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The Chocolate diet is a weight-loss plan that includes the daily consumption of limited amounts of chocolate. The phrase “chocolate diet” also signifies the consumption of chocolate because of claims of health benefits such as lowering cholesterol.
Chocolate originated during the Classic Period Maya (250–900) in Mesoamerica, an area that encompassed the Tropic Cancer in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and parts of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The Maya and their ancestors developed a method of converting the beans from the Theo-broma cacao tree into a chocolate beverage. This process started with the harvesting, fermenting, and roasting of the beans. The beans were then ground a paste and mixed with ingredients including water, chile peppers, and corn meal.
The Maya and the Aztecs in the 15th century used the bitter-tasting beverage in religious and royal ceremonies. Those were just some uses for the products of the cacao tree. Christopher Columbus saw that the Aztecs used cacao beans as currency. He took some cacao beans back to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Later explorers brought back the knowledge about how to convert the beans into a beverage. The Spanish added spices like cinnamon and sugar to the beverage to make it sweeter. The new beverage remained Spain’s secret for a century.
Then other Europeans found out about the chocolate drink. It was an expensive indulgence, only affordable to the upper classes. That changed with the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Mass production brought down the cost of manufacturing treats including solid chocolate. Another milestone occurred in 1875 when Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle; created milk chocolate by adding condensed milk to chocolate.
Composition of chocolate
Cocoa beans contain approximately 50% fat, and one ounce (28.3 grams) of chocolate contains approximately 150 calories and 8.5 grams of fat. While the calorie and fat gram count could produce a weight gain, the fats in chocolate won’t raise cholesterol levels. The cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat. That means that it is low in saturated fat, which is connected to cholesterol levels. Chocolate also contains forms of saturated fat known as stearic and palmitic acids. Saturated fats are connected to increases in LDL (Low-Density Lipo-protein). Also known as bad cholesterol, increased LDL cholesterol can clog arteries, raising the risk for heart disease. Palmitic acid, which affects cholesterol levels, forms one-third of the fat calories in chocolate. The stearic acid appeared to have no effect on cholesterol levels.
Chocolate also contains caffeine and theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine. There’s also some phenyl-ethylamine, a chemical that creates the sensation people feel when they’re in love.
Cacao beans also contain flavanoids, a broad category of plant products that act as antioxidants Flavanoids relax blood vessels, allowing blood to circulate. Antioxidants are thought to be effective in helping to prevent cancer, heart disease, and strokes. Sources of flavonoids include citrus fruits, onions, green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher. Chocolate belongs to a subgroup of flavonoids called flavonols.
The presence of plant chemicals like flavonoids is related the color of the chocolate. There are more flavonoids in darker chocolate than there are in milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is also known as semisweet or bittersweet chocolate because it contains little or no sugar. It is frequently identified by the percentage of cocoa. The cocoa content in dark chocolate ranges from 30% for sweet dark chocolate to 70% or sometimes above 80%. A higher percentage indicates there is more of a bitter after-taste.
Milk chocolate contains fewer flavonoids than dark chocolate and tastes sweeter. American chocolate contains milk; European varieties often contain condensed milk.
White chocolate lacks flavanoids because there are no cocoa solids in it. It is considered a chocolate because cocoa butter is usually an ingredient. Some white chocolate is made with vegetable fats.
Food of the gods
The cacao tree’s name, Theobroma cacao, translates to “Food of the gods.” Humans found numerous medical uses for that food throughout the years. The Maya and Aztecs used it to treat conditions including seizures, fevers, and skin infections. During the 17th century, people used chocolate as a sleep aid, blood purifier, and a pain reliever during childbirth. Some people believed that chocolate helped them live longer.
People realized that chocolate gave them energy. They knew it could be fattening, but excess weight was a sign of prosperity in the 19th century. A thin figure meant that a person wasn’t well-off financially, and chocolate was sold as a weight-gain powder. Standards changed during the early decades of the 20th century, when the ideal image was a thin figure. Chocolate became known as a forbidden food for dieters. The role of chocolate in diets started to change during the 1990s.
Chocolate health plans
During the 1990s and in subsequent years, researchers began investigating the health benefits of chocolate. In unrelated actions, several books promoted weight-loss plans that involved chocolate.
THE PASTA-POPCORN-CHOCOLATE DIET A diet detailed on some websites in the spring of 2007 was attributed to Lenny Neimark, a film maker and screenwriter. Neimark wrote The Pasta-Popcorn-Chocolate Diet, a 32-page book published in 1999 by Soul Proprietor. It was out-of-print in April of 2007 when Amazon.com carried a link to a bookseller offering one copy of it for $.192.01. According to online information, Neimark based his book on “his unique and humorous perspective of human nature, drama, and people’s desire to look, feel, and be thin, scientific facts,” and the case histories of overweight patients. The histories were provided by his brother, a doctor with a family medicine practice in California.
The book’s title described three foods allowed on a diet, according to descriptions on websites including idiet4u.com. Also on the weight-loss plan were fruits, vegetables, and 1 ounce (28.3 grams)of chocolate each day. Chapter titles included “Thinking Thin” “The Science and Mathematics of Losing Weight,” and & “How to Maintain Results.”
