Seriously, eat chocolate and lose weight?
There is scientific evidence to prove the statement ‘eat chocolate and lose weight’. Now before you rush to the cupboard or the store, there are a few clarifying facts you should know. This isn’t a bait and switch, you just need to ensure you have the right recipe to achieve the maximum benefits from this glorious antioxidant rich food. Yes, I classify it as a food. First, it’s not just ANY chocolate. Dark chocolate (look for 65-70% cocao) has proven health benefits. Cocao, has one of the highest levels of antioxidants loaded with flavonoids. It actually contains 5X more flavonoids then an apple! It enhances metabolism through the effect it has on the absorption and digestion of fats and carbohydrates making you feel fuller faster. In addition, it will lesson your cravings for sweet, salty, fatty foods. As if that wasn’t enough, and for most people, you may want to stop right here, but I insist you must read on. A word of caution before we proceed. Cocao is the hero here. It does have a bitter taste, so the butter and sugar often added to cocao to sweeten the flavor is what you need to watch out for. You still need to practice moderation. Suggested dosage, don’t you just love that term, is 7 ounces of dark chocolate a week or one once per day.
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So, what do you look for?
According to the University of Michigan School of Integrative Nutrition you can eat chocolate and lose weight – who by the way, has dark chocolate listed in their “healing foods pyramid”
Use the following guidance:
- > 60% cocoa
- Made from cocoa butter instead of fats such as palm and coconut oils. Although cocoa butter does contain significant amounts of saturated fat in the form of stearic acid, it has been shown to have a neutral effect on cholesterol unlike the saturated fat in both palm and coconut oils.
- Made without the use of ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oils, which are known to negatively impact cholesterol
- Darker is better: phytochemicals, like flavonoids, contribute to pigment. More flavonoids means darker chocolate and potentially greater health benefits.
- Chocolate is only as good as its ingredients; look for dark chocolate made from organic or fairly traded cocoa beans (Find a list of fair trade certified chocolate producers at: http://www.transfairusa.org/)
Also, worthy to note that milk acts as an inhibitor. In multiple studies, caseins (the protein found in milk) binds to polyphenals negating the positive antioxidant effects. Apparently the same is true for other antioxidant rich items such as tea and blueberries. Use dairy free milk alternatives instead such as almond milk, hemp, or coconut milk.
Another word of caution, cocao is high in oxalates. People who experience kidney issues and are susceptible to kidney stones should avoid oxalate producing foods. Cocao does contain caffeine and although research is inconclusive, it has been linked as a trigger for migraines in some people. Eating chocolate and losing weight may not be possible for those who should suffer from the issues mentioned and it is best to seek medical advice if you are unsure.
The Mayans considered it a cure-all
Reduce stress: A finnish study showed that women who ate chocolate during pregnancies, experienced less stress and their babies were happier and smiled more. Keep in mind this is because stress itself can leave an imprint on the fetus, although I suggest you do your own research and may want to continue to have your daily dosage to relieve stress over the next 18 years. Just a thought. Chocolate was also found in a Swiss study to reduce stress hormone levels in subjects who were very anxious.
Helps control insulin levels: An Italian study: “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production,” says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L’Aquila in Italy. “And that helps control insulin sensitivity.” Again, before taking any supplements (I’m referring to the chocolate here) please consult with your health care professional.
Improved alertness and brain activity: Researches at Oxford University, Norway and the University of Nottingham found that drinking cocoa rich in flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain for 2 to 3 hours. Next time you have a big test, presentation or an interview don’t forget your dose of dark chocolate. Make it peppermint dark chocolate and you’ll get a double bonus.
Sun protection: Yes, I didn’t see this one coming. According to London researchers chocolate flavanols’ sun-protecting capabilities. Subjects who ate chocolate with high levels of flavanols took twice as long for their skin to develop the reddening effect that indicates the beginning of a burn. So in addition what we’ve learned in the article on sunscreen, you can prepare for your next sunny holiday by adding dark chocolate to the list.
Cough suppressant: One study found that chocolate quieted coughs almost as well as codeine without the side effects of feeling sleepy and foggy. This may be due to theobromine, found in chocolate which may suppress the vagus nerve in the brain. Chocolate vs codeine, natural remedies are not only healthier, they can be tastier too.
Don’t forget your daily dose
So, there you have it. A metabolism booster so you can eat chocolate and lose weight and so much more. It’s no wonder this rich and creamy commodity has been coveted by people for thousands of the years. The Aztecs even used it as money. Just be sure to watch out for added sugars and take note of the list above of what to look out for when reading labels. I typically reserve my dose for the weekends for items like chocolate chip vegan cookies, guilt free chocolate mousse or to add to our Paleo Thai pancakes. Enjoy!