When starting a new diet, one of the first things that we are told is to get rid of all of the high-calorie food, treats and snacks in our cupboards and embrace a healthier, low-cal way of life.
For most of us, this means ditching anything with chocolate in it.
There have been mixed reports recently about the true potential of dark or plain chocolate for losing weight, with some pointing out “hoax” claims and questionable studies, but the good news for chocoholics is that it actually can have a positive effect on our health.
There are some significant benefits of dark chocolate for weight loss, just as long as dieters know when to put it down.
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The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Plain chocolate is seen as the healthier alternative to milk or white chocolate because there are a number of potential benefits.
Studies show that not only can its consumption lead to an improved mood and a change in hormone levels, there are also links to the production of insulin, lower blood pressure, improved circulation and higher energy levels.
A lot of this comes down to the simple fact that dark chocolate contains a lot of antioxidants called flavonoids.
To begin with, many advocates merely highlighted the potential of dark chocolate as a mood enhancer – as it can affect the production of serotonin and endorphins – but there is clearly more to this “healthy” treat than that.
Each of these physiological changes has the potential to aid weight loss in some way.
Improvements to circulation, blood pressure and energy levels should allow for increased activity levels, so dieters can exercise for longer.
The resulting rise in metabolism and the impact on insulin levels can then help the body to break down fat cells more easily, leading to greater weight loss.
Reducing insulin resistance also has the potential to decrease our appetite and help us eat smaller portions.
A change in cortisol levels – our stress hormone – and a change in mood also play their part by helping dieters with positive thinking.
The more stressed we are and the more we dwell on negative thoughts, the more likely we are to turn to the food we crave and to give in to emotional eating.
Dark chocolate has plenty of benefits over milk chocolate, but it should still be eaten in moderation…
This potential for weight loss and health does not mean that fans of dark chocolate have an excuse to consume more of it.
Then there is the calorie count to consider. If you are using a strict calorie controlled diet to shed the pounds, a bar of plain chocolate can take up a considerable amount of your allowance.
The best way to use dark chocolate when dieting is to try and use it as substitute for other forms of chocolate.
If you know that you can’t get through the week without some form of chocolate-based treat to reward you for your hard work, look for chocolate bars, cakes and cookies that are made of plain chocolate instead.
A bar of 70% fair trade chocolate is seen as the ultimate indulgence for some, so the fact that it is the healthier alternative just makes it even more appealing.
Some advocates for dark chocolate when dieting suggest that we should have one ounce, three days a week, but this sort of rationing and measuring does take some of the fun out of eating it.
Is a Switch to Dark Chocolate Worth it?
Dark chocolate can be an acquired taste but if you are a chocoholic that is struggling to deal with their cravings, and are determined to put in the effort on a diet and exercise regime, you could find that dark chocolate fills that gap nicely.
It won’t lead to quick, drastic results, and it must be eaten in moderation, but the benefits of dark chocolate for weight loss are clear to see.
A small boost in energy levels, a decrease in stress hormones and a reduction in insulin resistance could all provide that extra edge to make dieting and exercise easier and help you shed a few extra pounds.