Sweet on health

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Did anyone say chocolate? How does one even contemplate the month of love without chocolate? Well, although there is no doubt that chocolate can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay, researchers have found some benefits for the body as well. So listen up, there’s always hope!

“It seems a component in cocoa — flavonoids — can be heart healthful,” says Susan Moores, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). She says “Flavonoids are antioxidants, known to protect against free radicals in the body. Free radicals are suspected of damaging arteries and triggering build-up of plaque (fatty substances) in the wall of blood vessels, which can lead to atherosclerosis. Antioxidants can also help lower the level of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), and increase the amount of “good” cholesterol (HDL). This antioxidant effect is apparently greater in dark chocolate, because it has more cocoa beans, which are a natural source of flavonoids.”

“The flavonoids in dark chocolate may also improve the health of the endothelium (the lining in arteries and veins)”, says Joe Vinson, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. He adds “In one study, people with one risk factor for heart disease (i.e. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides) drank a single 6-ounce glass of cocoa, rich in flavonoids. From that one drink, researchers reportedly found a significant improvement in the flexibility of the arteries.”

“Studies can be misleading, though”, says Vinson, “as researchers typically give subjects high doses of cocoa. We don’t know if lower doses work,” he says. In the same vein, health experts warn against eating too much chocolate as it is usually packed with calories and saturated fat.

If you indulge yourself or a loved one in the cocoa treat, eat a small amount. Cynthia Sass, RD, spokeswoman for the ADA, recommends buying more expensive chocolate, but less of it. “With rich chocolate, it doesn’t take much to be satisfied,” she says, noting that people who take time to savour, and let the candy melt in their mouth, tend to be more content with smaller servings.

Don’t forget the Heart-warming Toast

Wining and dining has long been a Valentine’s Day tradition for sweethearts, and now there may be even more reasons to say “Cheers!” There’s a great heart health benefit to drinking a moderate amount of red wine. Research has shown that the flavonoids in red wine — originally from grape skins — have an antioxidant effect, may raise good cholesterol levels and may help prevent blood clotting in vessels.

All the health professionals interviewed did however warn against excessive drinking, or encouraging non-drinkers to start drinking. Alcohol consumption can raise the risk of liver problems, high blood pressure, obesity, breast cancer, suicide, and accidents. Women of child-bearing age are also encouraged not to drink, as alcohol can harm the growth and development of an unborn child. By the time women who drink heavily find out they’re pregnant “the damage could already be done,” says Sass, who recommends sparkling grape juice, or dark-red grape juice with sparkling water as alternatives to red wine.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends one to two drinks per day for men, and one drink for women. A drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. Regardless of what your friends may tell you, experts don’t recommend red wine or any other alcohol as a first line of defense against heart disease.

Make sure you and your Valentine have a most memorable en totally enjoyable day and evening. With these simple, yet effective guidelines, you’re able to celebrate in style, without any regret. If you require further information, please speak to any of our pharmacists. May your February be filled with only healthy doses of all things lovely.