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The REAL Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate

July 13th, 2009

I’ve always argued that chocolate is good for you. And – laugh though everybody has – I’ve been quite adamant that it doesn’t cause weight gain. I’m a chocoholic from way back (in fact a high school friends’ husband recently blamed me for her chocolate addiction!), and although I’ve had times when I’ve struggled with my weight, I’ve always had this intrinsic knowledge that the chocolate wasn’t the problem.

health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate

Sure, I’ve been scoffed at, mocked and jeered at, but it hasn’t held me back from my quest to personally taste-test every different cocoa blend this world has to offer. Of course I’ve always known that I come across as a bit silly (the lady doth protest too much, methinks), but I haven’t let it get me down.

Anyway, you can imagine my absolute GLEE when Charles Poliquin announced in my BioSignature hormone testing course that chocolate is always recommended to his weight loss clients. I had to stop myself jumping out of the chair with an almighty “I KNEW it!”

Of course there are a few rules (well, only 5), but hey – if it means you get to indulge guilt-free then I’d say it’s worth it, wouldn’t you?

1. Raw chocolate is definitely the way to go. Not only is it absolutely delicious, and so satisfying that it honestly is hard to overeat the stuff, but the health benefits are simply stupendous. I’m talking heart health, antioxidants, mineral deficiencies and more! Check out this brief video to see for yourself –

2. Did he really say chocolate helps with weight loss? Yep, you heard right. The truth is that anything with health benefits is by definition useful for weight loss. Excess body fat is most commonly a result of toxic overload and poor nutrition – nutrient-dense foods detoxify and thus help your body to shed stored fat. For example, if you’ve perused some of my older posts you’ll know how true this is of fat, even saturated fat, despite what conventional wisdom has to say. And, while raw chocolate is ideal, the health benefits of regular dark chocolate also make it worth your while. This is due in large part to the antioxidants (polyphenols), which have been linked to anti-carcinogenic activity in animals, prevention of cancers and inflammatory bowel diseases, and stress management through the absorption of those nasty (aging!) free radicals.

3. Shop smart. I’d recommend no less than 70% (cacao) dark chocolate. This is because anything less has too much sugar, and sugar causes an insulin spike which leads to increased fat storage. While brands may vary slightly in sugar content, the average amount p/100 grams of 70% is 20 grams. Milk chocolate has around 50% sugar – a huge difference. 85% dark chocolate can have as little as 5 grams of sugar. Although it tastes very bitter at first, most people say that they “love it” after a week or so, and in fact can’t even stand to eat milk chocolate anymore! The really good news is that raw chocolate, which is still your number one health choice, is typically completely sugar free! It’s not as easy to find, but many organic or health food stores now stock it. My favorite brand is Living Earth, and (for my Melbourne readers) I order it through Miss Organic along with my fresh foods.

4. Keep it to 90 grams (max) per day. I say this because it’s what Charles Poliquin recommends, and given he’s trained Olympic gold medal holders in over 10 different sports and studied hormones/nutrition for over 30 years, it’s a cert he knows what he’s talking about. My advice – unless you’re a ripped 200 pound athlete then I wouldn’t go as high as 90 grams. Chocolate is still a very energy-dense food, particularly if you do go with 70% rather than 85% or raw (all things in moderation!) Stick to around 40-50 grams, with 90 as your pig-out back-up. The only catch (and again, thanks Charles for the tip) is that you must shave it with a cheese grater first. This helps to release the flavor, but it also slows down the eating!

5. Keep it organic. No exceptions. Lindt is a favorite here in Aus amongst dark chocolate lovers, but it doesn’t make my short-list. This is because it’s not organic. Non-organic chocolate can have over 200 different chemicals in its make-up, and synthetic chemicals (which are toxic) are stored in your body fat, causing it to expand. There are plenty of organic brands available these days, and even supermarkets stock them. Not only are they better for you, they taste much yummier than conventional. Another consideration is the metal lead, which is commonly present in chocolate and has been linked to brain damage, retardation, anemia, and behavior problems. When it comes to lead-free chocolate, raw is definitely the safest option.

For me the best part about quality chocolate is not that I can eat it guilt-free, it’s that even the littlest amount satisfies. As far as weight goes, overindulgence has never seemed to affect me previously, but I can’t say I loved the out of control feeling of pigging out on the stuff! Oh – and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve had quite a bit of fun playing “I told you so” to all those chocolate nay-sayers from years gone by. The really good news? Now it’s your turn!

Life is Now. Press Play.

Kat

Do you have any other food indulgences that you’d like me to analyze? You never know – it just might be an easy task to turn your guilty treat into a healthy snack! Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post in the ‘post a comment’ section just below. If you’re reading from RSS or email you’ll have to enter the blog to do this. You can do that by clicking on the title of this piece. ‘Post a comment’ is at the article end, right under the ’share this’ and ‘related posts’ options.

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17 people have commented
  1. I too am a bit of a chocoholic, so love this article! As you say though, keeping it to small portions is key.

    Great article, thanks!

  2. [...] « The REAL Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate [...]

  3. Carla says:

    Since I try to avoid sugar (even so-called “good” sugar) I like to have 100% cocoa. Chocolate that’s free of soy lecithin and sugar. Though I love chocolate, its hard to eat too much of it since it is a little bitter!

  4. Fish Eyed Dave says:

    Wow, now I am loving this. So please do tell, what is on your short-list of chocolate? Green and black is pretty hard to beat, so it must be up there…! Is there any locally made organic chocolate that you recommend? And where does one buy it from?

  5. Kat Eden says:

    @ Dave – my fave is definitely the Living Earth brand (link within the article), but yes, Green & Black do make my shortlist … in fact, that’s pretty much the only store-bought brand I buy. I’ve tried a few others and they’re not as smooth! Mind you, be careful with Green & Black dark as it still has 42% sugar … always look for 70% cocoa minimum!

  6. Brenda says:

    Thanks Kat,

    You answered many of my questions about chocolate that have been on my mind in this well written article. My only remaining question is about soy lectithin which is in most chocolate bars. I try to stay away from soy but I have read good and bad things about soy lectithin. What do you think?

    Thanks,

    Brenda
    Las Vegas

  7. [...] grams raw dark chocolate (or 70%+ organic dark chocolate). Click here to read about the health benefits of [...]

  8. [...] A couple tablespoons cacao powder for some truly super chocolate-y goodness [...]

  9. Kenny says:

    The Center for Flavonoid Research has an excellent White Paper study on the benefits of Dark Chocolate: http://chocolatewealthnetwork.com/flavonoid.pdf

  10. [...] I wrote about this in detail early last week, so I won’t repeat it here, but make sure you click through to that post if you haven’t already seen [...]

  11. [...] all heard the benefits of dark chocolate: the newest ‘health food’ for our generation. Nothing pleases me more than reading [...]

  12. [...] all heard the benefits of dark chocolate: the newest ‘health food’ for our generation. Nothing pleases me more than reading [...]

  13. Joshua says:

    Hello,

    What is your opinion of French dark chocolate varieties? I only buy French dark chocolate because I prefer the taste. I am not sure if the smoother taste has to do with the technique, the source of cocoa, or both. I buy religiously 85% Valrhona for casual daily consumption with tea or espresso, and when I treat myself I go to Michel Cluizel in Manhattan and I have the 90% cocoa truffle. Sometimes I buy the 72% bar from Michel to take with me as my casual table chocolate if I can’t am out of Valrhona. Are these good/safe brands? I never even thought of lead or chemicals in chocolate, would you say French is typically comprised of less contaminants or is organic really the ONLY way to go?

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