Food & Drink What is the healthiest chocolate for easter eggs?

What is the healthiest chocolate for easter eggs?

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It can even help you lose weight: neuroscientist Will Clower says that a square of good chocolate melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers the hormones that tell the brain the eater is full – cutting the amount subsequently consumed.

None of this is a green light to consume colossal quantities of chocolate, no matter how virtuous the brand. So how much is good for you? A 2017 study indicated that moderation is key. Eating up to 30g of chocolate up to three times a week may help to reduce the risk of strokes and developing coronary heart disease and diabetes.

The key ingredients in chocolate that make you feel good and improve your health, notably theobromine and flavanols, are most concentrated in dark chocolate: so the best prescription for choc-related health is small, regular quantities of dark (70 per cent-plus) chocolate.

The good for the planet

Ethical concerns are also a factor: confectionery giants cannot guarantee that the cocoa beans in their bars are grown with respect for rainforests and human rights because the quantities they require are so vast that origins cannot accurately be recorded.

Smaller producers obtain beans from accredited sources and growers they know. My favourite guilt-free bars are Tony’s Chocolonely which make bold and praiseworthy statements about slavery on their packaging; Divine is partly owned by African farmers while Willie’s Cacao buys direct from growers.

Your chocolate lexicon

The bad

It’s important not to demonise chocolate: it brings pleasure to many, and an income to millions. Dr Kristy Leissle, who has lived in Ghana for many years studying the cocoa industry there, says that the best thing that concerned consumers can do for cocoa farmers in Africa is to “Buy chocolate. Any chocolate.”

But what of the health concerns? The best rapid indicator of the quality – and health credentials – of a bar of chocolate is the ingredients list. As Angus Thirlwell, founder and boss of Hotel Chocolat, likes to say, “If the first ingredient on the list isn’t cocoa, don’t buy it.”

Perennial favourite Cadbury Dairy Milk remains, according to the latest research from The Grocer, Britain’s most popular chocolate bar. First ingredient? Sugar. What about Galaxy, the great rival? First ingredient: sugar. A tiny bar of either of these, 45 and 42g respectively, will provide almost 20 per cent of an adult’s daily recommended intake of fat.

Cadbury Dairy Milk

Surely swanky brands are better for you? Not necessarily. Look at a classy, slender, scarlet and gold bar of Swiss Lindt Lindor: First ingredient: sugar. Second: vegetable fat. In fact, 44 per cent of this elegant, sophisticated item is fat.

It is true that the beneficial ingredients in chocolate, theobromine and flavanols, are present in high-fat, high-sugar milk and white chocolate as well as healthier dark versions. But they are diluted, so in order to obtain useful quantities of what is good for you, you have to consume much too much of what is bad for you.

There is no way to portray mass-produced chocolate as good for you: if you have to eat it, moderation is your only protection.

The delicious

Thankfully a combination of effective campaigning by the medical profession and campaigners means that chocolate is on the whole becoming less unhealthy and less bad for the planet. Portion sizes are coming down, and major producers are paying more attention to the pay and conditions of growers.

The chocolate in our shops – even own-brand supermarket offerings – is tastier than ever before, and an ever-wider range of small-batch specialist bars are available from knowledgeable importers.

Hotel Chocolat

With so much chocolate to choose from there has never been a better time to educate your palate and shop around for chocolate that will repay greater attention. Specialist retailers such as Hotel Chocolat (now owned by the American confectionery giant Mars), Montezuma’s and Chococo employ knowledgeable staff and hold regular in-store tastings, while Cocoa Runners, who import a vast range of artisanal and ethical bars, have a range of tasting notes and educational videos on their site.

Cocoa Runners are the chocolate equivalent of The Wine Society – though no subscription is required. The range and variety of bars they offer is vast and potentially bewildering, which is why it is a good idea to browse their site for information as well as goodies.

But you can increasingly often find good, carefully and ethically produced chocolate at keen prices in supermarkets: both Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have excellent single origin bars, and Willie’s Cacao and Divine are keenly priced and widely stocked.

Andrew Baker is the author ofCake: A Slice of British Life (Mudlark)


Easter eggs for chocolate connoisseurs

Easter eggs

Hotel Chocolat 70% dark chocolate egg

£10.95,hotelchocolat.com

With a splattered “fried egg” decoration, and all vegan

Pump Street Dark Chicken and Eggs box (best for purists)

£9.95,pumpstreetchocolate.com

Simple and delightful from celebrated Suffolk bean-to-bar makers

Montezuma’s “Orloff” hen

£13.99,montezumas.co.uk

Milk chocolate with white and dark speckles from the ethical retailer

Dormouse Chocolate Egg on Toast bar

£6,cocoarunners.com

Witty milk and white chocolate treat from award-winning Manchester makers

Chococo milk chocolate dinosaur egg (best for children)

£15,chococo.co.uk

High-cocoa Colombian marbled milk chocolate with white and dark choc dinosaurs, from artisan makers on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

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