However, the benefits of chocolate depends on the type of chocolate people choose from the supermarket aisles.
Dr Naila Arebi, Consultant Gastroenterologist at St Mark’s Hospital said: “Chocolate has traditionally been perceived as unhealthy yet many people are unaware of its health benefits.
“The more favourable and healthy variety stems from its source, the cocoa bean.
“Fermentation in the bean and subsequent extraction generates cocoa butter and releases a variety of vitamins and minerals such as potassium and anti-oxidants.”
Experts have revealed potassium can help regulate blood pressure.
Alicia McDonough, professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California has previously commented on the benefits of dietary potassium on hypertension – the medical term for high blood pressure.
A report in the American Journal of Physiology has looked at the effects of potassium on high blood pressure – with experts suggesting it that ‘increasing dietary potassium’ can reduce blood pressure.
Raw chocolate – cacao especially – is high in potassium.
Dr Arebi added: “Cocoa beans also contain dopamine, phenylethylamine and serotonin, chemicals with powerful antidepressant properties that also promote wellbeing.
“In addition, theobromine is another component of the cocoa bean and has caffeine like properties.”
Dr Arbei said a variety of antioxidants are released from the bean directly and also released by further fermentation by the human gut bacteria.
She said: “Scientists have uncovered that beneficial chemicals are generated when cocoa is mixed with gut bacteria including the release of further anti-oxidants similar to those found in green tea renowned for its medicinal properties.”
It’s when chocolate is processed that is becomes bad for us
The doctor explained pure chocolate or dark chocolate ‘is good’ and is the type that has the benefits listed above.
“It’s when chocolate is processed that is becomes bad for us. Processing involves the addition of sugars and different forms of dairy products including cream and condensed milk.
“Both sugar and dairy can have an impact on the gut.”
Dr Arbei said sugars cause excess fermentation in the gut and can contribute to bloating and excess wind.
“Dairy products can also contribute to these symptoms as lactose breaks down to the sugars glucose and galactose which can then lead to fermentation,” she said.
“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.
“This Easter, don’t shun chocolate.
“Try to enjoy the long weekend by aiming for dark chocolate high in anti-oxidants (reflected in its high cocoa content) with little additional sugars and milk.
“Do indulge in the occasional milk chocolate which has a smoother and velvety texture due to addition of alternative butters and milk as dark chocolate tend to be more bitter and crumbly.”