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Mood enhancer, cholesterol lowerer and waistline whittler – the list of chocolate’s apparent health benefits is beguiling. But do they stack up, and which type is best?

EVERYONE LOVES A POSITIVE SPIN on chocolate. Headlines seize on any little snippet that it may be beneficial to our health and blow it into sensational proportions. A recent news story claiming that two chocolate bars a day can cut the risk of stroke and heart attacks is nice to hear while munching on a chunky KitKat! But is there any truth in these claims? And what impact will tucking into the selection box have on our general health?

What are the health claims?

The idea that chocolate is good for us has come about due to it containing phytochemicals such as flavanols (made up of different flavonoids). Studies have shown these have an antioxidant effect, lapping up free radicals in the body, which may help us to reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. Cocoa contains more flavanols than black tea, green tea and red wine and, as a nation of chocolate lovers, trends show that we’re increasingly switching to higher-quality chocolate for its perceived health benefits.

50g dark chocolate has around 40mg caffeine –the same as a cup of tea. It could well fire up your central nervous system and leave you finding it hard to get to sleep. Save your dark chocolate treat for when you really need an energy boost.

Retail results indicate that large numbers are turning their backs on more sugary chocolate brands – 12 of the biggest, including Dairy Milk, Aero and Maltesers, have lost £78 million in sales over the past year, according to Mintel.

On the other hand, shelves are now filling up with raw, organic, dairy-free ‘mylk’ chocolate, probiotic chocolate balls and bars with added ‘benefits’ – all geared towards the health-conscious chocolate lover.

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