It’s OK to cheat — A love affair with chocolate can be healthy
February 10, 2017
Craig — Valentine’s Day is a few days away and pink greeting cards, red roses and fancy boxes of chocolate fill store shelves tempting even the most health conscious to eat the food of the gods.
"The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means ‘food of the gods,’" according to Smithsonian.com history of chocolate.
Cacao is the powder that comes form cocoa beans and is used to make chocolate, milk and dark varieties. And, it has some surprising health benefits.
"Cocoa contains compounds called flavonoids which have been shown to have short-term benefits on heart health and blood flow to the brain," said Arin Daigneau, a registered dietitian nutritionist and WIC Program Director for Northwest Colorado Health.
The benefits might be short-term as "(Flavonoids) have not been proven to prevent heart attacks, stroke or dementia," Daigneau said.
Not all chocolate provides the same benefit.
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"Dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate because it has a higher cocoa content," Daigneau said.
Baker Kassie Vesely of KS Kreations in Craig uses chocolate in about half of her baked goods.
"I think that dark chocolate is the healthiest, but everything in moderation," she said.
While most people can eat small amounts of chocolate it should be avoided in some cases.
"Individuals with caffeine sensitivity, certain migraine conditions and those prone to kidney stones may want to limit or avoid chocolate consumption, because compounds in the cocoa could trigger or worsen their symptoms," Daigneau said.
Chocolate can also be deadly to pets.
"Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which our pets cannot digest, and can lead to poisoning," Daigeau said. "While dark chocolate is healthier for humans, it is more dangerous for our pets as it has higher levels of theobromine."
The biggest health risk to eating chocolate is eating too much.
"Consuming too much chocolate results in excess sugar, fat and calories, which can lead to weight gain," Daigeau said.
Daigneau has a couple of tips to resist the craving.
"If you have a craving for chocolate, try delaying it for 20 to 30 minutes and distract yourself with another activity, like going for a walk. If you are truly hungry, try eating a healthy snack or small meal," Daigeau said. "If you can't get chocolate off your mind, have a small piece of dark chocolate. This will satisfy the carving and without blowing your diet."
Locals looking for chocolate can find specialty items at stores in Craig.
Find cacao nibs, cacao powder and dark chocolate with 55 to 88 percent cacao at Health Works of Craig.
KS Kreations in downtown Craig has sweet treats for sale including during this weekend’s annual Art Walk and Taste of Chocolate event.
"We always have brownies and chocolate chip cookies," Vesely said.