We’ve all heard about dark chocolate’s amazing benefits–I’ve even written about how it can improve your skin–but still, guilt may creep in. I’m here to brandish research papers and give you the information you need to shut up that inner critic or outer well-meaning family member who ponders about your waistline aloud when you indulge.
Chocolate Keeps You Trim
First things first: dark chocolate is not a sinful, fattening food. No food is inherently good or bad (moderation, lovelies!), and chocolate doesn’t make you fat–don’t worry, I’ve got a study to back that up.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen tested chocolate and later calorie intake in 23 healthy young men in a cross over trial. Basically, they gave some guys 100g (about 3.5 ounces) of 30% cocoa milk chocolate and some guys 70% cocoa 100g dark chocolate and asked them to rate hunger (and a bunch of other things). About two hours later, they let the guys eat however much pizza they wanted (while keeping track of what each group ate) and asked them to rate hunger and craving for salty, sweet, or fatty foods. The next day, the groups switched–guy who had eaten milk chocolate were now eating dark chocolate and vis-versa–but everything else remained the same. They used paired t-tests in the analysis which just means that they compared each man to himself (i.e., his consumption after milk chocolate and after dark chocolate).
The results showed that when men ate dark chocolate, they consumed 17% fewer calories at dinner (or 8% fewer calories when accounting for the extra calories in the dark chocolate–about 140 calories less) and were equally satisfied with their meals. They also reported being more satisfied and craving less sweets after eating dark chocolate than after milk chocolate (p=0.02, or in plain English, it was a significant difference between groups).
The takeaway? Eating dark chocolate for a snack can help you crave fewer sweet things, curb your afternoon hunger enough to tide you over to dinner, and then eat a little less at dinner (as opposed to some snacks which turn you into a bottomless hole–I am looking at you, potato chips).
Dark Chocolate and Insulin Sensitivity
Dark chocolate also has compounds that improve insulin sensitivity, which is super important in Western cultures where insulin resistance can lead to Diabetes.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fifteen individuals (men and women), ate diets with the same number of calories plus either 90g white chocolate (480 calories) or 100g dark chocolate (480 calories), blood glucose was tested after eating the chocolate for fifteen days. The groups had a one week washout period (in this case, no cocoa products for a week, plus using other foods to substitute for the calories and macronutrients in the chocolates) before switching to the other kind of chocolate for the next fifteen days. The participants’ insulin resistance and sensitivity were tested using different indexes.
Researchers found that those eating dark chocolate were less insulin resistant and more insulin sensitive on different indexes. The finding that chocolate is protective against insulin resistance is exciting for chocolate lovers–it gives us another fact to pointedly explain to chocolate detractors.
Chocolate and Brain Power
Chocolate is not only a beauty food and a health food–it’s a brain food. Several reviews have been done on this topic. Basically, for the same reason that chocolate improves your skin (by dilating blood vessels), it can improve brain function by increasing blood flow (and thus oxygen and glucose) to the brain. This is due to the flavonol content of the cocoa (ergo, darker is better).
Basically, dark chocolate makes a great pre-test food, great afternoon pick-me-up/get-through-this-project helper. So, revel in your chocolate–eating it in moderation is actually healthy. So, take that, chocolate-guilters of the world!
Are you going to go forth and spread the good news about chocolate? What benefit was most surprising to you? Leave a comment!