THE CHOCOLATE DIET Sally Ann Voak’s The Chocolate Diet is a 235-page book published in 2001. Voak, a British journalist, was then the The Sun newspaper’s slimming editor. Her writing credits include The Fatfield Diet, a book about a weight-loss plan that she created for the British village of Fatfield. Residents were challenged to follow the healthy weight-loss plan. Their progress was tracked on “Bazaar” a popular BBC daytime program.
Voak targeted The Chocolate Diet at chocoholics, people who have trouble resisting chocolate. Her book included six diets and the promise that people could eat chocolate and lose weight. Although the paperback book is out of print, copies were available through Amazon.com in the spring of 2007.
The once forbidden food for dieters was incorporated into some weight-loss plans by the end of the 20th Century. Furthermore, people concerned about health issues like high cholesterol could turn to chocolate as a potential preventive measure.
The Pasta-Popcorn-Chocolate Diet
Details about Neimark’s diet on the Internet were limited to what foods were allowed and what were excluded. There was no information about how long the diet lasted or how much weight a dieter could expect to lose. There were limited recommendations for serving sizes. The specified portions included 1 ounce (28.3 grams) of chocolate. This is the equivalent of one baking chocolate square.
The online versions of the diet showed a menu plan for one day, with several meal selections for the dieter to choose from. Other variety in the diet came from choosing different fruits, vegetables, and low-fat pasta sauces. Popcorn could be topped with nonfat butter substitutes or a bit of parmesan cheese. Salt was not permitted.
The diet of three meals and three snacks consists of:
- Breakfast of fresh fruit, fruit salad, or shredded wheat with non-fat milk and strawberries.
- A morning snack of air-popped popcorn or fruit.
- Lunch of salad, pasta salad, or spaghetti. Pasta sauces should be meatless, low fat, and low sodium. Low-calorie salad dressing is allowed
- An afternoon snack of popcorn or a fruit smoothie made with 1 cup (236.6 milliliters) non-fat skim milk.
- Dinner of fettuccini with garlic tomato sauce, wholewheat pasta primavera salad, or steamed vegetables.
- Evening snack of popcorn or 1 ounce (28.3 grams) of chocolate.
The dieter should drink 2 quarts (2 liters) of water but could not consume
- Coffee or other caffeinated beverages or carbonated soft drinks.
- Sugars, raisins and dates because of the high sugar content, and snack foods like cakes and pie.
- Oils, fried foods, and oily foods like avocados, olives, and coconut.
- Oils, fried foods, and oily foods like avocados, olives, and coconut.
- Red meats and dairy products.
- Nuts, seeds, and snack foods like chips.
Sally Ann Voak’s chocolate diets
The front cover of The Chocolate Diet promised that the reader could eat chocolate and lose seven pounds in two weeks. Voak’s book contains quizzes to determine whether a person is a chocoholic and which of the six diets a person should follow. Each weight loss plan includes selections that fit within the calorie count for meals, strategies for a person to follow, and recommendations for exercises and other activities. The book also includes recipes and a calorie guide for chocolate candies that fit within the diet plan. British and American brands of chocolate are listed.
Each of the diets starts with a week of withdrawal from chocolate. During this time, Voak wrote, people start to control their cravings for chocolate. All weight-loss plans include unlimited amounts of vegetables from a list of 28 low-calorie selections. The free vegetables include asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, red and green peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and watercress. The six diets include items from all of the food groups. The diets were designed for women; men consume 300 more calories each day.
Voak’s diet plans are for:
- Secret Bingers, people who hide chocolate and don’t want others to know they eat it. The plan consists of a 250-calorie breakfast, two light meals of 350 calories each, a 400-calore main meal, and a 100-calorie treat. In the second week and in following weeks, there is a daily chocolate allowance of 150 calories. Dieters may also have a 200-calorie dessert or beverage, with choices selected from recipes in the book
- Romantics are often single and use chocolate as a substitute for love. Their menu plan is a 250-calorie breakfast, 350-calorie light meal, 400-calore main meal, and a 100-calorie treat. After the second week, they may spend 300 calories on a chocolate treat three times a week
- Comfort eaters consume chocolate when tired or faced with a problem. Their plan consists of a 250-calorie breakfast, 350-calorie light meal, 400-calore main meal, and two 50-calorie treats. In the second week, there is a daily chocolate allowance of 200 calories. In following weeks, the allowance is 50 calories
- Weekend Indulgers associate chocolate with celebrations. Their daily calorie allowance is 1,350 during the week and 1,600 on the weekend. The menu plan is a 250-calorie breakfast, 350-calorie light meal, 400-calore main meal, and two 100-calorie treats. After the second week, 300 calories in chocolate is allowed on each weekend day
- Sugar addicts often get most of their calories from carbohydrates and may use chocolate as a fix when tired. Their plan consists of a 250-calorie breakfast, two light meals of 250 calories each, a 400-calore main meal, and a 100-calorie treat. In the second week and in following weeks, there is a daily chocolate allowance of 200 calories
- Premenstrual cravers overindulge in chocolate during some days of the month. Their plan is followed as needed one to two weeks before or during a menstrual period. The diet consists of a five 250-calorie meals and a 100-calorie treat. In the second week, and in following weeks, the daily chocolate allowance is 100 calories
Cocoa Via plan
Consumers are advised to eat two CocoaVia Heart Healthy Chocolate Snacks bars each day to achieve health benefits. The chocolate should be consumed as part of a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and exercise. Mars’ line of CocoaVia products included dark chocolate bars, milk chocolate candy, and the Rich Chocolate Indulgence beverage, as of the spring of 2007. Calorie amounts and fat content varied by product.
