Scientists say you can eat chocolate and lose weight, here's why

Small amounts of dark chocolate can help your body burn calories, even when you aren't exercising

Person breaking some dark chocolate
(Image credit: Getty Images)

To lose weight, you need to exercise, build muscle, and change your diet. Often this involves cutting back on more indulgent foods like chocolate. But according to new research, eating some dark chocolate each day might actually improve your weight loss.

The best exercise machines to lose weight are a great way to stay active and add some fat-blasting workouts into your day. This is a vital part of any weight loss program, but what you eat is just as important.

Sweet foods like chocolate are thought of as unhealthy snacks, especially as many of them come with plenty of added sugar which would set back your weight loss goals. But researchers have found not all chocolates have the same results.

The study, published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, explored the effect of regular dark chocolate consumption on a group of previously active women. Before starting the trial, the team calculated each woman's resting energy expenditure (REE).

This is a measure of how much energy your body needs to power you through the day without physical activity. They also analyzed the participants' exercise energy expenditure (EEE) or how many calories they burned during exercise.

The cohort was split into two groups, one taking dark chocolate and the other eating white chocolate. The dark chocolate group was asked to eat 20g each day for 30 days. The others ingested the same amount of calories from white chocolate for the duration.

At the end of the study period, the researchers once again measured each woman's REE and EEE. Surprisingly, they found that the dark chocolate group had increased their resting energy expenditure, so they were burning more calories while resting.

Squares of dark chocolate on a serving plate

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This could have a significant impact on how people approach weight loss. Over recent years, there's been a shift away from restrictive diets, where you strip out particular types of foods or dramatically reduce calorie intake.

Instead, it's becoming clear that learning how to eat healthily is more nuanced. For example, all carb-heavy foods used to have a bad reputation for causing weight gain, but recent studies showed that specific high-carb diets actually improve your workout.

When it comes to dark chocolate, the reasons behind its calorie-burning effect aren't entirely clear. The authors note a separate study that also found that a daily 20g dose of dark chocolate increased the amount of oxygen you can take in when training intensively.

They suggest that the chocolate's chemicals improve the efficiency of your body's cells. The effects seem so great that they believe dark chocolate can influence the way your body processes energy "similar to, or possibly even greater than... physical conditioning."

We've mentioned the exact quantity of the chocolate a few times because it seems to play a role in facilitating these benefits. While consulting previous studies, the author's found that "a larger dose... may actually exhibit a negative effect on physiological function."

So, a tiny bit of dark chocolate each day can help you reach your goals, but exercise is still vital if you want to lose weight sustainably. Building the best exercises for weight loss is a great way to get started.

You won't need to invest loads on equipment either, as you just need one of the best kettlebells handy. These weights are perfect for full-body, muscle-building workouts that'll burn fat and make you stronger.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.