Eating chocolates leads to weight gain. If you regretfully believe this, here's the truth. Chocolates consist of cocoa solids, sugars, and fat. Cocoa solids contain flavonoids that are potent antioxidants. Dark chocolates are richer in cocoa solids than milk chocolates and thus, are the safer bet. A healthy heart and regulated blood pressure are perks of this self-indulgence. Moderation is key.
Chocolates fall into the category of irresistible foods for many of us, but they always leave behind the guilty pangs of a calorie overdose. But chocolate lovers across the world are now taking heart in research that links chocolate to – hold your breath – lower body fat. So how true is this? We know the suspense is killing you, so let’s begin by understanding what chocolate is made of and why it can be beneficial.
Inside The Chocolate
Cocoa beans are a good source of flavonoids, a group of plant-based phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties. Cocoa contains higher levels of flavonoids per serving than black tea, green tea, and red wine.
So how do we turn the cocoa beans into delicious chocolates? The beans are roasted and ground till we have cocoa liquor or cocoa solids. The solids are then further separated into cocoa butter (yes, the creamy addition to your favorite moisturizer) and cocoa powder. The flavonoids are only in the cocoa solids. While all forms of cocoa are used to make chocolate, the rest of the chocolate is just sugar, fat, and calories! So while you check chocolate labels to see how many calories it is, also take a look at the percentage of cocoa solids, which is an indicator of flavonoid content. Unsweetened cocoa powder can have up to 95 percent cocoa solids. Dark chocolate is your best bet, ranging from 45 to 80 percent cocoa solids, while milk chocolate has only about 5–7 percent!
Fit or Fat: The Chocoholic Trail
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a tool used to measure body fat using the height and weight of a person. Sampling studies show that regular consumption of chocolate in small quantities can actually reduce fat deposition and neutralize the impact of the additional calories. Imagine a diet plan that could actually include chocolate! Even after adjusting for activity levels and overall calories intake, those who ate chocolate were often found to have a lower BMI and hence lesser body fat.
But before you run off to stock up on your favorite chocolates, remember these were sampling studies involving self-reporting, that is, asking people how much they eat, exercise etc. More extensive clinical studies are needed to test this finding.
Before you lose heart, here’s the low-down on why chocolates, especially the good variety, should remain a part of your diet. Dark chocolate with significant cocoa solids is a source of helpful antioxidants. Research shows that dark chocolate consumption does lead to better cardiovascular health through the impact of increased antioxidants and antithrombotic processes. Also, a study on dietary flavonoids confirms that apart from the increased antioxidant benefit, intake of flavanols (a type of flavonoid) was inversely proportional to the onset of coronary heart disease. No specific impact on cancer was found.
The Chocolatey Bottom Line
Scientists seem reasonably convinced that chocolate, and mainly dark chocolate, has a positive effect on cardiovascular disease. It also helps lower blood pressure and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. In moderation and with an eye on high cocoa solids content, eating chocolate can be a good thing. But so far it’s no way a panacea for body fat. In fact, the milky and white chocolates will only move the scales upward!