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February 5, 2010
Make it Dark Chocolate for Valentine’s Day
If you plan to give chocolate as a gift on Valentine's Day, one nutrition specialist recommends making it a gift of dark chocolate.
"If you give dark chocolate, your gift may actually benefit the heart of the person you are giving it to," said Tammy Roberts, a nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
Chocolate has been the subject of a lot of research, including some work at the University of Missouri. But the bottom line, according to Roberts, is that dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids.
"Flavonoids provide many health benefits that include preventing cholesterol from gathering in the blood vessels, reducing the risk of blood clots and slowing down the immune response that leads to clogged arteries," said Roberts.
In a study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco researchers gave one group of people a Dove Dark Chocolate bar every day for two weeks. The other group got a Dove bar but the flavonoids had been removed.
The group that received the chocolate bars with the flavonoids showed improvement in blood vessel function. This improvement in blood vessel function increases blood flow to the arteries and that is good for the heart.
In a study conducted in Germany, researchers gave study participants a small piece of dark chocolate (about the size of a Hershey's kiss) daily. A control group received white chocolate.
All participants had their blood pressure monitored for 18 weeks. The study group that took the dark chocolate saw a decrease in systolic (top number) blood pressure by 2.9 and diastolic (bottom number) by 1.9. There was no change in the group taking the white chocolate.
"It is important to note that chocolate is high in calories and it should not take the place of other important foods such as fruits and vegetables that also contain flavonoids," said Roberts.
There is no definitive recommendation for a daily amount except that it should be a small amount, like one ounce. One ounce would be about the size of four Hershey's kisses.
"The biggest challenge is not eating the dark chocolate, it is stopping after just one ounce," said Roberts. "I should give a warning to the men out there. Don't protect your Valentine by only giving her one ounce of chocolate."
For more information on nutrition issues, go online to http://extension.missouri.edu or contact Tammy Roberts at (417) 682-3579.
Source: Tammy Roberts (417) 682-3579