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3 Ways Chocolate May Help You Lose Weight

Updated: Apr 8, 2023


Many of us, when we try to lose weight, cut out chocolate. But is chocolate all bad when it comes to our weight (and our health)? Could it even have some benefits?


Firstly, not all chocolate is created equal!


Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain a lot of sugar. Some dark chocolate may also be high in sugar, although generally the higher the cocoa solids, the lower the sugar. Added sugar can trigger you to overeat and may make you less sensitive to leptin, a fat burning hormone. It also increases your risk of a number of diseases from inflammatory bowel disease and osteoporosis to certain cancers.


Dark chocolate has higher levels of cocoa solids. It is these higher levels of cocoa that are associated with health benefits. Some of these benefits may also be helpful when it comes to your weight:


1) Prebiotic effect

Dark chocolate has been found to have a prebiotic effect, which supports your gut bacterial balance. Your gut bacteria can affect your weight in a number of ways from lessening your appetite to reducing inflammation. (Inflammation can cause weight gain and obesity has been described as an inflammatory disease.)


Many people turn to food when they are feeling low and dark chocolate’s prebiotic effect may help to boost your mood via the gut-brain axis. To have this mood boosting effect the chocolate needs to be 85% cocoa. Chocolate with 70% cocoa doesn’t provide this benefit.

2) Cocao is a sirtfood

Cocoa is a sirtfood, a type of food which activates your Sirt1 “skinny” gene. This gene represses fat storage and triggers your body to burn fat.


3) May help improve insulin sensitivity

Flavonols in chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity. This means that your body does not need to release as much insulin to control your blood sugar levels. When your insulin levels are too high this gives your body the message to store fat.


This doesn’t mean that that dark chocolate is a “magic bullet” for weight loss or that you should eat lots of it! It means that high cocoa dark chocolate, in moderation, can be healthy and has properties that may help with weight loss. (Aim to stick to a couple of squares). Chose chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa to get the most flavonols, but if you go for 85% there may be additional benefits.

Or make your own no-added-sugar chocolate snacks using raw cacao and sweeten with dates. Get my chocolate balls recipe.


References

Chen, Z. et al., 2015, ‘Dietary patterns and colorectal cancer: results from a Canadian population-based study’, Nutr J, 14, 8.

Grassi, D. et al., 2015, ‘Cocoa, glucose tolerance, and insulin signaling: cardiometabolic protection’, J Agric Food Chem, 63, 9919-26.


King, M.G. et al., 2013, 'Consumption of sugary foods and drinks and risk of endometrial cancer’, Cancer Causes Control, 24, 7, 1427–36.


Michaud, D.S. et al., 2002, ‘Dietary sugar, glycemic load, and pancreatic cancer risk in a prospective study’, J Natl Cancer Inst, 94, 17, 1293–300.

Shin, JH. et al., 2022, ‘Consumption of 85% cocoa dark chocolate improves mood in association with gut microbial changes in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial’, J Nutr Biochem, 99,108854.


Shapiro, A. et al., 2008, ‘Fructose-induced leptin resistance exacerbates weight gain in response to subsequent high-fat feeding’, Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol, 295, 5, R1370–5.


Tragnone, A. et al., 1995, ‘Dietary habits as risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease’, Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol, 7, 1, 47–51.


Tucker, K.L. et al., 2002, ‘Bone mineral density and dietary patterns in older adults: the Framingham osteoporosis study’, Am J Clin Nutr, 76, 1, 245–52.

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