right time, it can have a positive effect on our organism.
Contrary to certain popular beliefs, when eaten in small quantities, chocolate can be good for your health. Let’s take a look at the benefits of our favourite winter sweet treat with Nicolas Aubineau, sport dietician and nutritionist.
Stay as close to the bean as possible
Because we’re used to eating a processed version, we tend to forget that chocolate is a natural food. It is made from the cocoa bean. The closer it is to its natural form, in other words, dark, the better it is: “This means that it’s closer to the original nutritional values of the cocoa bean, more fat, of course, but less sugar than milk chocolate.” Go for bars with 70, 80 or even 90% cocoa. And if you eat it regularly in reasonable amounts alongside a balanced diet “it works like homeopathy!” explains the specialist.
Unsurprisingly, white chocolate contains a lot of sugar, sometimes up to 75%! “It should be avoided wherever possible because it’s not really chocolate, or just use it for decorative purposes where it looks and tastes good.” If you tend to go for milk chocolate, don’t forget that it also contains a lot of sugar and is best eaten only when exercising.
Unexpected nutritional benefits
Chocolate has excellent nutritional benefits for our organism. It is low in sodium but high in magnesium and potassium. “It is therefore useful for preventing cardiovascular disease,” says Nicolas Aubineau. “It also has a relaxing effect on the neuromuscular system and helps it function well”. Cocoa also contains phosphorus and copper. “Ingredients that help bones and mental health. They also play a role in the nervous system and the natural defence system.” Lastly, it also contains iron and vitamin B12 that “help synthesise red blood cells which transport oxygen around our body.”
Depending on what time you eat it, chocolate acts differently on the body. Before or during sport, it can have a significant energising effect: “Chocolate contains stimulating molecules such as caffeine and theobromine that act as stimulants on the brain.” It’s no accident that it’s often compared to coffee. Its constipating effect should not be neglected either, as it can prove useful “if you are prone to stomach cramps, for example, it reduces gastro-oesophageal reflux. it reduces gastro-oesophageal reflux. Although this varies case by case.”
Watch out for cravings!
It’s all a matter of how much you eat. Nicolas Aubineau au believes it should be no more than half a bar per day: “That’s the equivalent of four or five squares, 40 to 50 g maximum. The idea is to enjoy it without getting carried away.” That’s why it’s better to opt for dark chocolate because it fills you up faster than more sugary chocolate. “The closer it is to the bean, the more bitter it is and so you quickly find you have had enough. That stops you overdoing it.”
So you need to be sensible about it, because, although chocolate has some benefits for our organism, it can quickly become harmful: “Cravings can quickly get hold of you, which suppresses your appetite so you eat fewer meals, and then you’re getting into the realms of bulimia.” As for all the processed chocolate on supermarket shelves, there’s no two ways about it: “Not good. Too much sugar, fat and palm oil. It’s an energy bomb. You can give into temptation once in a while but not too often because it will affect the hormone that stores insulin.” We’ve been warned.
If you go a bit too wild, don’t beat yourself up. The body has a 48-hour memory. “Getting carried away with food once or twice a week is acceptable and the body assimilates it well. If it only happens occasionally, it won’t have time to leave a mark on the body, such as extra weight.”