Greetings fellow chocoholics. Are you still revelling in the hit after enjoying an Easter egg over the weekend? Please join me for a look at the health benefits of chocolate.

Chocolate contains flavonoids, substances known to have anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant properties that help mop up disease-causing agents in the body. It’s also full of the amino acid tryptophan, which is an essential ingredient of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin. As well as tryptophan, chocolate contains phenylethylamine. The body converts this to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps us experience pleasure.

The Mayans regarded chocolate as sacred, and credited the dark stuff with having medicinal qualities. Chocolate comes from the tree Theobroma Cacao. Theo means God in Greek and broma means food, hence, it is sometimes referred to as the “food of the gods”. From a health point of view, cacao is a key ingredient of chocolate. And flavonoids are found in the cacao tree. As potent antioxidant substances, they protect cells and tissues from the damage induced by “free radicals”, which have been implicated in the development of coronary heart disease and cancers.

A 1997 study by Harvard University researchers on the Kuna people was a key moment in crediting cocoa with substantial health benefits. The Kuna, who live on islands off the coast of Panama, have very low blood pressure, live longer, and have lower rates of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer than their peers on mainland Panama.

Researchers identified a major difference between the island-dwelling Kuna and those who live on the mainland: Kuna have a high consumption of cocoa, drinking, on average, more than five cups of the stuff a day.