Easter chocolate: small and dark is healthy

April 2, 2010 by  

Just in time for Easter!

Researchers at the German Institute of Human Nutrition say it is okay –actually healthy – to eat chocolate this Easter – as long as they are small and dark.

How small?

7.5 g which is just about a small square from a 100-gram chocolate bar or a very small chocolate egg.

How dark?

The more cacao the better, at least 70% of cocoa is advisable. The researchers looked at the effects of chocolate consumption for over a decade on the health of 19,300 people. Those who ate the most chocolate experienced more cardiovascular benefits such us lower blood pressure  and 39% lower risk for stroke heart attack than those who ate less.

This might sound like great news for chocoholics and chocolate manufacturers. But before you stuff yourself with sweet dark Easter goodies, take note that the highest consumption – 7.5 g – isn’t really much. There is no data showing whether higher chocolate consumption brings more benefits.

According to researcher Gary Buijsse

“Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable.”

So what is it in dark chocolate that benefits our heart health?

Antioxidants, specifically flavonols, also found in red grapes and berries and vegetables.

Flavanols appear to be … responsible for improving the bioavailability of nitric oxide from the cells that line the inner wall of blood vessels. Nitric oxide is a gas that, once released, causes the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen, [and] that this may contribute to lower blood pressure.

So why can’t we just eat as much chocolate as we want to avoid cardiovascular problems? Well, the chocolate that we get from the supermarket is a processed product which contains sugar, milk, and other additives. A 100-g chocolate bar contains about 500 calories. The beneficial decrease in blood pressure will be cancelled by the adverse effect of weight gain.

Like most things in life, moderation is the key word. Chocolate is good for you, but too much of a good thing can turn bad. Happy Easter!

Healthy food for religious holidays

March 29, 2010 by  

Certain holidays  are associated in certain types of food that we usually eat to celebrate these special occasions. However, there are also foods which are forbidden on certain holodays, at least for certain religions. I was brought up a catholic (though I have been an agnostic for years now), and during the Lenten season, my mom would strictly impose the no- meat policy on Fridays and the whole of the so-called Holy Week. Meat would only then be served on Easter Sunday, in celebration of the end of the fasting season.

The other day, one of my sons brought home the topic about the holy days and about why some of their friends wouldn’t eat meat on Fridays. During the discussion, his brother remained quiet, then eventually blurted out worriedly: “But I can’t imagine surviving a Friday without eating even just a slice of salami!”

This, of course, will become a family joke for years to come. However, I got to recall my mom’s no meat policy, which although unpopular, was nevertheless healthy. We were lucky to live close to the seacoast where fish and seafood are  easily avaialble. Fish as protein source is much healthier than meat – especially for our heart health.

A New York Times article recently featured star Chef Marshall Goldstein, of Toledo, Ohio who is the president of the Maumee Valley Chefs American Culinary Federation chapter, and executive chef/director of food services at The Heritage who talked about cooking during special occasions such as Easter and Passover – e.g “how to mix food and faith in a more health way.” The Chef a lot of questions from glazed hams to matzas, from leg of lamb to nut meringue. For me, the best part is the recipe for Pan Roasted Salmon which I will surely try this coming Good Friday. Here is Chef Goldstein’s recipe:

“How about something great and unusual…..Pan Roasted Salmon, with a citrus Balsamic vinegarette. Here is a great recipe:

Ingredients: 1/2 c balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp. finely minced onion, 2 tsp. coarsed chopped parsely, 2 tbsp. orange zest, 1/8 tsp salt, fresh ground black pepper(healthiest for you) 3/4 cup orange juice.

Put all the ingredients into a closable container, and shake, shake, shake!! Sear the Salmon in a skillet with a little olive oil, transfer the pan to a 350 degree oven and roast 10-15 minutes, you do not want over cooked salmon. Using the skillet, wipe clean and heat the sauce, spoon over the salmon. I like to serve redskin potatoes and a nice side salad with different types of dried fruits as a nice accompaniment.”

Hmmm… yummy! Any special holiday recipe you might want to share?

News from the cancer side, April 10

April 10, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

easter_eggHere’s your cancer news round up for the Easter weekend. Happy Easter, every one!

News from the academia

University centre, students tackling cancer in high-risk state
The Centre for Health and Human Services (CHHS) at Middle Tennessee State University is planning to set up a Tennessee Colorectal Cancer Screening Pilot Program that will give colorectal cancer screening access to low-income residents of Tennessee. The state ranks 3rd in the US in cancer mortality rates. Colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in the state. The CHHS will be working together with the Tennessee Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition to find the reason why Tennessee ranks so high in cancer.

News from the stem cell researchers

Breakthrough makes lab-produced stem cells safer for humans
British and Canadian researchers may have found a way to overcome the barriers that prevent stem cells made from skin cells from being transplanted to humans safely. The development of stem cells from skin cells made headlines in 2006 as a major breakthough in stem cell research. However, its clinical application was hindered by health risks associated with the transplantation.

News from the regulators

FDA Greenlights New Drug for Advanced Kidney Cancer
The US FDA has approved everolimus (Afinitor) for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma. (advanced kidney cancer). Afinitor does not cure the cancer but delays the spread and reduces the growth of the tumors by about 5 months. Afinitor is manufactured by Novartis.

News from the statisticians

Lead Story: Hospital Admissions on the Rise for People Without Health Insurance
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reports that hospital admissions of people without health insurance coverage are up by a third between 1997 and 2006. AHRQ presented the numbers and the story in a podcast last Wednesday, April 9.

News from the genetic experts

New ACOG Guidelines Recommend Routine Genetic Risk Assessment
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO) have just released new guidelines which recommend that women should be routine assessed for genetic predisposition foe break can ovarian cancer. Women who eventually undergo genetic testing and are found to carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have options available to manage their increased risk of cancer. These guidelines were published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

News from the advocacy groups

Cancer activities for April
The season has started for walking or running events at your local Susan Komen chapters. Whether you are a leisurely walker or a marathon runner, there is an event for you to participate in. Register now!

Diabetic? You can still have fun at Easter!

April 10, 2009 by  
Filed under DIABETES

candies_heartBeing a diabetic at Easter can be very difficult. Especially if you are a little child. Sweets and goodies everywhere but not allowed to eat? How about those traditional Easter treats like hot cross bun s and chocolate eggs?

Having diabetes means a lot of dietary restrictions. Does this mean that diabetics cannot enjoy life in general and Easter in particular? Not at all. Here are some tips from diabetes organizations all over the world for an enjoyable Easter holiday:

Other resources to check out (and be considered as  Easter presents)

  • Festive Foods and Easy Entertaining, by the British Diabetic Association. ISBN 1-899288-70-8
  • Other books on diabetes found in this site.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.