Dark Chocolates for Weight Loss

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on August 18, 2021
Last updated on August 25, 2021

Something sweet is always pleasurable, and chocolate is no exception. Known as “food of the gods” by the Mayan people, chocolate offers a different kind of comfort for any occasion. There are several types of chocolate, and it all depends on the cacao content (1).

Dark Chocolates for Weight Loss

As explained by a registered dietitian from the Rethink Nutrition in Manhattan Kansas, Ann Binder-McAsey, RD, milk chocolate contains an adequate percentage of cacao flavor mixed with milk and sugar. This explains why milk chocolate only has a slightly bitter taste and is creamier. McAsey explains that as the percentage of cacao increases, you will definitely get less of the creamy taste of milk and sugar and a more bitter taste (1).

Dark chocolate is not only delicious, but it also offers tons of benefits for your overall function. It includes your better heart health, improved brain function, stress relief, and a lower risk for diabetes (2). Interestingly, it also aids in an improved sexual function as an aphrodisiac, which explains the existence of dark chocolate-covered strawberries today (1).

Scientific studies found that dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and nutrients, making it a superfood favorite. As cited in an article published in the Journal of Nutritional Science in December 2016, dark chocolate contains phytonutrients known as flavonoids, which are plant chemicals that function as antioxidants and contribute to cancer prevention, heart health, and weight loss (2).

With a similar compound found in fruits and veggies alike, dark chocolate also lowers one’s blood pressure, explained by staff nutritionist Kelly Kennedy, RD, from Everyday Health (1).

This article explores the many health benefits of dark chocolate, including weight loss. Keep reading to learn how this superfood can help you achieve your overall health and weight loss goals.

Potential Health Benefits of Weight Loss

When consumed in moderation, dark chocolate offers some powerful health benefits, which include:

Improves Insulin Sensitivity

There are some studies that suggest that this delicious treat can help improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which is a hormone responsible for removing sugar from your bloodstream and into your cells – where it is used for energy (3).

Dark chocolate lowers insulin levels in the blood, which is associated with improved weight loss and less fat storage (3).

Although research is limited to prove this, some small studies have found that dark chocolate can also help improve your sugar control. This means that the superfood can help you prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, which can result from symptoms like increased hunger (3).

With these benefits, dark chocolate – specifically its cocoa content – has been shown to prevent diabetes, either delaying it or preventing its onset (4).

A study found that, when combined with some diet changes, dark chocolate may help improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes, compared to when diet modification is done solely. Lower insulin levels are linked to increased weight loss and lower fat storage (5).

Enhances Mood

Dark chocolate helps you feel better by stimulating the production of endorphins – brain chemicals that is responsible for feelings of pleasure. It also contains another chemical called serotonin, which functions as an anti-depressant, helping you feel better (4).

A lot of studies have found that dark chocolate has a positive effect on mental health and mood, which ensures that you feel your very best while promoting weight loss (3).

In a study with 13, 626 people, it was found that people who consume higher amounts of dark chocolate had 57 percent lower risks of experiencing depressive symptoms compared to those who did not (3).

Another small study has found that eating 1.5 ounces (or 40 grams) of dark chocolate regularly lowers stress levels in women over a 2—week period (3).

Plus, a study in 72 adults showed that consuming a dark chocolate drink for 30 days resulted in increased feelings of self-rated calmness and contentedness, compared to a placebo (3).

In general, when it come to the mood-boosting benefits of dark chocolate, more research is needed regarding its connections to weight loss (3).

Reduces Cholesterol

Consuming cocoa has been shown to reduce levels of LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and raise levels of “good” cholesterol. With this feature, dark chocolate potentially help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (4).

In general, dark chocolate is known as a cholesterol-lowering food. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in November 2017, a handful of almonds, dark chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa, there is significant drop in low-density lipoproteins (LDL), known as “bad” cholesterols, which – in high amounts – can clog your arteries (2).

Joy DuBost, PhD, RD, a nutrition spokesperson and owner of DuBost Food & Nutrition Solutions, says that the cocoa butter content in dark chocolate may play a part in raising high-density lipoproteins (HDL), or “good” cholesterol (2).

As noted by the U.S. Library of Medicine, cocoa butter also contains the monounsaturated fat oleic acid, which is similar to the heart-healthy fat found in olive oil (2).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture points out, however, that unlike olive oil, cocoa butter is also high in saturated fat, which in excess amounts can harm your heart health. This then emphasizes the need for portion control (2).

At this point, it’s important to note that many of the studies conducted on chocolate and good cholesterol are good for short term, so it might not be wise to assume that chocolate is a cholesterol cure-all (2).

