Sexy, Healthy Chocolate

Recently a Physician Nutrition Specialist (PNS) spoke at one of our monthly prostate cancer education and support group meetings. Chances are you not familiar with what a PNS designation means. That is not a surprise given this type of practitioner label is relatively new.

Apparently, these folks can have a wide range of backgrounds that may include pediatrics, family medicine, general surgery, pediatric gastroenterology, endocrinology, critical care, nephrology, cardiology, and countless others.

What is a Physician Nutrition Specialist?

PNS are not health coaches but can be. Rather, these medical practitioners are fully committed to applying rather rigorous, evidence-based medicine to clinical nutrition practices. As such, they often function as leaders in coordinating nutrition services in academic health centers, private practices, industry, and various other health care settings.

I mention his background because our speaker brought up a topic and suggested a "health tool" every prostate cancer patient may enjoy -- especially on those days when you are feeling down and looking for some small pleasures to lift your spirits. He cautioned NOT to view the following as a suggested treatment or cure for cancer.

How chocolate can affect cancer

During the presentation, he noted that some types of chocolate (but not all) may be somewhat beneficial to our overall health. Chocolate, we learned, contains a compound called flavonoids and is found in cocoa beans. He noted that these flavonoids are a true antioxidant that may help prevent or slow the damage to cells caused by cancer.1

Our speaker quickly pointed out that not all chocolate is created equal. For the most benefit, you would have to eat a large amount (which is not good for our health in other ways) of dark chocolate, which has a higher percentage of cocoa. Dark chocolate is defined as having at least 60% cocoa with little to no added sugar. His recommendation, when enjoying chocolate, was to consume high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa.

The best way to eat dark chocolate is to do so without any added ingredients such as caramel, peanut butter, marshmallow, etc. to avoid the extra sugar.

We also learned that dark chocolate is believed to help reduce the risks of heart attacks and stroke, improve blood flow to the brain, and improve mood and symptoms of depression.

What's the difference between milk and dark chocolate?

At this point in his presentation, we were "forced" (LOL) to do a blind sampling and were given 4 individual chocolate squares. Next, we rated our taste choices and were asked to guess what percentage of chocolate we were eating.

For most of us, the flavor of milk chocolate was the most familiar and most-liked due to the high sugar content. At the other end of the taste scale was a sample of 90% cocoa. Apart from one person, we all thought it was too bitter. By the end of the presentation, the group tended to favor the 70% content -- not as sweet as the milk chocolate, definitely not the bitter flavor of the 90%, but certainly a healthier choice.

Enjoy your dark chocolate (in moderation)

Debate no more...if I should eat chocolate or not. I am going to enjoy a dark chocolate bar (in moderation) while decreasing inflammation and perhaps helping to prevent cell damage. Before you weave dark chocolate into your daily diet, be sure to talk to your doctor for more information.

Being able to add a dark chocolate component to our healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and exercise is like icing on the cake. Also, on the plus side, a special lady in your life may love some chocolate and enjoy sharing a few moments of pleasure with you. Not all bad no matter how you look at it.

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