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Confessions of a Dietitian: I Love Chocolate!

By Karla Shelnutt, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
Reviewed by Lacey Chapa, MS, Assistant Nutrition Education Coordinator, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida, and Gail Kauwell, PhD, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Florida
Valentine_Red_Maori_HeartThis post is part of our Valentine’s Day 2014 series: a week of posts in honor of Valentine’s Day!

You can’t miss it this week. In fact, you probably haven’t been able to avoid it for the past month! Long before all of the Christmas decorations are completely gone from the shelves, you start seeing a lot of pink and red chocolate hearts in the stores.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is upon us, and I am embracing it with both arms. Why, you ask? Because like most women, I love chocolate, and this week, there is chocolate everywhere!

My job as a dietitian is to teach people to make healthier food choices, and I take great pleasure in sharing that eating chocolate can be good for you! Chocolate is made from cocoa, which contains bioactive compounds called flavonoids that have different health benefits. The darker the chocolate, the higher the flavonoid content.

Studies have shown that eating chocolate improves blood pressure and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating chocolate also has been shown to improve your body’s response to insulin, and even to enhance cognition.

While this is great news for all of us chocolate lovers, we still have to be smart about our choices. Most chocolate candy tends to be loaded with fat and sugar, so eating it in moderation is key. So if you’re still trying to think of a gift for your Valentine this week, go for the dark chocolate!

(Photo credit: filled with caramel, milk chocolate ganache, and dark chocolate ganache by alliecooper. CC License.)

References:

Ellam S and Williamson G. (2013) Cocoa and human health. Annu Rev Nutr. 2013;33:105-28. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071811-150642. Epub 2013 Apr 29.

Sokolov AN, Pavlova MA, Klosterholfen, and Enck P. Chocolate and the brain: Neurobiological impact of cocoa flavonols on cognitition and behavior. Neur Behav Rev. 2013;37:2445-2453.