Can I eat my Easter egg?

Article first published in Thyroid UK Harmony magazine March 2021

Easter is on the horizon and it seems to have morphed from a religious festival into a festival of chocolate. Bunnies are not seen as representing Spring and new life, but have become just a different shape we can eat our chocolate in. 

So can we get away with a little chocolate binge this Easter? 

Should we be eating chocolate at all?

There are really three options when it comes to eating chocolate.

One is the (mostly) milk chocolate that contains very high levels of sugar, it’s highly processed and is the most readily available. It’s the chocolate most of us grew up with and there are endless ways to eat it.  It offers no real nutritional or health benefits and plenty of downsides.

The second is good quality dark chocolate which has become more popular recently. This does offer some nutritional benefits. It contains magnesium (low magnesium can often be the reason for a chocolate craving), iron, copper and manganese. The higher percentage of cocoa solids, the higher number of nutrients (and the least sugar). I usually recommend 70% or higher.

And thirdly we have raw chocolate. This contains cacao which means that, unlike cocoa (what the first two are made from), it has not been roasted. As it hasn’t been heated, the nutritional value is far higher.  The antioxidant properties (higher than in dark chocolate) have been shown in studies to aid numerous beneficial biological activities in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancers.

The downsides of chocolate

The high levels of sugar in chocolate contribute to inflammation in the body and can add to problems in the gut. The blood sugar spikes promote insulin resistance and exacerbate brain fog. Hypoglycaemia can result because of slow insulin response in hypothyroidism and it’s difficult to correct it.  And if that weren’t enough, this sugar rollercoaster means that we also crave more sugar.

Dark chocolate and raw chocolate generally have less sugar but they contain higher levels of caffeine and theobromine. These are both stimulants which can boost our mood and our energy but, like coffee, they can contribute to poor sleep and anxiety so it’s best to eat in moderation.

My chocolate recommendations

  1. Avoid super sweet regular high street chocolate
  2. Enjoy dark (over 70%) chocolate or raw chocolate as an occasional treat. Ie. a few times a week have a 20g portion size (about 2 large squares or 6 small ones, depending on the bar).
  3. Eat it with a handful of nuts or after a protein-rich meal, to lessen the impact on your blood sugar levels.

So, I wouldn’t recommend a binge on the Easter eggs, but treat yourself with a dark or raw chocolate Easter egg that you can eat in a few gos.  We don’t have to miss out but we do need to be mindful of the impact on our health.

 

Alice is a CNHC registered nutritional therapist and specialises in thyroid health.

She has a free Facebook group Get More Energy | Thyroid support for Tired Mums