Chocolates can help you shed some flab. Try it
So, barring allergies or specific health conditions, why on earth would you give it up?
Whether you are on a diet or just watching your weight, one of the most popular, all-time favourite foods is usually found on both the naughty list and the "most wanted" list. You guessed it: chocolate. We add chocolate to enhance a variety of already enjoyable items. It is routinely described as everything from an incentive, to a reward, to a weakness. The common denominator is that most people love it.
So, barring allergies or specific health conditions, why on earth would you give it up? There is an easy answer here too: to lose weight. But for chocolate lovers everywhere, this might sound unthinkable, if not impossible. No one wants to embark on a diet where you have to absolutely avoid the foods you love. There has to be an easier way. Sure enough, there is.
Managing your 'most wanted' list
Banning favourite foods simply places them on the dietary "most wanted" list. Most people who are unable or unwilling to give up their favourites cold turkey have evolved from deprivation to moderation. They are the lucky ones who are disciplined enough to buy that bag of chips or box of cookies but exercise the willpower to limit their indulgence.
But there might be other ways to enjoy the same amount of a favorite food simply by switching up the type you enjoy. And no, I don´t mean substituting your favorite ice cream or candy with the sugar-free, fat-free version. We are not fooling anyone with that swap. But if you are a cocoa lover, for example, have you thought about switching from milk chocolate to dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate impacts appetite
When it comes to weight gain, chocolate gets a bad rap. Even though it has some health benefits, it is also usually high in calories and high in fat-which of course is why it tastes so good.
Research demonstrates, however, that if you are a chocolate lover, you are in for a sweet surprise. Studies show that you might be more likely to eat less afterward if you snack on dark chocolate than milk or white. This phenomenon appears to be true for both men and women.
Men eat chocolate, too
In one study, LB Sørensen and A Astrup compared the impact of milk versus dark chocolate on appetite sensations and subsequent food consumption in normal-weight, healthy men.
The results? Participants were more satiated, felt less hungry, and reported lower ratings of prospective consumption of food after eating dark chocolate than after eating milk chocolate. When they consumed their next meal, which was a laboratory test meal of ham and cheese pizza, sure enough, caloric intake was 17 percent lower after eating dark chocolate than milk chocolate.
The authors explain that apparently, dark chocolate stimulates a feeling of satiety, decreases the desire to consume something sweet, and suppresses subsequent caloric intake as compared with milk chocolate.
Women love chocolate
And now for the ladies. Channa E. Marsh conducted a study to test the impact of milk, white, and dark chocolate on subsequent caloric intake, appetite, and mood, in postmenopausal women. In doing so, they acknowledge previous research by Sørensen and Astrup, as well as other research, finding that healthy young women also ate less of a test meal following a dose of dark chocolate as compared to milk chocolate.
In their research, Marsh went further in their experimentation. They tested three types of chocolate rather than two, and all from a single source. Using the same cacao bean, they tested the impact of three different types of chocolate: 80 per cent cocoa [dark], 35 per cent cocoa [milk], and cocoa butter [white]. The results: Subsequent energy intake was significantly lower after eating dark chocolate as compared to either milk or white chocolate; mood was not altered.
Marsh therefore concluded that dark chocolate reduces food consumption, as compared to milk and white chocolate in postmenopausal women.
Understandably, some people do not consider substituting semi-sweet dark chocolate for their rich milk chocolate flavor to be an acceptable swap. But for those who love any type of chocolate, this research is good news-particularly for those with a candy dish on their desk, or who are otherwise prone to snacking on chocolate between meals.
Although any individual study must be taken with a grain of salt, if you are on a diet but love chocolate, this body of research at least delivers a bittersweet victory in terms of how to satisfy those mid-afternoon chocolate cravings, that might make you eat less later as well.
Wendy L. Patrick is author of Red Flags and co-author of Reading People