This weekend, you're probably planning to eat more egg-shaped chocolate than many would consider possible. And good for you. Reach for the stars, shoot for the moon, climb the highest mountain. Believe in yourself and your chocolate consumption abilities.
We all know the health deal with chocolate – lots of sugar; consume in moderation; dark chocolate can actually be quite good for you blah blah blah. But do you know what chocolate does to your gut? Gut health is, after all, the thing everyone's talking about this year. Dr Naila Arebi, Consultant Gastroenterologist at St Mark’s Hospital, has kindly stepped up to answer our questions about chocolate and gut health. And guess what - it's not all bad!
Before we even start talking about the gut, she explains that, "A variety of antioxidants are released from the cocoa bean (in the chocolate) directly." Good start. She then adds that more interestingly, more antioxidants are released by further fermentation in the gut. "Scientists have uncovered that beneficial chemicals are generated when cocoa is mixed with gut bacteria including the release of further antioxidants similar to those found in green tea renowned for its medicinal properties."
So that basically means chocolate is good for us right?
Well, not really. Calm down. Let's not get too excited. Pure chocolate or dark chocolate, Dr Arebi explains, is made from cocoa beans which contain dopamine, phenylethylamine, and serotonin - all chemicals with "powerful antidepressant properties".
However, when chocolate is processed and mixed with lots of different sugars and forms of dairy, it's unsurprisingly, not so good for us.
"Both sugar and dairy can have an impact on the gut." Dr. Arebi says. "Sugars cause excess fermentation in the gut and contribute to bloating and excess wind." Nice.
She continues, "Dairy products can also contribute to these symptoms as lactose breaks down to the sugars glucose and galactose which can then lead to fermentation. People who are lactose intolerant should be able to tolerate most dark chocolates but should always read the ingredients in case there are flavours containing lactose."
If you are aiming to be kind to your gut this Easter then Dr. Arebi recommends aiming for "dark chocolate high in anti-oxidants with little additional sugars and milk."
All-in-all though it's Easter, so, if you want to eat loads of chocolate, even she says go right ahead and "indulge in the occasional milk chocolate".
I'll take six Creme Eggs please.