By Ross Edgley
The word 'chocolate' is practically dieting blasphemy. Dubbed a nutritional sin it’s punishable by a guilt-fuelled session on the treadmill. But recent studies show the vilification of all chocolate is unjustified. In fact certain types may help you lose weight and should feature regularly in your diet.
Music to dieters’ ears no doubt, but how exactly does it work? Well, if you consider the origins of chocolate you’ll see it’s actually a plant-based food that originates from the seed of a fruit. Called the cocoa bean studies show raw cocoa is naturally high in flavanols—natural plant nutrients—and this is where the magic happens.
Researchers from the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of L'Aquila in Italy discovered the flavanol content of dark chocolate, 'improves insulin sensitivity in healthy persons'. What this means is it improves a person’s ability to absorb carbohydrates making them less prone to storing fat. It does this by positively influencing our body’s hormone called insulin which—aside from many other functions within the human body—determines whether food is absorbed or stored as fat.
So why does chocolate get such bad press? The answer lies in the manufacturing process since not all chocolate comes equipped with a magical cocoa supply. For instance dark chocolate is typically quite high in cocoa and boasts a 70% to 85% content depending on the brand. Whereas not surprisingly caramel-layered, sugar-ridden variations don’t come with quite the same health properties and should be included in the diet in moderation. This is because the additional sugar causes insulin—and fat storage—to skyrocket, cravings to occur and ultimately causes the wheels on our dieting wagon to completely fall off.
Now worth noting is I’m not some food Nazi who says you should run for hills every time a packet of chocolate biscuits is opened. But just know—contrary to popular belief—not all chocolate is evil.
But now for the really good news and it comes in the form of my Dark Chocolate Protein Brownies recipe. A healthy, protein-packed dessert you can have completely guilt free after the gym.
70g of dark chocolate
¾ cup of cocoa powder
420g of canned pumpkin puree
30g whey protein
1 whole egg
125ml almond milk
38g (handful) walnuts
2 heaped tbsp. of almond butter and peanut butter
*Natural yoghurt is also a brilliant topping.
Mix all the ingredients together (excluding the dark chocolate and walnuts)
Once mixed with no lumps and bumps add the walnuts into the mix
Mix with a spoon and then put onto baking tray
Bake (around 170 C) for 40 minutes
This may varying depending on your oven so to check insert a fork until comes out clean
Remove from oven and then place the dark chocolate on top
It should melt immediately upon impact so you can spread it evenly across the top
Serve, eat and enjoy
Nutritional Information (Per 1/16 serving.)
13g carbohydrates (4g dietary fibre)
Best Chocolate Bar:
If you’re not a budding baker, never fear. Salvation comes in the form of Hotel Chocolat’s 85%- Ghana Minislab Selector, £3.75. A chunk of chocolate goodness that’s been made in line with their mantra, “more cocoa less sugar.” Plus, if you really want a cocoa hit they’ve a range of dark chocolate that goes up to 100% dark cocoa.
Best Chocolate Spread:
Then for those who prefer to spread their chocolate there’s THE PROTEIN WORKS™Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, £11.99. Made with 85% dark chocolate and cocoa from certified Rainforest Alliance™ farms it’s one of the highest cocoa spreads money can buy. Plus, it’s delivered in half a kilo tubs so you can spread the cocoa magic on anything and everything you want.
Ross Edgley is a writer and broadcaster who specialises in the areas of health, nutrition and popular culture.