The Newest and Sweetest Health Food

By: KELLY SHERIDAN

Chocolate, the beloved snack food of so many people, has never been associated with weight loss. In fact, when overweight individuals decide to lose a few pounds, chocolate is one of the primary foods to be avoided. However, research shows that rather than being detrimental to a diet, chocolate can actually be beneficial to weight loss. The British Medical Journal recently reported the findings of a study which concluded that regular chocolate consumption may result in a lower body mass index.


So, could chocolate be the key to a summer slim down? It sounds almost too good to be true! Weight loss is only the most recently discovered benefit of chocolate consumption. Although the effects of chocolate on weight had not previously been thoroughly tested, over recent years researchers have been finding that frequent consumption of the sweet can result in numerous health benefits. Decreased cardiovascular risk and lower blood pressure are two such examples, as well as improved cholesterol. It has not yet been determined what exactly causes these positive results. Because chocolate is so high in sugar, fat, and calories, one would not think it to have a positive effect on any aspect of human health, especially on weight. However, it has been hypothesized that the antioxidants in chocolate, in addition to its other compounds, may have an effect on the metabolism. This metabolic adjustment would compensate for chocolate’s high caloric content.

This sweet study was led by Dr. Beatrice A. Golomb, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. About 1,000 middle-aged adults participated, all of whom exercised about three times per week and consumed chocolate twice per week. Researchers observed the participants’ exercise regimens, caloric and fat intake, and how each individual’s health and weight corresponded with how much chocolate was consumed. During the study, the type of chocolate consumed by the participants, whether it was milk, dark, or white, was not significant. After a period of observation, the results concluded that those who ate chocolate five times per week had a lower BMI (body mass index) than those who did not eat any. There was a five to seven pound weight difference between the two groups – with chocolate eaters weighing less! It should also be noted that this study accounted for various factors among the participants such as age, fat and calorie intake, gender, psychological state and vegetable consumption.

Though this news is welcomed by all members of the chocolate-loving community, it is not a sign that everyone should run out and consume as much candy as possible. Reports of the study emphasize that it was the frequency of chocolate consumption, and not the amount consumed, which contributed to weight loss. Those who ate chocolate often, but in large amounts, tended to weigh more than those who ate a smaller amount at the same times.

Stacy Rothschild, a registered dietician and nutritionist, had some great advice for including chocolate into a healthy diet. However, she recommends dark chocolate over milk or white due to the fact that it contains a higher percentage of flavanols, a component which improves heart health. Furthermore, unlike its sweeter counterparts, dark chocolate is easier to limit in regards to portion size. “Dark chocolate is richer, so people are satisfied after eating a smaller amount of it,” says Rothschild. Because a healthy amount of chocolate equates to only a couple of ounces per day, that small serving should be satisfying. Milk chocolate, in contrast, is sweeter and less rich, so people are more likely to eat a greater amount of it before becoming satisfied. When selecting a dark chocolate, she recommends choosing a kind that contains 70 percent cacao or more.


Rothschild also notes the importance of eating a healthy meal before indulging in a serving of chocolate. “People often eat chocolate when they’re hungry. Because they’re trying to satisfy themselves, they end up eating more. It’s better to have a well-balanced, healthy meal first, and then a small chocolate dessert afterwards.” Though some readers may not be fans of dark chocolate given its slightly more bitter taste, Rothschild has quite a few recommendations for healthy dark chocolate recipes. Here are a few of her favorite dark chocolate snack recipes:

  • A few squares of pure dark chocolate (70 percent cacao or greater)
  • Cocoa powder mixed in low-fat or skim milk makes for a delicious chocolate drink
  • Homemade chocolate chip cookies can be made healthily by using whole-wheat flour and semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Make-your-own trail mix with nuts, semi-sweet chocolate chips and dried fruit – nuts are a plus, because they also provide protein and have heart-healthy qualities
  • Dark chocolate covered almonds
  • Fresh fruit dripped in melted dark chocolate
  • Dark chocolate chips with peanut butter
  • Dark chocolate chips in Greek yogurt, which is another protein-filled snack

For those that really cannot stand the bitter taste of dark chocolate, Rothschild highly recommends the cocoa-and-skim milk combination, or a small serving of chocolate low-fat frozen yogurt. Both of these still satisfy a chocolate craving, and neither has a huge amount of calories.

From now on, there is no reason to feel guilty about a couple squares of chocolate, a small chocolate ice cream cone, or some chocolate covered pretzels. It’s always been common knowledge that chocolate is good for the soul – but now, it’s good for the body, too!

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10 Comments on “The Newest and Sweetest Health Food”

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