It’s been nearly a century since Wheaties featured Lou Gehrig as the first of many star athletes to grace the cereal box cover and represent “the breakfast of Champions”. While Wheaties continues to have its fair share of dedicated breakfast fans, a new study suggests that at least from a heart health perspective another food source rises to the top when it comes to the breakfast of champions. No, I am not referring to cheerios, oatmeal or egg white omelettes.
In fact, this breakfast is not only decadent and mood uplifting but also lowers blood glucose and burns fat. And the answer is….chocolate!
In the new study conducted in Spain, female volunteers were assigned to consume 3.5 ounces (100 grams), the size of an average bar of milk chocolate. Beyond their typical food intake, the women were randomly assigned to complete 3 phases; no chocolate phase, chocolate for breakfast phase or chocolate for dinner phase.
The results found that despite the additional ~500 calories from chocolate, there was surprisingly no weight gain when chocolate was added to breakfast. In fact, 300 fewer calories were consumed on average per day with shrinkage of waist size and reduced cortisol (stress) levels. Eating chocolate in the morning was also associated with 4.4% decrease in fasting blood glucose levels (by slowing carb digestion) and increased concentration of powerful antioxidants, such as epicatechins.
Bottom line: Women who ate the equivalent of a bar of milk chocolate for breakfast were less hungry throughout the day and consumed less fat and carbs. In addition, the compound theobromine derived from cacao beans, is thought to have contributed to the increased fat breakdown (oxidation) and smaller waist circumference provided that the chocolate was consumed within 1 hour of awakening. If these benefits were derived with milk chocolate, imagine what a dark chocolate breakfast can do for you!
Listed below are more reasons to start your day with chocolate, the (new) breakfast of champions!
- Reduces Cholesterol: Combining dark chocolate with almonds and cocoa powder reduces LDL cholesterol; lower LDL is associated with lower risk of heart disease.
- Affects Platelet Function: Casual consumption of chocolate was shown to reduce platelet clumping (aggregation). These antiplatelet effects contribute to the reduction in heart disease associated with consumption of flavanol-enriched foods.
- Lowers Blood Pressure: The equivalent of 30 calories of dark chocolate (1 Hershey’s dark chocolate kiss) was shown to lower blood pressure. This is due to blood vessel dilation and improvement in endothelial function (nitric-oxide mediated).
- Improves Memory: Consuming a drink containing cocoa flavanols improves memory and reduces several measures of age-related cognitive decline. As a rich source of cocoa flavanols, not only do I add CocoaVia to my morning coffee but I recommend the same for my patients.
Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland and author of “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.”: published by Penguin Random House.