PCOS Diet: Benefits of Chocolate for PCOS
We all have cravings for something sweet, and chocolate is one of those satisfying guilty pleasures. But when you are diagnosed with PCOS, you are often told to avoid all sweet treats, including chocolate.
But what if I was to tell you eating chocolate was actually good for you and your PCOS?
You are probably thinking this can't be true, there can't be any benefits to eating chocolate for my PCOS. Chocolate is high in sugar, fat and calories. So what sort of benefits could it possibly offer me?
Well, if you love chocolate but also want to reverse your PCOS, I suggest you continue reading this post to find out why chocolate can be a healthy guilt-free addition to your PCOS diet. As well as which chocolate is the best for your PCOS.
The Benefits of Chocolate for PCOS
Over the years, chocolate has gotten a bad rap, with countless articles warning us about the dangers of eating our favorite cocoa treats.
But is this reputation justified? Actually no.
You see, cocoa, the plant used to make chocolate, is a rich source of dietary polyphenols. Polyphenols are naturally found in plants and contain many antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which are important for balancing hormones and reversing PCOS.
So from a nutritional perspective, chocolate in certain doses can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet.
But I hear you cry, ‘how does it benefit my PCOS specifically?’
Well, keep reading.
Increases Insulin Sensitivity
Around 70% of women with PCOS also suffer from insulin resistance. This is a condition where the cells in the body struggle to absorb glucose in the blood and as a result, there is a build-up of sugar in the bloodstream.
Researchers looked at the difference between eating flavanol-rich dark chocolate and flavanol-free white chocolate on a group of pre-diabetic patients. The results showed that eating 100g a day of flavanol-rich dark chocolate for 15 days led to a decrease in insulin resistance and an increase in insulin sensitivity.
However, the researchers reported no improvements in the patients who ate flavanol-free white chocolate.
The results clearly show the powerful benefits of polyphenols found in chocolate. Therefore, to reap the improvements in insulin levels, you must eat chocolate which contains flavanols. Knowing that you can still enjoy a sweet treat like chocolate and treat insulin resistance at the same time is very motivating and uplifting for women with PCOS.
Women with PCOS often suffer from long term stress. Stress wreaks havoc on hormones and makes PCOS symptoms worse. Therefore a key part of balancing your hormones and reversing PCOS is lowering stress levels.
A study looked at the effect chocolate has on stress levels. The researchers studied three groups, the dark chocolate group, the milk chocolate group and the white chocolate group. Participants consumed 40g of said chocolate for two weeks. Results from the study showed both the dark and milk chocolate group experienced lower levels of stress.
While the group that ate white chocolate reported no significant difference in stress levels. This, therefore, reinforces the belief that it is not the sweet nature of dark and milk chocolate that helps lowers stress. It is actually the nutritional benefits of the cocoa which are found in both dark and milk chocolate.
Reduces Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Fatigue is a common symptom of PCOS. Suffering from PCOS fatigue is a daily struggle, but researchers have found that the polyphenols found in chocolate can help with fatigue.
Results from a study found participants that took polyphenol-rich chocolate showed a significant improvement in their chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.
The study suggests eating 15g of high cocoa polyphenol rich chocolate three times daily can help with fatigue and reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Lowers LDL and Increases HDL Cholesterol
Women with PCOS have high levels of LDL cholesterol, 'bad cholesterol', and low levels of HDL cholesterol, 'good cholesterol'. Having high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease.
Researchers found cocoa powder and dark chocolate can decrease the risk of high LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol levels.
The right balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol is important for cardiovascular health. Therefore, knowing that chocolate can help achieve a healthy balance of both 'good' and 'bad' cholesterol is promising.
Reduces the Risk of Stroke
A further cardiovascular risk factor for women with PCOS is the chance of a stroke. However, research suggests that due to cocoa’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic activity it is able to reduce the tendency of blood to clot.
A meta-analysis study found that higher consumption of chocolate was linked to a lower risk of stroke.
The results suggest that chocolate does not have to avoided and can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
Doesn’t Hinder Weight Loss
Weight gain and difficulty losing weight is a common symptom of PCOS. But researchers suggest adding dark chocolate to your diet can help promote satiety and still be enjoyed while trying to lose weight.
The study tested the weight loss results of three groups, chocolate group (low carb but with lots of chocolate), low-carb group and control group. The results showed both the chocolate group and the low-carb group lost weight, whereas the control group gained weight during the study period.
Participants in the low-carb group lost 3.1 percent of their body weight in 21 days while the chocolate group lost 3.2 percent.
As you can see, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to restrict chocolate from your diet if you want to lose weight.
Boosts Mood and Helps with Depression
Depression is a huge risk factor for women with PCOS. But research shows that chocolate can help boost mood and help with depression.
Chocolate contains an amino acid called tryptophan which stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin triggers the release of endorphins which help to regulate your mood. It is also known as an anti-depressant.
Eating chocolate may, therefore, be a great way to help alleviate feelings of anxiety and help you feel much calmer and happier.
What To Look For When Choosing the Right Chocolate
Here's the thing.
The above health benefits can only be achieved if you choose the right chocolate. Cocoa is the key ingredient you need to be looking at.
You want to choose dark chocolate which is high in cocoa and low in sugar. The darker the chocolate the higher the cocoa percentage. Choose dark chocolate which has been minimally processed and has a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher. Milk and white chocolate do not contain enough cocoa and they tend to be high in sugar, fat and added chemicals.
Keep in mind the higher the cocoa percentage the more bitter the dark chocolate. The bitterness is due to the flavonols found in cocoa. A lot of the time these flavanols are removed from chocolate to help with the bitterness, the chocolate is "processed with alkali". But through taking them away you lose those health benefits.
But with all this said, while chocolate has great health benefits none of them should be used as an excuse to overindulge. Dark chocolate still contains sugar and fat and therefore you don't want to overconsume and counteract these health benefits. Be smart, eat 1-2 square pieces a day or a few times a week.
Despite the negative information you may have come across on chocolate, it isn't all bad! The polyphenols found in cocoa make chocolate a healthy addition to your PCOS diet. Knowing a delicious piece of chocolate can provide you with tons of health benefits for your PCOS including increasing insulin sensitivity, lowering stress and LDL cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of stroke. As well as helping with fatigue, weight loss and depression is good to know.
These benefits may sound too good to be true, but the type of chocolate you choose can certainly have a positive impact on your health. So choose dark chocolate which contains a high cocoa content of 70% or higher to reap the benefits. Don't be afraid to indulge in some chocolate, it may actually help reverse your PCOS!
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Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle and online coach. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.
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