By Susan K Wilkerson, RD, LD
A recent headline published in the national news has caught attention of many: Eating chocolate can make you slimmer. The observational study asked participants how much chocolate they ate, conducted a food recall to assess the amount of calories consumed, identified the amount of exercise done weekly and compared it with their Body Mass Index (BMI is the body’s weight compared to it’s height). Researchers determined that chocolate consumers’ BMIs were 1 point lower than non-chocolate eaters. So in perspective I am 5 foot 6 inches and if I weighed 130 pounds my BMI would be 21. It would take 5 more pounds to make my BMI go up one point. So eating chocolate daily does not make a significant difference in BMI. In that study frequent chocolate eaters also reported eating more total calories and more saturated fat than people who ate chocolate less often. The study also relied on the participants’ honesty of consumption. Researchers also say that may mean that the calories in chocolate are being offset by other ingredients that boost metabolism. Other studies done in test tubes and mice have found that the compounds found in chocolate inhibit pancreatic lipase, which breakdown fat. It worked with a small amount of chocolate. More chocolate does not mean more weight loss. It also has not been researched in humans.
Chocolate has been making a way in the health benefit category for years; from comfort food, mood enhancing, increasing your energy, lowering your blood pressure to reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke. But all chocolates are not equal. Let’s break down the types of chocolate to get a better perspective of its health benefits. Chocolate comes from a cocoa bean. The beans have a strong, pungent taste, which is from the flavanols or antioxidants. In this state, they have a great amount of healthy antioxidants, also found in wine and tea. The beans need a little processing to make it palatable. The more the cocoa bean is processed, the less health benefits remain. So, dark chocolate is the best option and keep the portion small. The darker the better (70% or greater). As we process the bean more to make milk chocolate, we add more sugar and milk fat, resulting in less antioxidants. White chocolate has no cocoa solids left and is prepared from the cocoa butter. It is left with virtually no health benefits. It’s important to consider consuming large amounts of chocolate will not out weigh the cost of calories and saturated fat. I advise no more than one ounce of dark chocolate a day.