When you are trying to lose weight or change your eating habits, what’s the first thing you cut out of your diet? Most likely it’s sweets. If you struggle with weight loss or insulin regulation, like those with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), you may wonder if you will ever be able to indulge in something truly decadent and delicious again without feeling guilty.
Good news: the answer is a resounding YES! Dark chocolate, specifically, is one of the most craved and sought after foods on the planet, and it’s your mindfully indulgent answer. Aside from its irresistible taste, here’s why you can feel good about having chocolate on your menu:
1. It can help lower your BMI.
In a study of more than 1,000 people at the University of California, San Diego, researchers found that people who consumed chocolate more days per week were thinner – and had a lower BMI – than those who ate chocolate less often. “Epicatechin from cocoa causes greater control over food urges and is more satisfying than other treats,” said Dr. Peter McCullough, a cardiologist at St. John Providence Health in Warren, Mich. “Higher cocoa chocolate is relatively low in sugar and the fatty acid in chocolate products is probably not as worrisome as other fats. On the whole, a little superior quality chocolate is good to add to the diet of those trying to lose weight.”
Try these Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Balls!
2. Chocolate may increase insulin sensitivity.
An Italian study found that regularly eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing risk for diabetes. Study participants ate dark chocolate once a day for 15 days and saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production,” says study researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D. “And that helps control insulin sensitivity.”
Prefer nuts with your chocolate? You’ll love these Dark Chocolate Candied Walnut Clusters.
3. Chocolate reduces stress.
In a recent study, people who rated themselves highly stressed to begin with had lower levels of stress hormones after eating chocolate every day for two weeks. The study’s subjects ate 1.4 ounces (40g) of dark chocolate daily.
There’s nothing better than melted chocolate, like in this 3-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Fondue recipe.
4. Chocolate is good for your heart.
Adding only half an ounce of dark chocolate to an average American diet was shown to be enough to increase total antioxidant capacity 4 percent, and lessen oxidation of LDL cholesterol. In a 9-year Swedish study of more than 33,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for stroke by as much as a third.
Spicy Chocolate Chili Pepper Bark? Yes, please!
5. Chocolate increases serotonin and makes you feel good.
Produced by your brain, serotonin is the “feel good” hormone. When your brain produces enough of it, you feel calm, confident and happy. Women with PCOS sometimes lack adequate serotonin. Chocolate contains tryptophan, a chemical in the brain that is used to produce the neurotransmitter. You’re not imagining that you feel better after enjoying some good chocolate, your body really likes it!
You can even enjoy a slice of this Protein-Packed, Low Sugar, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Chocolate Pie.
Remember, every good chocolate should have four ingredients: cocoa, sugar, vanilla (not vanillin) and lecithin. Beware of chocolate with hydrogenated fat and high fructose corn syrup. Many inferior chocolate manufacturers take out the cocoa butter and sell it to cosmetic companies, then replace the fat with hydrogenated oils.
“When you are looking for dark chocolate, the flavor peaks at between 60 and 70 percent cocoa. The darker you go, the less flavor you get. It is easier to find a good 65 percent than a good 85 percent,” explains Richard Tango-Lowy, master chocolatier of Dancing Lion Chocolate. When you can’t visit a boutique chocolate shop when a craving strikes, there are a couple of supermarket brands that will suffice; Dagoba and Green and Black fit the bill. My favorite dark chocolate, though, is Lake Champlain Chocolate
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
PCOS Diva.com is an online resource for women with PCOS which embraces a holistic approach to healing and thriving. As the founder of PCOS Diva, Amy Medling, CHC has worked with thousands of women, teaching them how to make sustainable lifestyle changes, which in turn positively impacts their health and lessens PCOS symptoms. “PCOS Divas” are able to take back control of their bodies and regain their fertility, femininity, health and happiness. Check out her Seasonal Meal Plans, PCOS 101 guide and 7-day lifestyle coaching Jumpstart program. For more about PCOS Diva, Amy’s philosophy and PCOS Diva’s programs, check out the About section of the website.
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Oct 18;58(17):1828-9.