Sunday, February 5, 2012

Holiday Dieting: A Sweet Way To Cheat

If your diet is making you a humbug this season, there's some good news. Turns out dark chocolate, that decadent confection, may actually be good for you!
Yes, recently conducted studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have shown that a dose of dark chocolate will heed all sorts of healthy results. And with holiday-time upon us, this news couldn't have come at a better time.
So just for fun, I thought I'd conduct a mini-research project of my own and get the "skinny" on our friend dark chocolate. Here's some of the interesting factoids I came up with:
Cocoa—the precursor to chocolate--has been around a long time. A few thousand years, in fact. It has been thought that cocoa beans were brought to Europe in the 1500's by Christopher Columbus.
Cocoa, later made into chocolate, was given to American Soldiers in WWII. According to historical data, each solider was given a three chocolate bar per day ration, due to it being such a great source of high-energy.
Researchers got involved when studies showed that in addition to being a high energy food, chocolate also stimulates elevated moods. Researchers found truth to this, showing that dark chocolate does, in fact, increase levels of mood-altering chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins.
Some researchers have also gone on to conduct major studies to prove the correlation between chocolate and a true physiological craving. (Check out "Why Women Need Chocolate," written by Debra Waterhouse, Registered Dietician in 1999).
And, the best news yet. Upon further study, it has been found that the "flavonoids" in dark chocolate are scientifically proven to act as antioxidants, preventing "bad" cholesterol (LDL) in the blood from oxidizing and clogging arteries.
So, if you are looking for a healthy way to "cheat" this holiday season, dark chocolate may not be all together a bad option. Facts aside, however, and before you run out to fill your shopping cart full, keep these guidelines in mind:
Heed the advice of Aristotle: "Everything in moderation." Refrain from taking the "chocolate factory tour." Keep your chocolate fix to a minimum. Enjoy it, but please don't over do.
When you are shopping for chocolate, try to find "dark" varieties with at least 70% cocoa.
Also, make sure "sugar" or "butter fat" are not the first items listed.
If you'd like to skip the treat but not the fun, send a virtual chocolate postcard from this fun chocolate website (no calories included) :
To summarize my findings; it appears that dark chocolate is in fact our friend (and we will just leave its aphrodisiac qualities to your own private discussion groups, thanks).
As for the cravings... Well, do we really need chocolate?
Survey says: Dunno. But, with the holidays upon us, a Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate once in a while—now available in the *sugar free" variety, mind you--sounds sweet enough to me.