I’ve long suspected that those of us who love chocolate are simply better off than those who do not – are experiencing the fullness of what the world has to offer rather than merely a bland and narrow subset of the world of culinary delights, but I heard this morning (thank you radio for allowing me to HEAR the news without having to WATCH the news) that chocolate lovers are also, for the most part, leaner than those who do not eat chocolate…. WAHOOTIE! I have a dream meal planned for just such a revelation. I’ll have a…. and a…. and then we’ll have a…. Okay, it’s not that simple. It is still good news, however, and after re-reading a few times, it seems to me that there are two very important takeaways from Beatrice Golomb’s (UCSD) chocolate study.
The first lesson: moderate and regular consumption of chocolate may actually prove healthful rather than harmful for the body. Chocolate contains polyphenols and as Joshua Lambert (of Penn State – alumni high five here) explained on NPR, polyphenols may actually help to prevent the body from digesting fat. I’m going to say that again. Chocolate may actually help prevent fat. That may well be one of the most awesome sentences I have ever written. It is important to note that this research does not distinguish which KIND of chocolate is most highly correlated with leanness. I would imagine that dark chocolate (which is MORE CHOCOLATE!!) and that has fewer other ingredients would be a healthier choice overall, particularly as it allows you take advantage of the other benefits that dark chocolate has to offer (lower blood pressure, antioxidants). So, go ahead break off a couple of squares of that gorgeous chocolate bar. Eat them and breathe deep. So good.
The second lesson – and while I love chocolate, this is the one that is really exciting to see more people talking about: all calories are NOT created equal. While a piece of chocolate may have the same calorie count as say a couple of chips, the chocolate seems to contain compounds that are HELPFUL to your body. They don’t just fill the space in your stomach or provide emotional euphoria (although chocolate may well do that); they help your body to function well. Did everyone hear that? I know you know this on a deep, semi-conscious level, but there are enormous and well-funded groups of calorie counting individuals who would have you believe otherwise. It really does matter which food item you choose. You can count calories until the cows come home, stay within your magic “number” and be completely and utterly malnourished. Or be just malnourished enough to feel like bleh. I acknowledge that I am stretching this conclusion out as far as it can go, but it helps to illustrate the point, right? There are calories that help you and calories that do not. Could it be that the calorie is not a useful measure for health?
There is SO much we don’t know about what our bodies do with food; we do seem to be getting the message, repeatedly, that all calories (even when analyzed for all the bits that you see on the nutrition label) are NOT created equal. Today’s news says we do seem to know that a little chocolate does the body good. I know what I’m having for desert.