Let's talk about heart health & fine chocolate....

Let's talk about heart health & fine chocolate....

Chococo co-founder Claire Burnet

Chococo co-founder Claire here again with some food for thought for you. Some of you may have noticed that the British Heart Foundation is running a #dechox campaign this month encouraging people to raise money by giving up all chocolate.

The inference of their campaign is that all chocolate is high in sugar & is bad for you & your heart...wrong!

FINE chocolate is actually good for you as proven in many studies. You don’t have to take my word for it too as no doubt you are all now muttering, that of course I would say that as I am in the chocolate industry....

Before I talk about any health benefits of fine chocolate, let's first define what I mean by fine chocolate. It has to be:

  1. High in cocoa solids: For dark chocolate ideally from 65-70% cocoa solids & for milk chocolate at least 40% minimum cocoa solids (our house milk chocolate is 43% but we also offer one with 65%!). The more cocoa solids, the less sugar folks!
  2. Made with pure cocoa butter & NO vegetable fats 

So, what we are not talking about here is industrial "chocolate" that contains "vegetable fats in addition to cocoa butter" (which they have to declare on the back of their packaging). This is NOT pure chocolate & is also very likely to include a lot of sugar. Why? Because palm oil et al & sugar are cheap whilst cocoa is expensive. Sadly, the biggest chocolate brands in the UK do not contain a lot of cocoa, but do contain very high amounts of sugar & vegetable fats, one of which is palm oil.
By the way, cocoa butter, the fat part of every cocoa bean, is a much more expensive fat by comparison with other vegetable fats, one reason being that it has a low melting point. It’s also one of the reasons why we love chocolate so much, it melts very easily on the tongue and releases its flavours as it does do.

Let's talk about the health benefits of fine chocolate

Anyway, enough of the ranting about palm oil & sugar (where the health issues really are) and let’s talk about fine chocolate, why you should #rechox it & why you absolutely should #dechox on the industrial chocolate, not just for March but forever....

Andrew Baker of the Daily Telegraph wrote a very handy summary of ten scientifically established health benefits of good chocolate back in 2015 which makes a good place to start:
Click here to read his whole article with all the links to the various studies online:

1. It's good for the heart and circulation
A recent study found that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels - both common causes of artery clogging.
Here is the link to the study referenced here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227092149.htm

2. It reduces risk of stroke
Researchers in Finland have found that chocolate consumption lowers the risk of suffering a stroke - by a staggering 17 per cent average in the group of men they tested.

3. It's mineral rich
Dark chocolate is packed with beneficial minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium, and a 100g bar of dark (70 per cent or more) choc provides 67 per cent of the RDA of iron.

4. It reduces cholesterol
Consumption of cocoa has been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of “good” cholesterol, potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. It's good for your skin
The flavonols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage (though you'd better still slap on some sun cream).

6. It can help you lose weight
Chocolate can help you lose weight. Really. Neuroscientist Will Clower says a small square of good choc melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers the hormones in the brain that say “I’m full”, cutting the amount of food you subsequently consume. Finishing a meal with the same small trigger could reduce subsequent snacking.

7. It's good for mothers and babies
A Finnish study found that chocolate reduced stress in expectant mothers, and that the babies of such mothers smiled more often than the offspring of non-chocolate-eating parents.

8. It may prevent diabetes
It sounds mad, but cocoa has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. So dark chocolate - in moderation - might delay or prevent the onset of diabetes.

9. Chocolate is good for the brain
Flavanols are thought to reduce memory loss in older people, and the anti-inflamatory qualities of dark chocolate have been found beneficial in treating brain injuries such as concussion.

10. Chocolate makes you feel better
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins.

An interesting study published in the British Medical Journal

For the scientists out there, here is a study published in the British Medical Journal in May 2011 that you may also find interesting:
Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis
This is the link: http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d4488
If you don’t want to read the whole study, I have posted these 3 paragraphs from the end of it:

Cocoa products and chocolate have been consumed and enjoyed by humans for centuries. Although over-consumption can have harmful effects, the existing studies generally agree on a potential beneficial association of chocolate consumption with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Our findings confirm this, and we found that higher levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one third reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Corroboration is now required from further studies, especially experimental studies to test causation rather than just association.

What is already known on this topic
The prevalence of cardiometabolic disorders is increasing worldwide
Cocoa and chocolate have been suggested to have antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, and anti-thrombotic effects

What this study adds
This meta-analysis of six cohort studies and one cross sectional study showed increased chocolate intake was significantly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
This beneficial association was significant for any cardiovascular disease (37% reduction), diabetes (31%), and stroke (29%), but no significant association was found in relation to heart failure

Still Sceptical?

Here are some other links on this topic too if you are still not sure:




All of these studies come with the caveat that what we are talking about it here is the moderate consumption of fine chocolate that is high in cocoa solids, low in sugar & without being adulterated by the inclusion of any vegetable fats.
As my Scottish granny would say “a little bit of what you fancy does you no harm” & now I add, “ and that actually a little bit of fine low sugar chocolate can actually do you some good!”

Final Thoughts

Finally, customers often find it odd when I say that you can be a chocoholic without being a sugarholic and that I don’t have a sweet tooth. in fact, the longer I have worked in the fine chocolate industry the less sweet my tooth has become as I appreciate more & more just how packed full of sugar most chocolate & other sweet treat products are & all unnecessarily so! So let the flavours of the chocolate be the hero, don’t drown those fabulous flavours with sugar.

I will let Andrew Baker have the last word in this blog as I think he captured the essence of what businesses like ours in the fine chocolate world are trying to do to bring the wonderful world of fine chocolate to more British consumers & educate everyone about the difference between industrial and fine chocolate:

“As a chocolate lover I would also add that certain kinds of chocolate can be good for the soul: this is chocolate for which the raw materials have been grown with care by farmers who are properly rewarded for their work; then processed by people who take time and care in their work, and finished by chocolatiers who love what they do. It will not be mass-produced, and it may not be cheap. But it will be good for you, heart and soul”.


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