Choc o’clock

One of my former desk neighbours was a chocolate-lover. At 3 o’clock every afternoon, I would announce “It’s choc o’clock!” and then head to the vending machine to secure a variety of chocolate treats for him, myself, and any other interested parties. Back then I saw it as a guilty pleasure; a naughty-but-nice indulgence to sustain me through the final couple of hours of the working day. Now I know better. While the chocolate I bought for my colleagues was far from ideal, what is now well-known is that good-quality chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids (at least 70%) can be extremely beneficial to health.

There are several reasons for dark chocolate’s elevation to superfood status.   It contains epicatechin, a potent antioxidant which has been shown to improve heart health and lessen the effects of type II diabetes.  It reduces insulin resistance by improving how beta cells – the pancreatic cells which produce insulin – work.  Fat-phobics can munch away with impunity – the saturated fat dark chocolate contains consists largely of stearic acid, which does not exert any negative effects on lipid profiles.   A word of caution, though – if you are chronically stressed or have been diagnosed with sub-optimal adrenal function, then it would be wise to steer clear of chocolate until you are back on the straight and narrow. Chocolate contains caffeine which can tax already-fatigued adrenal glands even further and interfere with sleep. For this reason, you should ideally indulge in your dark square fix no later than lunchtime, although if some happens to come your way at a dinner party later on you’d be foolish not to oblige.

Over the past few months – purely in the interests of research, you understand – I have been trying as many 100% cocoa chocolate bars as I can. I have to warn you that 100% chocolate has a taste that really isn’t for the unitiated. It has a bitter, intense flavour and if you still include a fair amount of sweet-tasting food in your diet then you may find this type of chocolate more of a punishment than a pleasure. Many connoisseurs recommend leaving a small square to dissolve in your mouth rather then devouring it at speed.  Look out for my upcoming blogpost in which I divulge which bars I ate and where I bought them.

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