Colorful and foil-covered chocolate Easter eggs donâ€™t just look pretty, they also are good for you! (No, this is not an early April Foolâ€™s Day joke.)
Before you get too excited, there is a caveat. The eggs should be dark chocolateâ€”not milk, white or any of the cream-filled varietiesâ€”and they must be eaten in moderation (one to two eggs, tops, or maybe an ear or a tail if you’re biting into a dark chocolate bunny). â€œDark chocolate is rich in healthful antioxidants called flavonoids, but itâ€™s also high in fat and calories,â€ says Brookline, MA, nutritionist Dana R, Greene, RD. Now before you dig deep into that Easter basket, we’re only talking chocolate here and no other Easter themed candy counts, so keep your hands off the PeepsÂ® or Jelly BellyÂ® jelly beans.
Still, the good news about dark chocolate is spreading like NutellaÂ®. Recent reports out of the UK show that Easter eggs make up 10 percent of the countryâ€™s yearly chocolate spendâ€”and chocolate sales are up 22 percent in recent years.
And with good reason! Since a delicious body of evidence links dark chocolate to important health benefits. One large study out of Germany showed that eating an amount equal to about one small Easter egg may lower your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
But the benefits don’t stop with the cardiovascular system. “Antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to help protect your skin from free radicals caused by UV light. It doesn’t take the place of applying sunscreen, but eating a little dark chocolate when you apply sunscreen certainly will make the process a little sweeter,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
One study put the connection between dark chocolate and sun protection to the test. Women who added flavonoid-rich hot cocoa to their breakfast for three months had 25 percent less skin reddening after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light and doubled the flow of blood in the skin, which made skin appear smoother and more hydrated.
â€œDark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and can be beneficial for your skin,â€ says New York City dermatologist Michele Green, MD. â€œEnjoy a guiltless Easter egg, just donâ€™t forget your sunscreen.â€