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Are Valentine's Chocolates a Health Food?

Chocolate: should you take it like a medicine?

With Valentine's day approaching, the chocolate confectioners have a happy smile on their faces! Most people love chocolate. But is it really a health food? Some studies suggest it may have benefits due to the antioxidants and flavanoids it contains. However, milk chocolate and Dutch chocolate have none of these health-giving benefits. We must not forget the milk and sugar, either. You can learn more about chocolate and its fascinating history in this article.

PositiveTip: Small amounts might have some benefit, but moderation and balanced choices are vital.

The Truth About Caffeine

Coffee beans

The information available on caffeine these days is very confusing. Some sources advocate caffeine drinks as “energy” drinks. Some recommend caffeinated drinks but suggest avoiding the “additives” in caffeinated drinks – sugar, fat, vitamins, and amino acids. Others claim that caffeine is addictive with nasty side-effects. Others condemn caffeine in all forms and for all purposes. What’s the truth about caffeine?

First fact: Caffeine is not an “energy” producer! True energy comes from a source of calories which can be burned by the body. Caffeine does not produce energy.

The Strength of Evidence

Most of us love the taste of chocolates! 

In recent months we have been reading headlines that indicate chocolate may help prevent various diseases, and most recently, lower weight. To many this seems like a dream come true! Could it be that something as high in calories, fat, and sugar could really be good for us?

True, the cacao bean is from the vegetable kingdom. It naturally has a number of phytochemicals, flavonoids, and antioxidants--each of which has the potential of benefit when consumed by humans. There are also minerals, vitamins, protein and other nutrients in chocolate. But do all these things really make it a healthful food?

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Is Chocolate Heart-Healthy?

Observational data suggests chocolate may protect cardiovascular system.

A meta-analysis of seven observational studies with 115,000 adult participants compared the lowest level of chocolate consumption with the highest intakes. Those eating the most had nearly a one-third decrease in risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. The authors caution that most forms of chocolate contain high amounts of fat and sugar, and more esperimental research is necessary to prove causation.

PositiveTip: Think twice before you indulge in your favorite chocolates "for your hearts sake". Most forms of these products are very high in calories!

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Chocolate: Friend or Foe?

Could depression lead to craving chocolate or is it vice versa?

Chocolate has been getting a lot of good press lately.

A study of 931 adults seems to rain on the idea that "chocolate improves mood". This University of California-San Diego research has found that people who are depressed are more likely to eat chocolate, and the more depressed they are, the more chocolate they eat. The authors say they cannot yet determine which direction the cause-and-effect arrow is pointing.

PositiveTip: Chocolate may be a rich source of some antioxidants, but it also is very high in sugar and fat. Medicinal consumption should wait until more evidence is available.

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Mood Food: Is Chocolate Really Good for You?

Those eating more chocolate showed higher chance of depression.

Chocolate has been a hot topic - even in scientific literature - for a long time! Now a study of more than 900 men and women has found that those who screened positive for depression ate more chocolate (8.4 servings per month vs. 5.4 servings) than those without depression.

People with more severe depression consumed even more chocolate. These findings were not explained by changes in fat, carbohydrate or energy intake. (Note: a cross-sectional analysis like this does not prove causality.)

PositiveTip: Chocolate isn't necessary for nutrition. Maybe we should wait for more research before we fully embrace its goodness.

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Chocolate Consumption May Lower Mortality After First Heart Attack.

Chocolate Lovers Alert: Consumption may lower the mortality risk following first heart attack.

Is chocolate really good for you? A recently published study seems to lend credibility to that claim. Investigators of the Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program have reported that self-reported chocolate consumption in non--diabetics had a strong inverse association with cardiac mortality following a first acute myocardial infarction when compared with those never eating chocolate. The most favorable results were experienced by eating chocolate once or twice per week, but consuming it less than once per month benefitted also. Subjects were followed for hospitalizations and mortality for 8 years. Unfortunately, this study only assessed chocolate consumption once at the time of the first admission. More research is needed to reach firm conclusions.