As a registered dietician, every time I begin a talk or a client session with "better nutrition is actually simple" I get looks that range from incredulous, to hopeful, to (frankly) pissed off. Read
I love being the bearer of good news. In this case, it's that chocolate, arguably the most beloved food on Earth, should be eaten to help control weight.
I know it’s tough to believe, given all we’ve heard about the evils of chocolate consumption. But keep in mind that coffee used to cause cancer; now we’re told it helps prevent cancer. Margarine was going to save your heart; now we’re told that it was creating the heart disease they said it was fixing. Wine was nothing but empty calories; now we know its resveratrol is good for your heart.
So I’d like for you to change your mind about chocolate. The food that was said to be the END of your weight loss efforts is actually the MEANS.
Let’s just start with the 30,000-foot view.
The Swiss eat more chocolate than anyone else on Earth, weighing in at an impressive 11.9 kg of chocolate. That’s over 26 pounds ... per person ... per year! And yet, with all that chocolate consumption, their obesity rate is less than 8%. (By comparison, in the US, one third of our population is obese.)
But that’s Switzerland. Would you find the same statistics for people in other cultures who eat lots of chocolate? Does chocolate help control their weight, too? As the bearer of good news, let me tell you that it turns out to be a very good result!
Studies have indicated that the consistent consumption of high-cocoa chocolate was associated with weight loss in adults as well as adolescents. Weight loss success in both cases was not correlated to high volumes of chocolate eating, but simply its consistent consumption. In other words, you just need to eat a bit every day. (Oh bummer, right?)
Yes, I know. Scientifically, all these results are correlative not causative. In other words, just because weight loss happens in those who eat chocolate the most consistently, that doesn’t mean chocolate is causing it. The cause could be something totally unrelated.
Fair enough, but with all these people eating all this chocolate, we can all agree that it obviously isn’t hurting them! Plus, there are plenty of reasons to believe that chocolate is an active driver of weight loss, or at the very least actively contributing to weight control.
The first driver may be the satiety promoting elements that high cocoa chocolate contains. These help prevent the cravings that can lead to excessive over-consumption.
For example, a single serving of Green & Black’s 70% chocolate provides:
- 16% of all the fiber you need in a day
- As much protein as you get in an entire cup of broccoli
- The healthy fats found in its cocoa butter, which stimulate satiety hormones
Each of these nutritional elements (fats, fiber, and protein) contributes to a long-term sense of satiety that satisfies the sense of urgency that drives people to nosh their way through morning, noon, and night. It brings a sense of peace around eating.
That’s the physical level. But there’s a psychological level as well. Consistent consumption of the polyphenols in chocolate has been shown to reduce objective measures of stress, increase mood, and even to improve the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. In other words, chocolate frees up both your body and your mind to control consumption.
This explanation fits with my own work with corporate wellness populations of employees. We have coached literally tens of thousands of people on weight control. A part of our message is to add wonderful foods like chocolate into their diets in a controlled way.
When they do this, we find that incidents of snacking-between-meals decrease, while portion control at the plate increases. I believe this stems from a fundamental decrease in food anxiety. And this in turn provides a sense of peace and relaxation around food choices.
One last little nib to explain how you can eat chocolate, and lose weight doing it.
The polyphenols found in high-cocoa chocolate can also increase your energy levels by increasing the number of energy producing mitochondria in your muscles. This leaves you with greater fatigue resistance and higher energy levels so you end up moving more, and burning more calories in the process.
So. Can you really eat chocolate and lose weight? If chocolate helps you have a more high-quality/low-quantity style of eating, while moving more in the process, then it’s a big resounding YES. When that happens, you will indeed eat chocolate, and lose weight doing it.
Eat Chocolate Lose Weight is now available for sale.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com