Chocolate is good for you!
Of course, we always could intuit that, but isn’t it nice when science backs you up?
In recent years, chocolate and chocolate extracts have been found to have antioxidant qualities, improve good cholesterol, and make you feel better.
But what about a trade-off between the health benefits from the native compounds in the chocolate, and all the other delicious stuff it’s often mixed with (sugar, fat, everything else that goes into a brownie)?
Great news: a recent study out of UC San Diego surveyed around 1,000 people and found that people who reported eating a moderate amount of chocolate (say, five times a week) were leaner than people who more rarely or irregularly ate chocolate. Of course, on the higher end of the spectrum, folks who ate the most chocolate were heavier. The percentage of cocoa consumed wasn’t taken into account. (For NPR write-up, click here)
Why might moderate chocolate consumption not lead to weight gain?
One possibility is the presence of particular polyphenols, which have been found to inhibit the activity of enzymes (pancreatic lipase and others) that help us digest fat and carbohydrates, meaning more fat and carbs may pass through our bodies without being absorbed when these compounds are present. Of note, this study found that the type and processing of cocoa affected how well the enzyme activity was altered. A type of minimally-processed cocoa called lavado best blocked the fat – and carb-digesting activities, followed by normally-processed and, lastly, Dutch-processed cocoa. (Examiner write-up)
Another possible explanation for chocolate’s failure to pack on the pounds are the presence of compounds called catechins, which have been found to reduce body fat in subjects who consumed catchen-supplemented tea.
As for the other health benefits of chocolate, polyphenols have also been found to increase HDL cholesterol in patients with Type 2 diabetes without causing weight gain or increased glycemic indices, and to reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
In short, eat up! … If you’re brave, you might even try 100% chocolate – no sugar or added fat! And it’s surprisingly good (though I wouldn’t eat it exclusively)