According to the nutritional label, the 22-gram (0.78-ounce) Original Chocolate bar contained 100 milligram of cocoa flavanols and 1.1 gram of natural plant extract (sterol). Each bar had 100 calories with 60 calories from fat. There were 6 grams of total fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugars, 12 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein.
A 5.65-ounce (.167-liter) bottle of the chocolate beverage contained 100 milligram of flavanols, 150 calories, 25 fat calories, 3 fat grams, 1 gram of saturated fat, 3 grams of fibers, and 6 grams of protein.
Neiman and Voak’s diets are used to satisfy dieters” cravings by allowing limited amounts of chocolate. The dark chocolate plan also permits limited amounts of chocolate because consuming it may provide health benefits.
For people trying to lose weight, the Pasta-Popcorn-Chocolate Diet”s chocolate restriction and the emphasis on complex carbohydrates should produce a weight loss. Complex carbohydrates come from plants. They are low in calories and provide fiber in the diet. The carbohydrates take longer to digest, so a person experiences a sense of fullness for a longer time. As a result, the person eats less.
Voaks’ Chocolate Diet plans are designed for dieters to break their addictions to chocolate and then learn to eat it in moderation. People undergo this behavior change while following one of six nutritionally balanced low-calorie diets. The unlimited allowance of vegetables permits dieters to fill up on complex carbohydrates. The plans call for physical exercise and feature strategies to help dieters cope with issues that could lead to eating too much chocolate.
People eat CocoaVia snacks because of research indicating that regular consumption of the products could benefit cardiovascular health and cholesterol levels. Flavanols in the snacks may improve the flexibility of blood vessels, resulting in healthy blood circulation. According to Mars, clinical research shows that the regular consumption of plant sterols can reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels in the normal range for most people.
People who enjoy pasta, popcorn, and chocolate will be able to eat those foods on Neimark’s diet. They should lose weight on the pasta-popcorn-chocolate diet because it is a low-calorie, high-fiber diet Popcorn is a whole-grain food, a food type recommended by organizations including the American Heart Association and the United States Department of Agriculture. Three cups (680.3 grams) of popcorn is equal to 1 ounce (28.3 grams) of whole grains. One cup (226.8 grams) of air-popped popcorn is 30 calories and contains 1.2 grams of fiber. Whole-grain pastas would also be beneficial in a healthy diet, according to organizations including the USDA.
Voak’s book could be used for a self-directed weight loss program. It features recommendations for meals and recipes to help dieter lose weight while learning healthy eating habits. Dieters also incorporate exercise into their schedules as well as moderate amounts of chocolate. There are instructions for a yoga-type exercise program and tips for using massage and mediation to handle emotions that dieters formerly may have soothed with chocolate.
Furthermore, regular consumption of flavonol-rich dark chocolate may lower blood pressure and lessen the risk of heart disease.
People who are allergic to chocolate should not prescribe to regimens that involve eating it. People with other conditions such as elevated LDL or total cholesterol levels should consult their physicians before beginning a diet or health regimen involving
the daily consumption of chocolate. It may be necessary to have their cholesterol tested. Overweight or obese people should ask their health professionals whether it is wise to include chocolate in their diets.
In addition, the Pasta-Popcorn-Chocolate Diet is not nutritionally balanced because it limits dairy products and proteins. All food groups are included in Voak’s plans. However, some diets are less than 1,200 calories per day. That’s the medically recognized minimum calorie allowance for people not following a medically supervised diet.
Voak, Sally Ann. The Chocolate Diet. Blake Publishing, Ltd., 2001.
American Dietetic Association, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606. (800) 877-1600. <http://eatright.org>.
American Heart Association National Center, 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231. (800) 242-8721. <http://www.americanheart.org>.
Center for Science in the Public Interest 1875 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Ste. 300, Washington, D.C. 20009. (202) 332-9110. <http://www.cspinet.org>.
Barrionuevo, Alexei. “Apple a Day for Health? Mars Recommends Two Bars of Chocolate” New York Times (Oct. 31, 2005. <http://www.nytimes.com/> (April 13 2007).
CocoaVia. 1-(866) 290-6849. <http://cocoavia.com/> April 13,2007).>
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Physical Activity and Good Nutrition: Essential Elements to Prevent Chronic Diseases and Obesity At A Glance 2007 <http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/publica-tions/aag/dnpa.htm> (April 13, 2007).
U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, <http://www.health.gov/dietarygui-delines/dga2005/document> (April 9, 2007).