Can a chocolate habit help you stay slim? I’ve been
following this research (with good reason!) for years, so I was thrilled to see
a study published earlier last week in the Archives
of Internal Medicine that found people who frequently eat chocolate have
lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than people who don’t—as much as a 5- to 7-pound
The study builds on a growing body of evidence that not all
calories are created equally—and that certain foods contain special compounds
that can affect metabolism or how the body stores fat. In chocolate’s case, the
researchers suspect that antioxidants and other ingredients in chocolate may
boost metabolism and help offset its calories.
This is, of course, amazing news for all chocoholics like
me. I know the study discovered only an association between weight and chocolate consumption, and didn't prove that eating chocolate led to weight loss. (It may that people who tend to eat chocolate have overall healthier lifestyles or other habits that are linked to a healthier weight). But the findings add to the list of chocolate's many health benefits: It can lower blood pressure, decrease the risk of stroke, improve insulin sensitivity, and even protect from
the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays on your skin!
So do occasionally indulge, and here's how to do it as healthfully as possible:
1. Nibble, frequently
The Archives study
author told the New York Times that
it was the frequency of chocolate eating, not the total amount, that led to its
beneficial effects on weight. (There was even a trend toward higher BMIs among
people who ate more chocolate at each sitting). Think a square or two of a decadent chocolate bar each day.
2. Go dark
The darker the chocolate, the greater the levels of
antioxidants, which are what researchers believe are responsible for
chocolate’s potential fat releasing properties. Many experts recommend picking
dark chocolate that’s 60 percent cocoa or more, which ensures you’re getting a
healthy dose of antioxidants.
I also love this reasoning that my friend David Katz, MD,
director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, shared with WebMD.com: “Dark
chocolate is bittersweet. Whereas sweet stimulates appetite, bitter actually
In other words, that little morsel of dark chocolate may
actually quell your appetite and prevent more snacking. Dark chocolate is also
high in healthy fats called MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids), which
have been shown to help melt belly fat.
Chocolate may also help people stay slim by making the rest
of their diets more, well, palatable. One Israeli researcher told HealthDay News that diets that force
people to ditch sweets altogether just make them more appealing; she found that
people could tolerate a diet better when they ate chocolate on it.