Chocolate as a health food is now so widely documented it hardly feels like news any more, but of course it does no harm to remind ourselves of it’s benefits when untarnished with excess sugar and vegetable fats if only to live with chocolate indulgence and a clean conscience.
Once regarded as a health sin, chocolate is now being hailed as a superfood because of the high levels of health-boosting antioxidants it contains. Other ingredients include theobromine, which is good for the nervous system.
A recent study at Imperial College London showed chocolate can suppress persistent coughing. Another compound, phenylethylamine, is thought to have a mood-boosting effect. Meanwhile, antioxidants in chocolate are said to protect the skin against UV damage. They also boost cardio-vascular health (these health benefits all accrue from dark chocolate, as it is higher in cocoa solids).
In fact, so good is chocolate that it’s no longer just a healthy indulgence – some doctors are now recommending it as a form of treatment. Dr K.K. Atsina, formerly of the University of Ghana Medical School, has used cocoa powder “as an adjunct to treatment of hypertension and diabetes in my clinic for a very long time”.
Another Ghanaian doctor, Professor F. Kwaku Addai, writing in the journal Medical Hypotheses, describes how he recommends two to five cups a day to help protect against malaria. “I used to get malaria at least once a year” he says. “But since 2004, when my family started drinking unsweetened natural cocoa mixed with hot water, we have not had it.” He says other doctors use it to help with everything from eyesight to asthma.
Closer to home, patients of Professor Dan Reinstein, a top laser eye surgeon at Harley Street’s London Vision Clinic, are encouraged to eat “as much as they can” 30 minutes before surgery..