Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Dos and Don’ts of Chocolate

Regardless of your hopes, expectations, or reservations about Valentine's Day, chocolate has long been a favorite gift for lovers. Since katatapos lang ng VDAY, let me share these interesting facts about chocolate’s surprising health benefits and how you can eat it to your advantage. 

*DO be choosey about your chocolate.To get all of the good-for-you benefits of chocolate and cocoa, you have to know what you’re eating. Ideally, you should pick dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa—the higher the cocoa percentage, the more health benefits the chocolate contains. The label on your chocolate should also say non- or lightly alkalized or non-dutched. And if you’re eating the stuff for health benefits, skip white and milk chocolate, which don’t have as many of the good-for-you flavanols the dark variety does.

*DON’T worry if you haven’t developed a taste for the dark stuff yet. You can develop a palate for the dark stuff by gradually increasing the percentage of cocoa in your chocolates and can even find some milk chocolates with 50 percent cocoa or more.
* DON’T forget about portion control. A little bit of chocolate is all you need. One study found that as few as 30 calories of flavanol-rich dark chocolate lowered blood pressure. Enjoy a couple of individually wrapped squares of your favorite chocolate to keep the calories in check.

* But DO forgive yourself for splurging. Eating that whole heart-shaped box of chocolates isn’t the worst thing ever. A 500-calorie indulgence amounts to only about a two-ounce weight gain—easy enough to work off in a single gym session or by skipping your usual Venti Vanilla Frappuccino with whip the next morning.

*DON’T turn to chocolate if you’re looking for an aphrodisiac. Men have long believed that giving a woman chocolate will put her in the mood to get busy. Hate to break it to them, but scientists have not been able to prove that chocolate increases sexual desire in women.

* DO drink hot cocoa to keep skin young. Cocoa beans are filled with antioxidants that combat inflammation from free radicals, which can leave skin puffy and red. When cocoa beans are converted into chocolate bars, they can lose much of their antioxidants, which is why she recommends drinking cocoa with skim milk. Plus, it’s a great mood boosting food.

*DON’T worry too much about the caffeine in chocolate. Even dark chocolate won’t keep you up all night. A 100-gram chocolate bar (made with 70 to 85 percent cocoa) has 80mg of caffeine, as compared with the average cup of coffee with 95mg of the stay-awake substance. And that’s assuming you eat the entire 605-calorie bar in one setting—also a DON’T.

*DO eat chocolate for your heart. High cholesterol is a big contributor to heart disease—the number one killer of women. A low-cholesterol diet tends to limit eggs, meat, cheese (you know, the yummy stuff), but chocolate should stay on the list of heart-healthy foods to eat! A study found that substances derived from antioxidant-rich cocoa powder may contribute to a reduction in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and an elevation in HDL cholesterol (the good kind).

*DON’T blame chocolate for your cavities. Your mom was wrong about this one. Chocolate may actually help prevent cavities and plaque build-up on the teeth.
 *DO use chocolate to scrub your skin. The antioxidants and cocoa butter in chocolate help moisturize and promote healthy skin-cell development, keeping skin soft and supple, if you’re looking for a DIY spa treatment.
*DO think outside the (chocolate) box. To get the health benefits of chocolate without the added fat and calories, suggest you start using natural cocoa powder in oatmeal, coffee and yogurt as a low-calorie way to get your daily dose of flavanols.