Canberra expert says some Easter Eggs harm your health less than others

TREATS: Kingston foreshore's Max Brenner store supervisor Sundra Singh has seen boosted trading in the lead up to Easter. Photo: Karleen Minney
TREATS: Kingston foreshore's Max Brenner store supervisor Sundra Singh has seen boosted trading in the lead up to Easter. Photo: Karleen Minney

Many people feel guilty after demolishing an eggs-essive chocolate supply at Easter time.

But a Canberra nutritionist believes chocolate eggs harm the body less than most people think, provided they shop wisely.

Associate Professor of Nutritional Science at the University of Canberra Dr Duane Mellor said there were many health benefits to the cocoa found in chocolate.

He explained that the more cocoa the chocolate contained, the better it was for you.

"Cocoa has what's called polyphenols which have a number of effects including making good vessels more bouncy so that blood can flow through more easily, which is good for the heart," Dr Mellor said.

"Work I did in the UK also showed that when people were given chocolate there were actually improvements in HDL, or beneficial cholesterol."

The advantages of cocoa were similar to the effects of the positive compounds in green teas.

Unfortunately for consumers, most chocolate found at grocery stores had low concentrations of cocoa in favour of milk solids, added flavours, modifiers and preservatives.

But Dr Mellor said some specialist chocolate retailers sold chocolate with at least 80 per cent cocoa, the ideal amount.

And if you have the choice of milk chocolate of dark chocolate, Dr Mellor said dark chocolate was much better for the waist-line.

Of course, the high levels of sugar and fat in chocolate eggs did not mean dark ones with lots of cocoa were healthy. As with most sweets, the key was to consume in moderation.

However, studies show some people have a much harder time curbing chocolate cravings than others, particularly at Easter time.

While the legitimacy of chocolate addiction is debated among nutritionists, a Yale University study found participants experienced similar brain patterns when they drank a chocolate milkshake as people do when they take drugs. This related to excessive amounts of sugar and fat.

In some animal studies, restricting high-sugar and high-fat foods induced a stress-like response similar to the withdrawal symptoms of drug addiction.

This is where university of Canberra clinical psychologist Vivienne Lewis offered some helpful advice.

In the face of endless advertising and large-scale displays this Easter weekend, she urged "chocoholics" to make a conscious effort to control their portions, and avoid having too much chocolate in the house.

"If you are a big sugar person, at Easter time you're more likely to overdo it with the chocolate," she said.

"Also, a lot of people associate eating chocolate with feeling down or depressed. For those people, it's about remembering that chocolate makes you feel better temporarily until that good feeling wears off and turns into anxiety over overeating."