A chocolate affair

February was the month of love and chocolate. The shops have already packed away their Valentine’s treats and replaced them with Easter delights and in a few weeks they will start stocking up on Mother’s Day goodies.  Everywhere you look, there’s always chocolate. It’s at the centre of every celebration.

And why not? As a chocoholic I firmly believe that life’s too short to not love chocolate. The taste, the aroma, the creamy texture, the wonderful way it melts in your mouth and transports you to heaven - everyone should experience this seductive pleasure at least once a week.

At this point you may wonder how chocolate became the theme of a healthy eating newsletter? But allow me the sweet indulgence of convincing you that a bit of chocolate can actually be good for you.

It’s not just a coincidence that chocolate has such power over us. The cocoa in chocolate triggers the chemical phenylethylamine, which happens to be the same hormone we release when falling in love. Chocolate also releases the body’s feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. No wonder the ancient Mayans called it "the food of the gods"!

The link between love and chocolate goes much deeper than just Cupid and Valentine’s cards. It is literally good for your heart.

Here’s how chocolate does its magic: the cocoa in chocolate (especially the dark variety) is rich in flavonoids which act as antioxidants. These antioxidants protect your body from free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Flavonoids can also relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure, which may reduce the risk of certain illnesses, such as heart attacks, hypertension and atherosclerosis.

The flavonoids also help to keep your brain smart, whereas the magnesium in chocolate may help fight PMS and alleviate cramps and the serotonin in chocolate acts as an antidepressant. There are many more reasons to enjoy chocolates.

The golden rule to remember, though, is: the darker the chocolate the better it is for your health. Dark chocolate contains the most cocoa – the magic component with all the health-boosting qualities. And, as with all good things in life, don’t go overboard – stick to only a few squares of chocolate a day.

Go on! Enjoy a piece of heaven today.

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