Keeps Skin Healthy

The cacao bean is packed with healthy chemicals like theobromine and flavonoids. The latter works as an antioxidant and protects the skin against sun damage by absorbing UV rays and aiding in the protection and improvement of blood flow to the skin (4).

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health lists down vitamins and minerals that dark chocolate contains, such as copper, iron, and magnesium. All of these minerals are beneficial for the skin (2).

Manganese supports the production of collagen, which is a protein that helps keep your skin looking young and healthy. Minerals like calcium help repair and renew skin, which is important as, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, our bodies can shed up to 40,00 skin cells every day (2).

Other earlier studies have also found that high levels of antioxidants found in dark chocolate may protect skin from powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun (2).

However, other research – like a study published in Nutrition Journal in 2014 – failed to show any significant protective effects of antioxidant-rich chocolate against UV rays. Still, it showed significant improvements in the elasticity of the skin exposed to the sun, although how it works is still unknown (2).

Decreases Hunger and Appetite

A balanced diet is the best way to keep yourself satiated. It is known that dark chocolate does curb snacking (5). Studies have shown that dark chocolate may reduce cravings and promote feelings of fullness, thereby supporting weight loss (3).

In another study, which involved 12 women, it was found that smelling and eating dark chocolate decreases appetite and lessens levels of ghrelin – also known as the “hunger hormone (3).”

In a small study that involved 16 individuals, milk chocolate and dark chocolate were compared. The study found that participants felt less hungry yet more full and satisfied after consuming dark chocolate (3).

Furthermore, the same participants consumed 17 percent less calories at a subsequent meal, compared to participants who ate milk chocolate (3).

Another small study of 14 people experiencing post menopause showed that participants who consumed dark chocolate ate less food subsequently compare to when they are white or milk chocolate (5).

More research is needed when it comes to how dark chocolate may affect food intake and appetite, compared with other types of foods (3). Still, dark chocolate may be a healthier option to eat compared to other sweets (5).

Provides Extra Minerals

According to Harvard University’s School of Public Health, dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants and minerals like copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, flavanols, and phosphorus (5).

Additionally, the beneficial compounds found in chocolate and other cocoa products like flavanols may help with your heart health and give your immune system a boost (5).

It is also a common fact that the darker the chocolate, the better. Still, according to a study published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, any 70 percent dark chocolate or higher contains antioxidants, fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and copper (2).

It also contains tons of calories and fat, so be mindful of your daily intake. Plus, every chocolate brand is processed differently. According to a cookbook author and nutrition expert for the Food Network named Toby Amidor, RD, going for organic choices is always the best, as it’s grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. He also recommends always checking the ingredient list to make sure you are consuming chocolate with less chemicals and more natural ingredients (2).

Aids in Weight Loss

Chocolate can help you lose weight if taken in the right amount. As per neuroscientist Will Clower, one small square of good chocolate melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers the hormones that signals the brain that the body is full. As a result, you cut down the amount of food you consume afterwards. Thus, finishing a meal with the same small trigger can lessen subsequent snacking (4).

How Does Dark Chocolate Help in Reducing Weight?

One good reason that you’re currently reading this article is that you might be wondering whether dark chocolate do help in weight loss. There are many uncertainties concerning this fact in the past, and people have been told to stay away from chocolate when trying to shed those extra pounds. But, we’re here to debunk these myths.

Although merely eating dark chocolate won’t directly help you shed extra pounds, it does offer some good health benefits (5). That said, below are some of the ways dark chocolate can help you shed some extra pounds.

Boosts Metabolism

A study conducted at Queen Margaret University showed positive results on how dark chocolate impacts fat and carbohydrate metabolism. More specifically, dark chocolate significantly impacts how the body synthesizes fatty acids. By doing so, it reduces the digestion and absorption of fats and carbohydrates (6).

You may eventually find yourself feeling more satiated after eating chocolate. To make the most out of this benefit, stick to dark chocolates with at least 70 percent cacao (6).

Controls Appetite

Dark chocolate contains three hormones that control appetite, which are ghrelin, insulin, and leptin. Insulin controls the transfer of sugar from the bloodstream to your body’s cells. Ghrelin is responsible for increasing your appetite, while leptin has an opposite effect. Thus, people who are insulin-resistant lost their ability to feel full (6).

One study from the Netherlands showed that dark chocolate lessens insulin resistance and lowers ghrelin levels in the body. The study involved 12 women who participated in two 60-minute studies (6).

