Dark Chocolate- Now that’s having some cake!

So Valentine’s went off without a hitch, another day to through out our diets and indulge on the finer things in life like my topic this week: chocolate!!

Now, I’m kinda new to the world of chocolate.  This is a recent trend I got into that starting during my pregnancy a year and a half ago, so getting my first box of dark chocolates for Valentine’s Day this year is quite a delight.  Yes, sure I’ve been able to enjoy the taste of M & Ms; I have been able to sneak in a Snicker’s bar on my off-days; and for the last several months I have enjoyed my smore’s treat on Friday nights featuring a bar of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate; but I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t find a healthier alternative to one of few indulgences in life ……Hey I dedicate time and effort to blog called “Have your cake and eat it too” of course I indulge!…..

……and with the benefits of dark chocolate, by golly I think I got it.

Since it’s Heart Health Month, I’m going to let you know how much dark chocolate is an advocate for you heart health.  A Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate study came out in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that eating dark chocolate helps reduce blood pressure.  This isn’t the chocolate speaking people, a small piece of it can actually reduce LDL cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy.  Of course, this next part you will want to stay focused on  how you can get away with this instead of seeing when your next available time to get away to the store is.  Mark Stibich, Ph.D. on About.com says that only 1/3 of the contents of dark chocolate is bad for you.  So if you are going to be bad, dark chocolate can serve as a great substitute for milk chocolate or chocolates containing nougats and other flavorings.  Mark does say you should appropriate your calories around your chocolate fix; that should be a no-brainer if you have been keeping up with my blogs.  You can surely have a balance of all the foods you like, chocolate included, if you keep in moderation.

There was another study done by The Nestle Research Center in Switzerland that showed by eating  1.44 oz a day of chocolate for two weeks resulted in lower amounts of stress.  Proven studies should not be the catapult that spawns your “one chocolate bar a day” addiction or “she-said conviction that it was ok for me to eat this” mentality.  Like all food, chocolate should come with a warning that says, “When eaten in excess may cause an increase risk of obesity.”

Another Italian study showed that the flavonoids, the anti-inflammatory properties that make up dark chocolate when eaten in small amounts (.23 ounces a day) can decrease your cardiovascular disease risk by 26% if you are male and 33 % if you are female.  I’m always ‘on board’ when it comes to preventative measures so dark chocolate can serve as a  health motive in addition to your sweet tooth requirements.

In addition to these wonderful properties offered above it is also a known fact that dark chocolate gives a bump to your endorphin and serotonin levels, which means you will feel happier and less depressed when eating it- more reason to add a little dark chocolate to your diet every day!

Let’s rethink what our term indulgence means, shall we?  If we are seriously going to add dark chocolate to our diets (which I am going to do, btw) for the health benefits let’s figure out how we are going to do this– taking out the truly bad things out of our diet i.e. empty calories like sodas and french fries (things that literally don’t have any nutritional value), can make room for our 1 oz of dark chocolate 2 or 3 days a week.  Check out my  Give and Take relationship blog to help you with this concept.

Also, as a mental note, the darker the chocolate (yes it can get really dark) the better it is for you.  Look for the amount of cocao in your chocolate.  You should aim for at least 50% cocao but you should know the higher the percentage the cacao, the more flavonoids there are.  Flavonoids, as you recall from earlier, are the anti-inflammatory properties that prevent heart disease and also prevent damage to your blood vessels.

So even though you do not find a ‘golden ticket’ in your dark chocolate bar, know that you CAN find confidence that your chocolate indulgence is good for you in small doses.

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