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Dark Chocolate Can Be a Dieter’s Friend

Still, as treats go, chocolate has many qualities that make it a good choice for people who are watching their weight, some experts say.

David Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn., says dark chocolate is a particularly smart choice for dieters.

He has recently studied the health benefits of chocolate but was not involved in the new study.

“Dark chocolate is bittersweet. Whereas sweet stimulates appetite, bitter actually suppresses it. So there may be some lasting benefit from eating dark chocolate in particular,” Katz says.

It’s high in fat, a quality that slows digestion and may help curb appetite longer.

Chocolate also has a little caffeine. Caffeine revs metabolism, increasing the number of calories the body burns at rest.

But, he cautions, the study doesn’t mean that the calories in chocolate don’t count.

“No calories are free calories,” Katz tells WebMD. “I would not want people reading this to think that all [they] need to do to lose weight is eat more chocolate. That would be a huge mistake.”

Chocolate comes in many forms, most of which are high in fat and sugar.

To keep chocolate on the healthy side, keep it dark and your portions small.

“What you want to consume, ideally, is any dark chocolate that’s 60% cocoa or greater,” says Francisco Villarreal, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Villarreal studies the effects of chocolate on metabolism, but he was not involved in the new study.

He found that mice fed tiny amounts of epicatechin, one of the main antioxidants in chocolate, were able to run about twice as far on a treadmill as their counterparts who got just water.

Based on his studies, Villarreal believes chocolate might boost metabolism slightly more than exercise, though it doesn’t take very much -- certainly not as much as most of us would hope for -- to get the effect.

“The chocolate should be about the size of a postage stamp or about the weight of a Hershey’s Kiss. A Hershey’s Kiss is 5 grams. It’s very small, and it’s only 30 calories,” he says.

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