Chocolate Up! Two Great Benefits of Cocoa

Valentine’s Day is a-coming and you best be prepared with the healthiest treat this side of the tropical cacao fields. But don’t forget every day of the year can rock with chocolate as a best bet treat.

Researchers are finding an abundance of bodily benefits in consuming chocolate, especially dark chocolate. Two of those benefits qualify as crucial ones in today’s society.

With obesity plaguing the nation, chocoholics can claim tropical beans as an aid in weight loss. Moreover chocolate has demonstrated action against the nation’s #1 killer, heart disease. Who would have guessed that dark chocolate could help put cardiovascular disease on the run?

And there’s a public policy benefit to chocomania. By boosting your health with chocolate, you undercut the moguls of meal manipulation. Every tasty bite eats away at justification for the food police intervening in your nutritional choices.

So put state capitols and Washington on notice. You can be healthy without them! And even more excellent: You put a dent in Obamacare every time you eat chocolate — there’s a twofer if ever there was one.

So, let’s roll with two shout-outs for chocolate as you become a chocolate champion:

1) Chocolate: “Tastes Great, More Filling”

In a reversal of Miller Lite’s famous advertising slogan, “Tastes Great, Less Filling,” chocolate turns out to be more filling while having great taste. Turns out that’s a good thing — for not overeating.

Getting a boost to your resistance against eating too much seems contradictory. All those calories from chocolate, right? Actually the right kind of chocolate in the right amounts beats most of those exotic diets.

So what’s the research for this? Scientists in Denmark did an interesting study. After a night of fasting, they fed young men their choice of dark or milk chocolate in the morning.

Two hours following the snack, the guys had the option of eating as much ham and cheese pizza as they wished. Those who chose the dark chocolate ate 17% less of the Italian offering; they were more full than the milk chocolate group.

Let’s run some math on how this might work. An average man needs about 2,500 calories a day. If he’s overweight, that level of calories will keep him where he is.

He starts the dark chocolate snack effort, perhaps two squares of  (for example) Trader Joe’s 72% dark chocolate at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. That roughly replicates the study’s giving chocolate two hours before a meal.

Though providing in total only half  what the Danish study used for one dose, this split approach seems more reasonable to maintain over the long haul. If this regimen provides the same results the Danes got — he’ll have to see how his own experiment works — then he might lose a pound a week. Most experts recommend 1-2 pounds of loss per week.

In fact, that approach could cut 400 or more calories a day out of the 2,500. Combined with putting the kibosh on large portion sizes and a bit of regular exercise, dark chocolate could be a winner without the need for extreme measures.

In the Real World: A small snack of chocolate could help keep a person’s weight stable or even provide the platform for weight loss. Obviously any limited approach is no panacea — but could enable a person to wield a weapon against unwanted weight as part of a broader approach.

2) Cocoa Counts for Cardio: Heart Health Month

Dr. M. Moghadisian, in his book “Functional Foods and Cardiovascular Disease,” lists a half dozen major studies on “antihypertensive effects” of chocolate: Grassi (2005), Buijisse (2006), Taubert (2007), Vlachopolous (2007), Desch (2010), and Saftlas (2010).

“Antihypertensive” is the term for substances that lower high blood pressure. Medical doctors find that even small elevations in blood pressure can have very harmful effects on health.  To keep blood pressure normal provides significant protection.

This is a good time to start your chocolate regimen. February is American Heart Month.

Maybe you’ve already begun your chocolate trek. Wherever you are in the process, consider regular but moderate amounts of dark chocolate as the key. Not too much and not too little.

Perhaps the amounts suggested above for weight management would be appropriate. That’s about 2 ounces (50 grams) a day, or four squares of the brand used for comparison. Check package labels to see how much of a selected brand might match that portion size.

Employing chocolate could make American Heart Month a happier occasion year after year in light of what the Centers for Disease Control explains:

Heart disease is a major problem. Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year—that’s 1 out of every 4 deaths. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

In the Real World: Don’t let anybody tell you that dark chocolate is junk food! Calorie moderation and circulatory health are just two areas where chocolate shows promise. Meanwhile research continues to explore how multiple body systems work better with chocolate.