During the first 60-minute study, all 12 women consumed a 100-gram chocolate that comprises of a mixture of 85 percent cacao and 12.5 grams of sugar. On the second 60-minute study, six of the women only smelled the chocolate, while the other six did not. The women who did ate or smell the chocolate showed a significant reduction in ghrelin and satiated appetites. For the control group, however, there was no reduction in either their appetite or ghrelin levels (6).

Improves Your Sense of Well-Being

Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, which have a profound effect on your sense of well-being. When you feel good, you may to tend to eat less to seek comfort. A clinical study done in Swinburne University, Australia, showed how polyphenols in dark chocolate increased calmness and a sense of contentment in those who had consumed dark chocolate for 30 days (6).

Dark chocolate also contains a type of lipid known as anandamide, or “the bliss chemical.” This type of lipid is known to be easily broken down, so it does not usually last long inside our bodies. However, dark chocolate also contains chemicals that inhibit the breakdown of this lipid, which offers you a lasting sense of peace and well-being (6).

Controlled Caloric Content

Sometimes, we may not get enough of this delicious treat, but it does not necessarily mean that we won’t get fat by eating a lot of it.

An ounce of dark chocolate contains 60 percent or more cacao, which is the same as 170 calories. If you want to gain the most of this chocolate’s benefits, moderate consumption of two to three times per week would be enough without hampering your weight loss goals (6).

If you are craving for more of this chocolate, there are other healthy options.One of which includes adding a tablespoon of raw cacao nibs to yogurt and oatmeal. You wouldn’t have to feel guilty about consuming this, as this quick fix only contains 70 calories (6).

Contains Healthy Fats

Not all fats are bad for you; sometimes, the body needs good fats to facilitate weight loss. Dark chocolate contains saturated fat, specifically three types of fat, which are stearic acid, oleic acid, and palmitic acid (6).

Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat that lowers your cholesterol. Interestingly, metabolized stearic acid turns into oleic acid (6).

Palmitic acid is a type of fat that has been proven to raise cholesterol levels; however, if combined with oleic and stearic acid, the effects on cholesterols become irrelevant (6).

Encourages Exercise

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory constituents combined with a generous supply of magnesium, dark chocolate may leave your body enduring less pain. When your body is in good condition, exercising becomes more appealing (6).

Consuming an ounce of dark chocolate that contains 70 percent or more cacao with a glass of red wine at night is a great idea for pain relief. The dark chocolate’s stimulating effect makes that extra mile seem like a breeze (6).

Plus, you won’t have to worry about getting too energetic, as an ounce of dark chocolate only contains 23 milligrams of caffeine (6).

Why Dark Chocolate is Not Solely a Weight Loss Solution

Dark chocolate is a superfood that offers tons of health benefits, but it is definitely a one-stop solution for weight loss. Here’s why:

High Calories and Fat

Although dark chocolate does have some added health benefits over other foods, it does not dismiss the fact that it is still a dessert. An ounce of dark chocolate has around 155 calories and 9 grams of fat (5).

A hundred grams of dark chocolate contains 598 calories (or 3.5 ounces) and 42.6 grams of fat. For the same amount of chocolate, milk chocolate contains 535 calories and 29.7 grams of fat, while white chocolate – which is not really chocolate but is just plain cocoa butter – contains 539 calories per 100 grams (6).

On one hand, unsweetened cocoa products like cacao powder and cacao nibs are lower in calories, do not contain any added sugar, and are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds (5).

High in Sugar

The American Heart Association reports that a standard dark chocolate bar that contains 70 to 85 percent cacao has around 600 calories and 24 grams of sugar (5).

Sugar only adds calories rather than offering any essential nutrients. The American Heart Association recommends women to limit their added sugar intake to a maximum of 100 calories (or 25 grams) every day, while men are recommended to consume no more than 150 calories (or 37.5 grams) each day (6).

Unfortunately, most dark chocolate has added sweeteners. According to one study, eating too much sugar can lead you to chronic health concerns like liver disease, heart disease, and diabetes (5).

Final Notes

Although a high-quality dark chocolate is presumed healthier compared to your average chocolate bar, it is not specifically intended solely for weight loss (5).

You can enjoy dark chocolate’s health benefits as you take it in on any dietary pattern. However, there is no evidence that adding tons of dark chocolate to your diet will help you lose weight. Instead of solely using dark chocolate for weight loss, only add a bit of dark chocolate to your day to make the most of its delicious taste and potential health benefits (5).

Too much of any sweet, high-calorie food can lead to weight gain and other health concerns. If you are trying to maintain your weight, sticking to one ounce of dark chocolate regularly offers the best benefits (5).

References

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