Does eating chocolate make you fat?
I LOVE chocolate. If chocolate were a person, I would marry it. Seriously.
Chocolate is enjoyed the world over and for good reason. It is just so delicious, whether eaten on its own or when used as an ingredient for desserts and drinks. In fact it is so popular that chocolate sales in the US alone topped $20 billion in 2015.
There is evidence of chocolate beverages that date back to 4000 years ago. In fact the Aztecs valued chocolate so much, they used it as a form of currency. However, the original chocolate tasted completely different to the stuff you can buy in shops today.
How chocolate is made
If you have ever studied the science behind chocolate in detail (I have!), you will know that it is manufactured from a tree; the cacao tree to be precise.
The seeds (or beans) of the tree are first fermented. Doing so helps them develop their flavour and aromas. They are then cleaned, dried and roasted. The outer casing of the beans is removed, leaving behind what are known as cacao nibs. These nibs are then ground down into a liquid, which is called chocolate liquor.
The chocolate liquor is made up of around 50% cocoa solids and 50% cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is the natural fat that is present in the cacao beans, and cocoa solids is what you get when you press the cocoa butter out. The solids can then be ground down to a powder. Cocoa solids contain all of the ingredients that provide benefits to your health.
The chocolate liquor is further processed to produce the different types of chocolate eaten by people.
Types of chocolate
Before I go into detail about whether chocolate can make you fat, I want to quickly talk about the 3 different types of chocolate, so you can get a better understanding of what exactly you are eating.
Dark chocolate is mostly made up of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, with a little bit of added sugar. It usually comes with percentage labels like 70% cacao and 85% cacao. What this means is that 70% or 85% of the chocolate contains cocoa solids & cocoa butter and the rest is made up of other ingredients.
Many people might assume that 85% cacao dark chocolate is healthier than 75% and this is generally true, but might not always be the case. An 85% dark chocolate that contains 55% cocoa solids and 30% cocoa butter is much healthier than one containing 40% cocoa solids and 45% cocoa butter. This is because it is the cocoa solids that contain the antioxidants and other ingredients that benefit your health.
Milk chocolate is the more commonly available type of chocolate and contains more sugar than dark chocolate. It also contains milk powder, which gives it a creamier and milder taste.
Now you might be thinking, milk powder has been added so what? The cocoa solids still retain their healthy properties right? Unfortunately, “milk binds to antioxidants in the chocolate, making them unavailable” and so it loses all of its healthy properties.
White chocolate is made up of cocoa butter, sugar and milk; it does not contain any cocoa solids. This makes it the unhealthiest type of chocolate to eat, out of the 3.
So does eating chocolate make you gain weight?
Your body mass index is a calculation that compares your weight to your height. It is calculated using the formula BMI = kg/m2. Therefore the higher your BMI is, the more likely you are to be overweight.
A recent study carried out on 1018 adults found that a greater chocolate consumption frequency was linked to a lower BMI. That’s wonderful news isn’t it? You can eat as much chocolate as you want, and doing so will even help you lose weight!
Not so fast, that is far from the truth. It all comes down to calories.
A calorie is a unit of energy and in nutrition terms, they are used to determine the amount of energy you consume (from eating food) and expend (through exercise and other activities). On average, people need around 2000 calories on a daily basis, just to survive.
When you are trying to lose weight, you need to use up more calories than you are consuming.
To maintain your current weight, the number of calories you are consuming needs to be equal to the number of calories your using up.
And to gain weight (you guessed it!) you need to consume more calories than you are burning.
You can use the calculator on this page to estimate how many calories you should be consuming, depending on your gender, age, height, weight, activity levels and overall goals.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
Now take 100 g of dark chocolate. On average, it contains 546 calories, 31 g of fat (19 g of which is saturated) and 48 g of sugar. Compare that to the same weight in apples; they contain 52 calories, 0.2 g of fat and 10 g of sugar. You can straight away see that the chocolate contains more than 10 times the number of calories that the apples do.
A bar of Green & Black’s (one of my favourite brands) 85% dark chocolate weighs 100 g and contains 630 calories. If I were to eat a whole bar of this chocolate everyday, I would start gaining weight. The simple reason behind this is that combined with all my other meals throughout the day, I would go well above my recommended calorie intake and all those excess calories would be stored as fat.
So what’s the solution? Like anything in life, moderation. You can still enjoy your chocolate everyday, as long as you control how much you eat. Having one or two pieces of chocolate everyday isn’t going to make you gain weight, however eating an entire bar might.
Carry on enjoying your chocolate but make sure you don’t over indulge. Also, buy a high quality dark chocolate, so that you can reap all of the benefits that cocoa solids have to offer!
For more information on how your diet affects your weight, read our in depth article here.