I love chocolate, and so do most people I know. It’s apparently National Chocolate Day today, so it seems a perfect topic to write about.
Chocolate is generally considered an unhealthy food that we should eat less of, and your standard bar of Dairy Milk, Mars Bar or any other of the confectionery on offer at your local newsagents probably is, but this is largely because of the sugar content, and of course if you have a problem with dairy, which some ME/CFS sufferers do, it also contains milk.
However, dark chocolate (aim for at least 70% cocoa solids) has a much lower sugar content and no dairy and hence should be considered separately to milk chocolate.
One study, by Hull University, claims dark chocolate is beneficial to ME/CFS. Here’s a summary of a study. It was only with 10 patients, so it’s a very small sample, but encouragingly for chocolate lovers it did show that eating dark chocolate was beneficial to ME/CFS sufferers.
Although there doesn’t seem to be lots of evidence pointing to the benefits of dark chocolate, I didn’t find any saying it was harmful. It’s just that as with most topics and ME/CFS very little research has been done (perhaps we could persuade Lindt and/or Green and Blacks to fund a study).
There are scientific reasons why cocoa could help with ME/CFS symptoms. Firstly, it improves seratonin levels in the brain, which some research studies have shown to be affected in ME/CFS sufferers. Additionally, cocoa contains other chemicals and nutrients – eg magnesium, potassium, dopamine, and tryptophan, as well as antioxidants that have been linked to ME/CFS.
Based on the available information I see no problem making cocoa a regular part of my diet. The trick is to find tasty ways to consume it without eating lots of sugar.
1. Eat a small bar, or a couple of squares of dark chocolate
Unlike milk chocolate which I find it hard to stop eating, I can have a small amount of dark chocolate and return the bar to the cupboard. I quite often have a small amount in the evening.
2. Fabulous Fridge Cakes
You can find the recipe (by Dale Pinnock) on the Revital Website
This is a great way to consume not only cocoa, but healthy fats and fibre as well. Our whole family enjoys these fridge cakes. The website claims the benefits of this recipe include:
Heart & circulation – high blood pressure, high cholesterol: magnesium rich cocoa is believed to have a temporary lowering effect upon blood pressure. Essential fatty acids beneficial for reducing LDL cholesterol. Digestive system – constipation: high fibre to aid regularity.
3. Chocolate Fudge Balls
I got this recipe from my Nutiritionist (Thanks Nicola!). These are very rich. Whilst they’re not an ideal every day treat, they are great for a special occasion, and are certainly better than eating a mars bar.
- 3 cups dried coconut
- 1.5 cups cocoa powder
- 0.75 cups maple syrup or date syrup
- 0.5 cup of coconut butter, melted(I couldn’t find coconut butter, so I used coconut oil and it tasted great)
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla essence
- 0.25 – 0.5 teaspoon of salt
Mix all the ingredients together (I used a food processor) and form into approx 20 balls. For a better appearance roll in some extra coconut. Then place in petit four cases if you’re being fancy.
4. Chocolate Chia Pudding
I recently discovered this recipe by Oh She Glows and my son and I have had it for breakfast a couple of times – yum!
5. Chocolate Brownies
I was really pleased to discover this recipe for chocolate brownies, free of flour and refined sugar. Whilst all the dates mean that it could still cause blood sugar regulation issues (I used to struggle with that, but it’s no longer such an issue for me), it’s healthier than most brownie recipes. It’s probably not an ideal everyday treat, but as an occasional indulgence it’s delicious.
6. Chocolate Ice Cream
This is another easy recipe from my nutritionist, which we sometimes have for breakfast and sometimes for dessert.
- 1 bag of frozen strawberries
- 1 handful cashew nuts, almonds or hempseeds
- 1-2 cups of natural bio-yogurt or water
- 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder
Place all the ingredients in a blender, whizz until smooth and looks like ice cream. The recipe says this makes 2 large bowls, but I actually make 6 portions from this.
So there you have it. My 6 Great Ways to Enjoy Chocolate. Happy chocolate eating everyone, and if you know of any other delicious, nutritious chocolate recipes please let me know.