Can munching on chocolate help you lose weight? Chocolate has a bad image as a high-calorie food that people trying to stay lean should avoid. Yes, chocolate is calorie-rich, but eating it has some surprising number of health benefits. The natural flavonoids in chocolate have been linked to improved blood vessel function and heart-healthy benefits. Even more surprising is the fact that eating chocolate could help with weight loss by helping to control cravings.
Eat Chocolate to Control Cravings?
Need to kick a craving to the curb? Munching on a little chocolate helps. It may also reduce your overall calorie consumption – if you choose the right kind. According to a study, dark chocolate has it all over milk chocolate when it comes to satisfying cravings and it also has greater overall health benefits.
Researchers at the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen gave participants 100-grams of either dark chocolate or milk chocolate after they had fasted for 12 hours. After eating the portion of each type of chocolate, researchers served them unlimited pizza and encouraged them to eat until they were full. Pizza and chocolate – sounds like a pretty decadent combination – but there’s an upside. Those who ate the dark chocolate prior to the pizza buffet consumed 15% fewer calories. The milk chocolate didn’t have the same calorie-curbing benefits, although the participants that ate either of the two types of chocolate felt less like eating sweet, fatty or salty foods afterward.
According to this research, eating modest amounts of dark chocolate has two benefits – it increases satiety and reduces calorie consumption at a subsequent meal. Plus, it curbs the desire to eat something sweet or high in fat. Plus, you get the added health benefits of the flavonoids in dark chocolate. Research shows that eating dark chocolate lowers blood pressure and may reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack, two of the most common causes of death. You won’t get that when you nibble on a doughnut or cookie. Plus, noshing on a little dark chocolate may reduce the desire to eat other unhealthy foods that are high sugar or fat. Maybe chocoholics are on to something.
Dark Chocolate Fights Cortisol
There’s another reason to enjoy modest amounts of dark chocolate. According to research published in the Journal of Proteome Research, eating as little as an ounce-and-a-half of dark chocolate daily lowers levels of stress hormones like cortisol that rise when your body is stressed. Cortisol is also a hormone linked with belly fat, so dark chocolate in moderation could help keep your midline slimmer. It’s also a source of monounsaturated fats that help to tame belly fat according to some studies.
Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of cacao than milk chocolate does. It’s also lower in fat and usually contains less sugar. Even more importantly, dark chocolate is richer in flavonoids, antioxidant compounds responsible for most of its health benefits. When choosing dark chocolate, you’ll get the most benefits by choosing one with a higher cacao content. Cacao content refers to the percentage of the chocolate that comes from the cacao bean.
Most experts recommend choosing a bar with a cacao content of 70% or greater. At some specialty chocolate stores and natural food markets, you can find dark chocolate bars with cacao contents as high as 99%. The drawback is the higher the cacao content of a bar, the more bitter it tastes.
Another way to get the benefits of dark chocolate without the fat is to buy raw, unsweetened cocoa powder. Use it to make hot chocolate, for baking and to sprinkle on oatmeal in the morning. Be sure to use non-dairy milk when you use cac0apowder to make hot chocolate. Dairy milk decreases absorption of the flavonoids.
The Bottom Line?
When you want something sweet, make a cup of hot chocolate using sugar-free cocoa powder or munch on a square of dark chocolate to satisfy a craving. You’ll get the health benefits of the flavonoids and reduce your cravings for other fatty, sugary foods. Dark chocolate in moderation is a guilt-free indulgence with a number of health benefits. Enjoy them!
Science Daily. “Dark Chocolate Is More Filling Than Milk Chocolate And Lessens Cravings”
“Journal of Proteome Research”; Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects; F.P. Martin et al.; Dec. 3, 2009.
Science Daily. “New Evidence That Dark Chocolate Helps Ease Emotional Stress”
Nature 424, 1013 (28 August 2003) | doi:10.1038/4241013a.