I quite often eat chocolate for breakfast. Real chocolate is extremely healthy stuff. It contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols - nearly twice the number contained in red wine and three times the number in green tea. It lowers insulin resistance, protects your nervous system and reduces your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease... among other things. But know this: it's only real chocolate that delivers these benefits.
OK, so what's real chocolate?
For starters, the real stuff is made using raw cacao, not cocoa. Cacao powder contains less than one per cent sugar and is a richly nutritious food. It's made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans. This ensures the living enzymes aren't destroyed. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, gets roasted at high temperatures which changes the molecular structure of the bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value. Not great.
Real chocolate is made using healthy fats, preferably cocoa butter. This dense fat separates from the powder when a cocoa bean is cold-pressed (it comes in big chunks and needs to be grated and melted down before using). It's got fabulous vitamin E content and makes for a creamier chocolate. Coconut oil is also a great option. It's a sweet oil extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts. It's great for making simple chocolates as the oil is sweet enough to not require much (if any) additional sweetener. I make my chocolate with a combination of both fats.
Real chocolate is sweetened with little or no sweetener, and preferably a fructose-free one. Like stevia or rice malt syrup. When you eat chocolate made with cocoa butter or coconut oil you'll be surprised how very little sweetener you need. I can eat 99% cacao chocolate when it's made with the right stuff!
In contrast most commercial chocolate is far from real. It can contain 50-60% sugar and is mostly made using unhealthy and oxidising vegetable oil.
So what do I actually eat?
My recipe for Fudgy Protein Bites in my Chocolate Cookbook is one of my favourites. I throw a bunch of ingredients into my basic chocolate recipe to transform them into nutrition-rich breakfast bombs - chia seeds and protein powder to power me through me morning, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, which are anti-inflammatory and balance out insulin levels, plus a little rock salt. I'll have one or two of those for breakfast, along with one of my green smoothies, the recipes for which you can find inI Quit Sugar, and I'm full until lunch. I also take my chocolate as a Chocolate Chip Mint Whip, which contains fresh mint and avocado. My Avocado Chocolate Mousse, made with plenty of spinach and avocado, is equally nutritious and totally suitable for breakfast.
Is any commercial chocolate OK?
The 85% cocoa stuff is OK in moderation. At least you're eliminating most of the sugar. Basically, whatever isn't cocoa is sugar, so a bar of 85% cocoa contains 15% sugar. A few squares is only one or two teaspoons of sugar. Try to buy raw chocolate, which uses raw cacao, or check labels for brands using cocoa butter.
But look out for...agave and coconut sugar! Often, vegan and raw-food diet products use agave, which is worse than normal sugar because it's about 70 to 90% fructose. Coconut sugar isn't quite so bad - it's about 40% fructose. Both are marketed as a "natural" alternative, but cane sugar is "natural" too, right? This is not the problem - the fructose is the problem.
Why is fructose such bad news again? We're not designed to metabolise fructose. It goes straight to the liver and gets stored as fat - and the worst kind, triglycerides, is stored around our organs. Many years ago when our cells were developing, there wasn't much fructose on the planet. Today, our biology hasn't changed much but our diets have. Even in two generations we have gone from up to 1kg of sugar a year to 60kg per person a year! We crave it and store it as fat and it causes metabolic havoc, with science linking sugar to metabolic diseases and some cancers.
One extra bonus: chocolate for breakfast can also beat cravings! Real chocolate with real cocoa butter is a great way to stop cravings - it triggers the hormones in your brain that say: 'I'm full.' Chocolate switches off the need to crave and binge and gets your appetite back to normal.