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Chocolate gluttony at Easter: How much is healthy and when does it become a concern?

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Chocolate gluttony at Easter: How much is healthy and when does it become a concern?

Easter time is snacking time. In the week before Easter, Germans buy more sweets than in any other week of the year. Unbeatable in first place: the chocolate Easter bunny. According to the Federal Association of the German Confectionery Industry (BDSI), more than 200 million of them are produced every year in this country alone – and not just because of its pretty appearance. Because of its incomparable taste, chocolate has always been one of the most popular luxury foods. Whether young or old, there is hardly anyone who can resist the sweet.

A record was reached in 2022 with 239 million chocolate Easter bunnies. This record was not reached this year; there were only 230 million chocolate Easter bunnies this year.

Chocolate brings us happiness

This is by no means reprehensible, after all, food scientists have extracted the ingredients from the cocoa bean that give the luxury food its incomparably special aroma. Only the interaction of several different chemical compounds leads to the uniquely intense taste of good chocolate.

In addition, the sugar it contains stimulates the reward system in the brain and sends out happiness hormones. The neurotransmitter dopamine has been proven to trigger a feeling of well-being in the body and leads to the desire to feel that way again – so, strictly speaking, we can’t really help it that chocolate tastes so good.

It sounds dangerous to the public, but it actually isn’t, because unlike drugs, chocolate is not addictive in the long term. A lack of self-control alone can make you fall victim to the temptation of the popular sweet. But is it really that bad every now and then? How much chocolate a day is still acceptable? And how does it affect our bodies?

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Cocoa – a true superfood

First the positive sides: It turns out that regular consumption of chocolate can even have health benefits. The flavanols contained in cocoa – so-called secondary plant substances – can make the blood vessels more elastic and thus have a slight effect on lowering blood pressure.

But the following applies here: the darker the chocolate, the better. The cocoa content of dark chocolate is best chosen with at least 60 percent cocoa mass and contains the most flavanols. White chocolate, on the other hand, is free of cocoa; it only contains cocoa butter – the fat from the cocoa bean – and sugar. In addition to flavanols, cocoa is rich in magnesium, iron, calcium as well as vitamins E, B1, B2 and niacin.

Unfortunately, the health benefits of cocoa do not give us a free pass to snack without limits. After all, conventional chocolate usually consists largely of sugar – and in the long run this not only makes us fat, but also sick.

The problem with too much sugar

First of all: Sugar per se is not “bad”. However, if consumed in excessive amounts, it can lead to overweight and obesity as well as diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, lipid metabolism disorders, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and joint diseases.

According to a study by the German Nutrition Society (DGE), the German Obesity Society (DAG) and the German Diabetes Society, the direct costs resulting from secondary diseases of excessive and frequent sugar intake are more than 8.6 billion euros annually – this is what the “Ärztezeitung” reports.

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The three specialist societies now consider the scientific evidence on the negative effects of excessive sugar consumption to be sufficient to recommend concrete upper limits for daily sugar consumption: No more than ten percent of the daily calorie requirement of 2,000 kilocalories should be consumed in the form of sugar – that’s the equivalent of a maximum of 50 grams of total sugar. This amount alone is contained in an average bar of chocolate – or an average chocolate Easter bunny.

The problem: The 50 grams not only includes household sugar, such as that found in chocolate or gummy bears, but also sugar from fruits, fruit nectar or fruit juices of all kinds. This means that the daily requirement is quickly exceeded – by 40 percent for adults and even for children and young people by a whopping 75 percent. Too much sugar can cause a lot of damage to the body: tooth decay, hair loss, skin diseases, listlessness, fatigue or nervousness are just a few of the consequences of a permanently too high dose of sugar.

How much (Easter) chocolate can you eat now?

As in many other areas, the guideline also applies to chocolate: the dose makes the poison. Since chocolate is very calorie-dense but lacks important vitamins, minerals and fiber, it should not make up the majority of the diet at Easter.

Even if you go overboard on the holidays, it’s no big deal – as long as it remains an exception. Chocolate cravings only become problematic when they occur in excess on a daily basis. Then it’s time for radical withdrawal and a check-up with your family doctor.

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stz/Federal Association of the German Confectionery Industry eV

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