Could chocolate be the cure for childhood obesity?

By now, staying away from refined sugar and processed, packaged junk foods is a no-brainer for you. (At least, I hope it is.)

But sometimes “good” and “bad” food choices aren’t so clear cut.

Chocolate and coffee are perfect examples of this gray area. These are easily the two most common indulgences that people enjoy on either a daily or very regular basis.

And you know what? That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because both vices have plenty of virtues in their own right. Virtues that, at first glance, may even strike you as completely counterintuitive.

For example, recent research revealed that teens who eat more chocolate every day are slimmer than teens who don’t.

Yes…. really.

This European research demonstrated that adolescents consuming 42.6 grams of chocolate daily had lower body mass indexes (not to mention more energy and higher levels of physical activity) than their peers who ate closer to 5 grams daily.

Of course, bear in mind that the average chocolate bar is 100 grams. So it’s not as if these kids were scarfing down entire bags of Hershey’s kisses on a daily basis.

According to the food intake questionnaires used here, any product where chocolate was the main ingredient counted. So needless to say, this research isn’t without its limitations.

This study also didn’t differentiate between dark, white, and milk chocolate. Which is a big downfall, because there’s a huge difference among these forms of chocolate in terms of catechin content.

Catechins are the same compounds that give tea its healing properties. And these are the flavonoids that researchers think are responsible for chocolate’s benefits, too.

That includes the ability to improve circulation and vascular health. And to fight notorious villains like free radicals, high blood pressure, stiff arteries, blood clots, and inflammation.

Just to give you a point of reference, the USDA estimates a mean catechin content of 11.00 mg per 100 grams of dark chocolate. But a similar sized bar of white chocolate only offers just 4.16 mg of catechins.

Obviously, that’s a far cry from the original “medicinal” chocolate used by the Kuna Indians in Panama. But I’ll save that story for another time.

Just to be clear, this is not me giving you–or your kids–a pass to stock up on candy bars. It’s just an illustration that there are often many sides to a story when it comes to nutritional science. And unfortunately, we just don’t have all of the answers. (Yet!)

But it’s also more proof that chocolate is a pretty cool substance. I just don’t think we’ve quite figured out how to use it properly. That is, in a way that offers the very best of its health benefits without coming face to face with a few big, fat drawbacks. (Pun absolutely intended.)

But I can offer you a good place to start–with 100-percent pure cocoa powder. Sweetened yourself with stevia or lo han, of course.

It makes for a delicious concoction when you mix it with unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk. Perfect (and perfectly healthy) to snuggle up with on a snowy day.

“Association between chocolate consumption and fatness in European adolescents.” Nutrition. 2013 Oct 17.