You whooped with joy when you first heard the news that chocolate could help you with women’s weight loss. Yet the chocolaty treating you did during the holidays seems to have helped you with a new chocolate muffin top instead. Since when do bloated bon-bon bingers rise from the sofa to find themselves slim and sexy? Research has claimed that chocolate can chisel body fat, but reality has shown that it can also chunk on the chubby chins. The headlines have everyone in a truffle about chocolate, but what’s the truth behind the treat, and how do you deal with its double-dimpled dark side?
Scientists around the world have been trying to discover the mystery behind chocolate. And so far, the research has yielded some sweet results. Cacao’s cardiovascular benefits include lowering blood pressure, reducing vascular inflammation, improving arterial blood flow and decreasing bad cholesterol levels. Dark chocolate eaters were found to have lower systolic blood pressure, more relaxed blood arteries and less vascular clotting than non-eaters. Studies out of John Hopkins University School of Medicine concluded that just a few squares of chocolate a day could reduce the risk of death from a heart attack by 50 percent.
And chocolate to heal your heart can also sooth your soul. England researchers studying chronic fatigue syndrome reported lessened fatigue and improved mood in participants who ate one and a half ounces of dark chocolate a day for eight weeks. Swiss scientists found that consuming chocolate for two weeks significantly lowered stress hormones in people who rated themselves as highly tense.
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Chocolate’s impact on factors that affect weight have been quite tantalizing as well. A 15-day diet that included 3 ounces of chocolate a day cut the likelihood of insulin resistance – a major risk factor for obesity and diabetes – in half. Also, healthy fats found in cocoa butter can help prevent blood sugar spikes, controlling appetite and reducing fat synthesis in the body.
Other studies showed that chocolate consumption decreases gene expression of impaired fat formation, reduces the absorption of fats and carbohydrates in the body, decreases appetite and cravings, and reduces the measurement of abdominal fat.
So what’s to stop you from kneeling open-mouthed before the nearest vending machine and to start pounding back all things Nestlé?
These studies yielded such incredible results only when using very dark chocolate, with a cocoa solid percentage of 70 percent and higher, and which contained very little or no sugar, no other additives, and had a bittersweet aftertaste.
The more cocoa solids a chocolate product contains, the more antioxidants and flavonoids it contributes, which are the source of its health and weight loss magic. In addition, the cacao bean by itself contains healthy mono-unsaturated fatty acids and stearic acid, which doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels very much. This stands in contrast to most candy bars, milk chocolates and white chocolate products on the market which tend to also include milk fats, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, palm oils and other sources of cholesterol-raising fats and harmful trans-fats. Copious amounts of added sugar also mask the appetite supressing powers of bittersweet dark chocolate, and make it a blood sugar whirlwind of insulin instability, hunger, cravings and fat storage instead.
How do you eat chocolate and become a dark silky temptress instead of a great big Easter egg? Skip the milk chocolate and chocolate coated candy bars. Buy bars of dark chocolate instead, labelled 70 percent and higher, with little to no sugar or added ingredients. Treat yourself to no more than two to three small squares of dark chocolate a day as an after-dinner dessert, indulging your sweet tooth while helping you curb your appetite and blood sugar.
Moreover, optimize the health benefits of cooking and baking with chocolate at home by using unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed) instead of sweetened or semi-sweet chocolate.