There’s nothing better than lashings of chocolate spread on a piece of hot toast or piled high on a stack of pancakes, and for many, that spread just has to be Nutella. With World Nutella Day back for the 14th year and mouthwatering photos everywhere, the cravings are real.
But you might have that little niggle in your head telling you that this particular chocolate spread isn’t exactly healthy – and you’d be right! With the two main ingredients being sugar and fat (palm oil, albeit the sustainable variety) there’s no getting away from the fact Nutella might be something you eat occasionally, but probably not in large quantities or regularly.
But take it from a Fit Squad DXB personal trainer and nutrition coach: you don’t have to sit out World Nutella Day. That’s why I’m breaking down some of the healthier benefits of Nutella ingredients – and offering some alternatives. You’re welcome.
Healthier immune system
Nutella is packed with roasted hazelnuts and they come with a long list of health benefits, with one cup providing more than 80 percent of your recommended vitamin E requirement. Vitamin E is essential for growth, development, repair of body tissues and the formation and maintenance of a healthy immune system. Vitamin E also fights off invading bacteria and viruses.
Improved brain function
Studies have shown that polyphenols and flavanols, which are both found in cocoa (one of Nutella’s seven ingredients) can help with improved blood flow to the brain, the production of brain cells and brain function as a whole. They may also help in preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Properties in cocoa have also been linked to lowering blood pressure and reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Better bone health
Nutella contains skimmed milk powder, which is not only a good source of protein, but also contains a fair amount of calcium. Two tablespoons contains four percent of your recommended daily allowance, as well as the calcium which is essential to build and protect your bones. Milk is also rich in a whole range of vitamins and minerals including potassium, B12, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, magnesium, zinc and thiamine (B1). And who stops at two tablespoons, anyway?
The superfood in Nutella is hazelnuts, which are packed with antioxidants that combat the free radicals that can damage skin, leading to younger looking skin and the ability to better fight skin cancers by protecting your skin from UVA and UVB rays. Flavanoids from the nuts also regenerate skins cells by eliminating dead cells, in turn giving you healthier skin.
If you’re a real Nutella fiend you can at least be reassured by the protein. A generous 100 gram serving of Nutella (about four heaped tablespoons) will give you 6.3g of protein, which is not bad for a naughty treat. The benefits of increased protein are endless: from the make up of cells, the maintenance and repair of muscle, bone and tissue to the production of enzymes and hormones.
Not convinced? Or looking for alternative spreads this World Nutella Day? Try these two options, available in the UAE…
Brinkers La Vida Vegan Chocolate Spread
Although no better in terms of the amount of fat or sugar, it might appeal to those who live a cleaner, more sustainable life. As well as being vegan, it contains no palm oil, the product is fair-trade and 100 percent organic and gluten-free to boot. Look out for the high protein option.
Available from Soil Store, Al Seef Village Mall Abu Dhabi, Dh42
This healthier alternative is loaded with nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, flax seeds, hazelnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds) combined with direct trade 65 percent dark chocolate. The low-sugar, high-protein option might not be as chocolatey as Nutella, but it still tastes great.
Available from Desert Cart, Dh12 for a six pack (12 ounces each).
Encas Hazelnut and Chocolate Spread
French health coach and entrepreneur Justine Dampt’s 100 percent plant-based spreads are gluten and dairy-free and contain “no nonsense.” The cashew and caramel spread is delicious, too, and this product is not only all-natural, it’s made right here in the UAE.
Available from Encas.me Dh45 per jar.