The truth about chocolate

A small amount of dark chocolate a day can help you lose weight. Image: Shutterstock

Chocoholics don’t have to feel guilty any more.

Research from Victoria University indicates that chocolate is not the enemy in the weight loss battle. Instead Dr Lily Stojanovska, co-author of The Chocolate Diet: how to eat chocolate and feel great about it, says it can assist with losing weight and improve health.

So what are the benefits? Cocoa contains the alkaloid theobromine, which can increase muscle stimulation and energy, as well as widening blood vessels and reducing blood pressure. Research has shown that cocoa also decreases cholesterol levels, the risk of cardiovascular disease and the incidence of stroke.

It can even reduce the risk of depression by helping our brains produce mood-altering chemicals. Dr Stojanovska says “Cocoa acts on the brain to increase production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and tryptophan, which increase mood and decrease the rate of depression.”

Dark chocolate also contains the antioxidant epicatechin, which contains more than twice the antioxidant levels in red wine. It increases the rate at which our bodies burn fat and suppresses the appetite.

But don’t think you can go and eat a family-size block- it’s all about moderate amounts. Dr Stojanovska says “studies are showing that 10-20g/day should be sufficient.”

And it also needs to be good quality, dark chocolate as well- milk chocolate doesn’t contain enough cocoa or epicatechin for people eating it to get many of these benefits. “Cocoa and cocoa mass are the ingredients that deliver most of the health benefits in chocolate.
So the higher the cocoa- minimum 70%, however, 80-85% cocoa is better- content the greater the benefit.

“Most milk chocolates will have 20-30% cocoa, they will be full of sugar and other additives. Also many milk chocolates are made with vegetable oils, not cocoa mass (butter), which are full of unhealthy fat.”

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