The word chocolate has long been synonymous with the city of York, tempting chocoholics and zealots of all things sweet on a sugary pilgrimage to our city in search of tasty treats and our gooey chocolate-drowned history. However, this lusting after the sweet stuff is nearly always laced with a flavour of guilt as the rational health-conscious you screams out health warnings that chocolate means calories, fat and all things we shouldn’t eat. Yet, there are a number of ways to silence our health-freak alter-ego and indulge in chocolate in a way that can be part of leading a fit and healthy lifestyle.
Chocolate has been an integral part of York’s history since the 18th century with Rowntrees and Terry’s factories dominating the York skyline, economy, smell and taste buds through the generations. The fault of all this chocolate hype is in fact the humble cocoa bean, the source tasty ingredient that has captivated hundreds of thousands of tongues under its sweet charm. Yet this little bean is also a source of great health, a little bullet of goodness, packed with flavonoids and theobromine, both of which pack a powerful punch in the face of disease. Flavanoids are antioxidants that are thought to help protect your vital little cells against any damage that might come from environmental sources or the natural processes of the body that may lead to the likes of heart disease and cancer. Dark chocolate in particular contains a mass of these wonder antioxidants, in fact a surprising 8 times more than the number found in strawberries, which makes it a great part of a balanced diet (provided you eat it with a certain sense of restraint).
But, above the simple physical benefits, chocolate is also a great boost for the mind. We all learn the universal truth that chocolate makes us smile from a pretty young age, nearly all of us having hit the bottom of a Roses tin after many a mini-tragedy. Yet, the science also proves that chocolate is capable of sparking off endorphins and serotonin which acts as an anti-depressant and a potent shot of happiness.
However, just before you fly to the corner shop on a monster chocolate hunt, it’s important to remember a few key facts. The further you move from the little cocoa bean and the more milk, sugar and fat is added to the chocolate, the more these health benefits fly out of the window. Cocoa itself is bitter and chalky so cannot be consumed alone but the higher per cent cocoa you opt for, the better the effects on your health. It is advised by health experts to enjoy that no more than 100g (3.5oz) of dark chocolate per day. Like all good wines, to get the best out of your chocolate, try to savour it as long as possible and make the most of flavour not quantity (tempting as it may be).
It can be hard seeking out healthy chocolate when the big brands loom so temptingly on the shelves of every news agents. So to get you on the real chocolate trail towards a health-giving love of the dark stuff, here’s a little healthy chocolatiers guide to some of my favourite sugar outlets in York that offer some of the best dark chocolate going:
- Chocolate Heaven (a.k.a. Monkbar Cocolates), no 7 the Shambles, York
- York Cocoa House, Blake Street York
- Betty’s Tea Rooms, 6-8 St. Helen’s Square, York and Betty’s Stonegate
- Hotel Chocolat, 34 Coney Street, York
- Hairy Fig, 39 Fossgate, York.
And if you want a real chocolate revolution, how about trying some of these scrummy-looking if slightly out-of-the-box chocolate recipes: