You Have To Skip Chocolate This Valentine's Day? Don't Be Heartbroken.
Indulging (In Moderation) Can Be GOOD For You
can't avoid being around chocolate on February 14th, even if you try.
According to the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, more than 36 million
boxes of chocolates will be sold in connection with Valentine's Day
this year so the odds are someone will offer you a piece, or a whole
box. Here's good news: according to Emory HeartWise Risk Reduction Program
nutritionist Nancy Anderson, R.D., M.P.H., you can indulge in chocolate
and still keep your diet resolutions. In fact, chocolate may even offer
some health benefits.
"Just because you are eating
healthy and watching your weight doesn't mean you have to give up things
you love, including chocolate, forever," says Anderson. "Denying yourself
a food you love creates a feeling of deprivation and can set you up
for bingeing. You can enjoy chocolate as part of a healthy diet but
that means paying attention to controlling how much you eat."
Curiously, chocolate has
been associated with matters of the heart for thousands of years. The
ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations are believed to be the first people
who drank a chocolate drink they connected to romantic powers. While
no one has proven indulging in chocolate can actually help your love
life, scientists have found that there are substances in some types
of chocolate that may be beneficial to a healthy heart.
"Milk chocolate, dark chocolate,
and bittersweet chocolate have similar properties. They contain a unique
kind of saturated fat -- stearic acid -- which doesn't raise blood cholesterol
levels," Anderson explains. "Dark chocolate is also a rich source of
substances that act as antioxidants and we know anti-oxidants are helpful
in combating heart disease and other health problems."
Chocolate also may elevate
your mood. "Folklore has long said that's the case and there's some
science to back up that claim," Anderson explains. "While chocolate's
ability to make you feel good is partly psychological, we now know there
are some agents in chocolate that can alter one's sense of well being.
Tyramine, serotonin and 2-phenylethamine (PEA, for short) affect neurotransmitters,
giving you a lift similar to the feeling of being in love."
Nancy Anderson has several
cautions for chocolate lovers, however. For example, be aware that white
chocolate is actually not chocolate at all and it contains none of
the possible health benefits of the real thing. "White chocolate is
made of fat, sugar and flavorings it is a high calorie confection
not made from cocoa or cocoa beans," Anderson says.
Chocolate also lacks fiber
and important vitamins and minerals you get from eating fruits and vegetables.
"Another downside of chocolate is that it does contain sugar, fat and
calories that will make you fat if you eat too much. You can't simply
eat as much as you might like to," says Anderson. "The key to not eating
too much chocolate is to understand portion control."
For example, Anderson says
to consider having a few chocolate kisses, instead of an entire chocolate
candy bar --- one typical chocolate kiss has only 26 calories and one
gram of saturated fat.
"You can also get a lot of
chocolate flavor from cocoa powder -- which has much less fat and calories
than regular chocolate. One ounce of cocoa powder has 58 calories, three
grams of fat, and no saturated fat. However, it still contains all the
antioxidant properties of chocolate," Anderson says. " Replacing a good
portion of some or all of the chocolate in many recipes with cocoa powder
is a good way to have the chocolate taste you love but without adding
a lot of extra fat and calories to your diet."
On Valentine's Day, February
14th, Nancy Anderson, R.D., M.P.H., will discuss "Fat or Fiction? Truth
and Dietary Fat" at the First Baptist Church of Decatur from 12 noon
to 1 p.m. (Health screenings will take place before and after the lecture,
from 9:a.m. - 12 noon and from 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Blood glucose, cholesterol
levels and blood pressure testing will be offered atminimal cost.) The
lecture is part of the HeartWise Lunch and Learn Lecture series celebrating
National Heart Month.
The Emory HeartWise Risk
Reduction Program is designed for anyone who has experienced a heart
or circulatory event or for anyone who is considered "at risk" for heart
disease. Emory Heart Center physicians and other health professionals
offer individualized risk assessment followed by a carefully monitored
program of exercise, nutrition and education to help lower heart disease
risk. To find out more about the Heart Wise program, call 404-778-2850.