Better with milk, white or dark? The nutritionist Chiara Manzi helps us to orient ourselves in the choice
Easter is upon us and the traditional chocolate egg will not be missing on Italian tables. Dark, white or milk, everyone has their favorite chocolate egg. A sensory pampering that, if granted in moderation, can have beneficial effects not only for the heart and brain, but also for the figure and mood.
- The nutritional characteristics
- An ally for heart health
- Help for the brain
- And the mood comes back up
- Friend of line and beauty
- Which one to choose
- The recommended dose
The nutritional characteristics
"Chocolate – explains Dr. Chiara Manzi, expert nutritionist and author of the book 'Cucina Evolution. In form without a diet '(Art joins nutrition editor) – it is a food rich in polyphenols, protective substances with a positive action on the antioxidant system of our body. Dark chocolate also contains minerals, such as magnesium, which is good for mood, phosphorus and iron, fiber, vitamins B1 and B2 ".
An ally for heart health
Eating at least 70% dark chocolate has excellent antioxidant effects on the cardiovascular system. "Many scientific studies – says the expert – attest that the regular consumption of 5 g of dark chocolate (equal to a square 2 or 3 times a week) lowers blood pressure, helps to reduce the deposition of cholesterol on the walls of blood vessels and protects against diabetes ".
Help for the brain
But there is more. Chocolate, especially very dark chocolate, rich in antioxidants, could help mental agility by enhancing the speed and accuracy of performing tests that test one's cognitive functions. This is suggested by a study in the Scientific Reports journal based on the analysis of the effects of the consumption of a cocoa-based drink, enriched with flavonoids, natural antioxidants also present in black chocolate (the one with the most bitter taste), but especially abundant in fruit and vegetables. .
Conducted by experts from the University of Birmingham, the research shows that after consuming the flavonoid-enriched cocoa drink, participants respond better to the mental tests they have been subjected to, especially if these tests are very complicated and especially if experimentally researchers reduce the concentration of oxygen in the environment where cognitive tests are performed. According to MRI scans, flavonoids work by improving blood circulation and oxygenation levels in the brain.
And the mood comes back up
"The consumption of dark chocolate also has positive effects on mood. Eating chocolate produces the same feelings of happiness and fulfillment as when we fall in love, ”adds the nutritionist. And its important molecules could also help ward off depression, reducing the risk by up to 70%. This is what emerges from a study led by University College London and published in the journal Depression and Anxiety. The credit goes to its many psychoactive ingredients, including two analogues of anandamide (which produce effects similar to the cannabinoid responsible for the euphoria in cannabis) and phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator believed to be important for mood regulation and implicated in the development of depression. .
Friend of line and beauty
Indirectly, then, the polyphenols contained in cocoa fight the free radicals responsible for aging. "In particular – points out Chiara Manzi – flavonoids regenerate tissue metabolism by carrying out an effective firming action. Therefore, thanks to the fluidifying action carried out by polyphenols on the blood, moderate consumption of chocolate improves circulation, to the benefit of both the skin and hair. In addition, the theobromine contained in cocoa helps to activate the functionality of the kidneys, stimulating diuresis, therefore the disposal of excess fluids ".
Which one to choose
The benefits listed above are obtained with at least 70% dark chocolate. Normally, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the higher the presence of flavonoids. On average, 100 grams of dark chocolate contain 50-60 mg, while in a similar amount of milk chocolate we find only 10 mg. "In addition – explains the nutritionist – the casein contained in milk chocolate neutralizes the benefits of polyphenols because the substance prevents intestinal absorption. This type, compared to the dark one, also has more sugars and a lower fiber content ". The percentage of flavonoids in white chocolate is actually nothing. “An enemy of the heart. Very rich in simple sugars, it does not contain cocoa, but cocoa butter, which has a high content of saturated fats ”.
The recommended dose
But beware: choosing dark chocolate does not mean authorizing us to take large quantities. “In everyday life – advises Dr. Manzi – the ideal dose is 5-10 grams per day, equal to one square. During the Easter period we can make an exception to the rule, but only for a limited time and without exaggerating ", concludes the expert.