Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today, we're talking about the benefits of CHOCOLATE!  :)

Chances are pretty good that you'll run into some today, or over the coming week ... over $1 billion is spent on it for Valentines Day.

Research published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and others have looked at the health benefits ... and there is something to it.

It starts with the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate.  Antioxidants can be thought of as scavengers in the body that gobble up dangerous free radicals and other destructive molecules. 

Think of antioxidants like Pac-Man - and the destructive molecules as the Ghosts in the game that Pac-Man gobbles. 

Of course antioxidants aren't just in dark chocolate - they're plentiful in fruit and veggies, tea, and loads of other foods.   But dark chocolate is one of the highest sources of antioxidants called flavonoids and catechins, two powerful ones. 

Of course other foods are better sources of other antioxidants, so variety is key.

A recent study published in the Southern Medical Journal examined the effects of dark chocolate on inflammation, lipid levels, and the stickiness of the blood in 28 individuals.

They fed the individuals 1 oz of dark chocolate daily for 7 days. 

The results: 

  • LDL (the bad cholesterol) dropped by 6%
  • HDL (the good cholesterol) increased by 9%
  • hsCRP (inflammatory marker) decreased

While this was a short study, it can be combined with the other positive data to support the inclusion of dark chocolate into the diet.  Other studies suggest including dark chocolate into a varied diet lowers blood pressure too.

Bottom Line

  • This isn't a "free pass" to gorge on chocolate daily - it still contains lot of calories, fat and sugar ... so if you want to include chocolate, keep those calories in check by reducing your intake elsewhere.
  • Aim for chocolate that has at least 70% cacao (it will tell you this on the package).
  • Dark chocolate does not mean a Snicker's Bar, King Size Twix, Heath Bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, etc.  It means quality chocolate, without the added junk.

Limit that intake to about 1 oz once in awhile (not every 10 minutes).  But today, if you want the milk chocolate a special someone shared with you, by all means enjoy it!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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