There’s only one thing that says Easter to me and that’s chocolate. It gives me a great excuse to eat it (fairly) guilt free unlike the other 51 and a half weeks a year when I beat myself up about it. And I LOVE chocolate; I really do. My first chocolate memory was when my Grandma used to come and babysit and bring with her a large family size bar of Dairy Milk. In those days it was enrobed in regal purple foil and then slipped into a paper wrapper with the two milk churns mischievously hinting that it might be good for you. My sister and I would have to wait for Columbo to start before she cracked it open, but it was worth the agonising wait. Sweet and smooth on your tongue – I have worshipped it ever since. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that my favourite read when I was a child was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Chocolate is my number one treat, my indulgence and it always leaves me begging for more. I like to eat chocolate when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m bored, when I’m celebrating, when I’m on holiday, when I need an afternoon energy boost, when I’m feeling depressed. Basically, I love eating chocolate in mostly any place at mostly any time of the day, month, or year.

chocolate-heart

I have expanded my tastes from Dairy Milk (and I can’t help but feel that Cadbury really sold our chocolate heritage to Kraft). My favourite at the moment is Hotel Chocolat. I think I am swayed by the romantic story of how the company founders bought a cacao plantation in St Lucia and started producing chocolate – my chocolate fantasy. Or is because they call their bars ‘slabs’ or buttons ‘puddles’? Either way, something of theirs can usually be found hidden in a old handbag or at the back of a kitchen cupboard.

Anyway, chocolate is not 100% unhealthy, dark chocolate has some real health benefits –

Chocolate prevents ageing – the antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables, that help fight free-radicals that lead to wrinkles, are just as potent in cocoa-rich chocolate.

Chocolate makes you happy and relaxed – chocolate can boost your mood and reduce symptoms of depression. It is also high in magnesium, which aids relaxation and contains anandamide, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate your mood. Chocolate also raises endorphin levels in the brain.

Chocolate lowers cholesterol, improves blood pressure and protects your heart – the flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the lining of arteries, to produce the gas Nitric Oxide. NO sends signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.

Chocolate protects your skin from the sun – flavonols also protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.

Chocolate helps your memory – consuming high-flavanol cocoa improves blood flow to the brain which means increased alertness and better performance.

To get all these benefits you need to be consuming a couple of squares of good quality, dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids. But in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying that tacky Crème Egg this Easter – what’s your favourite way to indulge? M

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