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Is healthy chocolate really good for you?
Despite the backlash against the ‘clean eating’ movement, Britain’s passion for fitness and healthy eating shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

And this is reflected by what’s appearing on our supermarket shelves —every day, more and more ‘healthy’ products are launching, with all sorts of tenuous claims designed to hook us in and make us part with our cash, according to independent.co.uk.

High-protein, gluten-free, low-fat, sugar-free, vegan, all-natural… these labels are blasted across products with the intention of making us feel like we’re making healthier choices. And one area where this is particularly evident is chocolate.

Because even healthy people want their chocolate fix.

The latest findings from Mintel reveal that 37 percent of people are interested in chocolate made with all-natural ingredients, 35 percent in low-sugar chocolate and 27 percent in refined sugar-free chocolate.

This still makes up a small part of the market compared to standard chocolate, but it’s a market that’s growing.

Many chocolate brands proudly proclaim they’re all-natural, vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free and refined sugar-free.

And to make up for their lack of classic chocolate ingredients — namely milk, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass and vegetable fats — new so-called ‘healthy’ chocolate bars are made from cacao powder, cacao butter and raw cocoa mass and sweetened with dates, coconut blossom nectar and agave nectar amongst other ingredients.

Many healthy food bloggers proclaim the health benefits of raw chocolate: It’s supposedly high in vitamins and minerals (including magnesium, iron, flavonoids, phosphorous and calcium), full of antioxidants and is even an aphrodisiac.

Raw chocolate has been heralded for reducing the risk of heart disease, boosting energy and even protecting your skin from Sun damage.

However, it’s also addictive, high in caffeine (the unroasted cocoa beans used in raw chocolate contains almost the same level of caffeine as coffee beans) and some even claim it could be toxic.

 

So what’s the truth?

 

At the end of the day, sugar is sugar, regardless of whether it’s coconut sugar or white sugar and nutritionist Nichola Whitehead believes we shouldn’t be fooled by healthy-sounding ingredients like organic cane syrup and agave nectar.

Many studies have pointed out health benefits of dark chocolate, largely those with a cocoa content above 75 percent, unlike milk chocolate which is laden with sugar.

Whitehead said, “The higher the cocoa percentage, the more antioxidants and in general the less added sugar that there will be.”

Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert agrees, “I don’t believe chocolate can be divided into healthy or unhealthy it is more of a case of quality, lower sugar and higher cocoa.”

According to fellow nutritionist Amanda Hamilton, this discussion about whether ‘healthy’ chocolate is good for us or not is a bit of a red herring: “Yes, raw and high cocoa content chocolate is more nutrient rich and is good source of magnesium.

“But, it is still a food to eat in moderation. Let’s not pretend it is a bag of spinach and enjoy it for what it is — a delicious treat.

“So it appears we can’t demolish a sharing bar of supposedly healthy chocolate and feel virtuous.

“All the nutritionists we spoke to confess to a love of chocolate —they’re only human after all.”

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