Is chocolate good for your health? 

Yes, but when it is produced with sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oil, it results in weight gain. July 7 is World Chocolate Day

Jeyadra Viyaselvan recommends using cocoa powder instead of readymade chocolate bars to make treats.

A debate is always afoot is about whether chocolate is good for health. Many studies say eating chocolate improves heart health and skin quality. On the other hand, chocolate is blamed for weight gain.

Neetha Bhoopalam, president of the Karnataka chapter of the Nutrition and Natural Health Sciences Association, says chocolate is high in antioxidants, so having small quantities is healthy.  “But the problem with commercially marketed brands is that they use a lot of hydrogenated vegetable oil. There’s barely any cocoa in them,” she says.

A small amount of high-quality dark chocolate consumed up to three times a month may protect women from heart failure, a Harvard study suggests.  Other studies say moderate consumption of chocolate can help lower blood pressure, improve heart function and bring down risk of stroke. 

“Many chocolate lovers don’t go in for the organically produced variety as they are expensive, but those are the only ones that are good for you. Cocoa has to go through several processes — harvesting, drying, roasting, seeding— before becomes pure cocoa powder,” says Neeta. 

She recommends chocolates high in cocoa as that’s when it is low on other ingredients such as sugar. 

Some home bakers are conscious about the health aspects. 

Jeyadra Viyaselvan,  founder of Cupcakes, Cakes and Cookies, recommends cocoa powder instead of ready chocolate bars in the making of chocolate items.

“In fact, a chocolate bar usually has 50 per cent fat in it. You are consuming more calories on top of that because of the added sugar,” she says.

Sugar-free chocolates are now available in the market. Jeyadra says chiffon cakes, Japanese cotton cake and French Genoise are healthy home chocolate options. 

Chocolate and weight gain

Nutritionist Naini Setalvad says there‘s no way to consume chocolate and not gain weight.

“The way to eat chocolate and not worry about weight is to eat very small quantities. But as a community, we prefer sweetness over bitterness. So for the Indian market to really sell sweets, it has to be creamy and sugar-filled,” she adds. 

Adding raisins is better than adding sugar. It adds sweetness and is a healthier option, she says.  

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