Chocolate `can help shed flab, protect heart`

Updated: May 02, 2011, 11:47 AM IST

Washington: Here`s the perfect excuse to gorge on chocolate without a sense of guilt -- eating the right amount and type of the mouth-watering treat can help one shed flab and protect one`s heart, according to researchers.

Dr Lily Stojanovska of Victoria University and Dr John Ashton made the revelations in their new book, `The Chocolate Diet: How to eat chocolate and feel great about it`.

"We set out to dispel the myths about chocolate and help chocolate lovers realise they don`t need to feel guilty about eating it," Dr Stojanovska said.

Their book shows that certain properties in chocolate can help with weight loss and protect heart health.

Good quality dark chocolate contains the antioxidant epicatechin which increases the rate at which a body burns fat, suppresses the appetite and contains more than twice the antioxidant levels found in red wine, according to them.

Cocoa, a main ingredient in chocolate, is also rich in the alkaloid theobromine, which is known to increase muscle stimulation and energy, as well as widen blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. It also decreases cholesterol levels and reduces incidence of stroke and risks of heart disease.

Cocoa contains natural compounds that help the body produce mood-altering brain chemicals, decreasing the risk of depression, say the researchers in their book.

"We are not saying you can eat a family size block of just any chocolate. It must be good quality, dark chocolate in moderate amounts, and the bitter the better. Most chocolates that contain 75 per cent or 85 per cent cocoa are usually more bitter than the sweeter milk chocolates that contain a lot less cocoa," she said.

The book also contains a 14-day eating plan that incorporates a couple of squares of dark chocolate or a hot chocolate drink before bedtime, as well as an exercise plan, recipes, and interesting chocolate facts.

PTI