Thursday, February 14, 2013

Exclusive Tips on Chocolate -- and More . . .

Dear HealthWire Subscriber,

Happy Valentine's Day! More about that in a moment . . .
First, we trust you are enjoying our HealthWire stories. We truly want to keep you up on the latest and most important health developments.
That brings us back to Valentine's Day.
Two days ago, I posted a story about two of chocolate's major health benefits. That's right, health benefits.

This perennial Valentine's treat can help keep your weight in check and maintain a healthy heart -- year around. Amazing!
+ + And as an exclusive for HealthWire subscribers, I've written a health brief on chocolate: Two Terrific Tips for Chocolate Connoisseurs. That's just ahead in this newsletter.
Speaking of heart health, earlier today I published a story about the latest research on the impact of being married for heart wellness.
It's good news for wedded bliss -- plus I put in a few heart health tips for the unmarried who are living alone. The tips could help them enjoy the enhanced circulation that married folks experience. As with the chocolate story, that's in keeping with February's American Heart Month.
And we haven't forgotten to help you understand the ravages of Obamacare! Here's a link to yesterday's HealthWire story on Obama's State of the Union deception about the "Affordable Care Act."
Find out how Congress's own new budget report exposes the falsehood that Obamacare won't break the bank. 

Without further ado, here are those chocolate insights.

Two Terrific Tips for Chocolate Connoisseurs:

1. Lean Heavily Towards Dark Chocolate.

The healthy and flavorful components of chocolate tend toward bitterness. To alleviate that, confection makers began removing those so-called flavonoids (specifically flavanols) and making milk chocolate.

Milk chocolate also tends to have more sugar than dark chocolate. In addition to higher levels of flavonoids necessary for health advantages, dark varieties have more healthy fats and protein.

Kids tend to favor milk chocolate -- I know I did. Once kids start developing more mature tastes, they develop greater openness to the rich nuances of dark chocolate.

Research studies overwhelmingly support dark chocolate as the go-to wellness option. Milk chocolate appears neither to help or harm health significantly -- unless there's a lot of sugar. Then it's not so good over time.

2. Guidelines for Getting the Goods.

What you want from your chocolate is higher levels of those flavanols just mentioned. How do you know what those levels are?

The well-known British medical journal, "The Lancet," even wrote an editorial about the problem:
Dark chocolate can be deceptive. When chocolate manufacturers make confectionary, the natural cocoa solids can be darkened and the flavanols, which are bitter, removed, so even a dark-looking chocolate can have no flavanol. Consumers are also kept in the dark about the flavanol content of chocolate because manufacturers rarely label their products with this information.
The solution for now is to pick products that have high percentages of cacao or cocoa solids. For instance, Nestle's dark chocolate chips have "53% cacao" while Trader Joe's bittersweet chocolate with almonds has "cocoa solids 54% minimum."

REMEMBER THAT THESE PERCENTAGES ARE ONLY A ROUGH GUIDE. Flavanol content varies widely because of differences in the beans used, seasonal weather conditions on the plantations, processing methods, storage factors, and product handling.

One smart way to increase your chances is to
choose a variety of dark chocolate products with high cacao/cocoa content percentages. That way you'll tend to balance the high and low content products and receive, on average, more of the good stuff.

For the future, the best manufacturers may begin listing flavanol content to gain competitive advantage. Go, free markets!

In the mean time, is reading labels and evaluating your confections too much trouble to get the flavors and favors of chocolate? No, I don't think so. Even the British abandon their usual reserve for the sake of chocolate:

Of course some would say that, in terms of food intake, the best and simplest health message would be to stay away from the chocolate and eat a healthy, balanced diet, low in sugar, salt, and fat, and full of fresh fruit and vegetables. We say: “Bah, humbug to that. Pass the chocolates.”

Stay healthy, stay free,
Gailon Totheroh
Editor, HealthWire




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