"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

This is the best news, ever

I've had chocolate on the brain a lot lately.

Perhaps it is due to this month's National Chocolate Holiday known as Valentine's Day, or fellow blogger and chocoholic "Moose In the Kitchen's" recent ramblings on the subject. Most likely, however, it has more to do with my present dietary restrictions. When I was first being evaluated for a lung transplant last year, my doctors told me the only hurdle I faced was that I was too damn fat had a body-mass ratio that was slightly more than what was considered optimal for the surgery. They wanted me to shed approximately 50 pounds, and I was told that to do this I must go on a diet containing only essential nutrients, with no unnecessary food items.

I was fine with this concept (and have indeed dropped about 35 pounds since then) until I learned that my doctors considered chocolate to be one of these "unnecessary food items". I then became shocked and horrified.

As a result of being forced to give up many of my favorite high-caloric little treats that helped to make an otherwise mundane existence seem worthwhile (including not only chocolate, but cookies, donuts, gooey cinnamon rolls, and a host of other tasty snacks as well), I've gone through a process resembling the stages of grief: first denial, then shock, anger, and finally, acceptance. While it seemed a small price to pay for a second chance at life, I nevertheless still longed for that sweet chocolaty fix. Which is why I nearly cried tears of joy when I read this headline in the news recently:

Chocolate is good for you.

It turns out that The Mars Corporation plans to release a new line of products made with a dark chocolate called CocoaVia, which is high in flavanols -- an antioxidant found in cocoa beans thought to have a blood-thinning effect similar to aspirin. The snacks also are enriched with vitamins and injected with plant sterols from soy, which may help lower cholesterol.

Of course, Mars also makes Snickers, Milky Way, and M&M's, so you might suspect their information to be somewhat biased. But in digging further, I found even more to suggest that chocolate is good for you, including this 1999 report from the BBC on a study by Holland's National Institute of Public Health and Environment, which revealed that moderate chocolate consumption offers health benefits because it contain catechins, believed to protect against heart disease and cancer. The medical site WebMD also reports that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure. Still another study showed consuming dark chocolate and cocoa improves the function of blood vessels. The American Hypertension Society found that "consumption of cocoa in healthy volunteers, aged 18 to 77, resulted in significantly improved vascular responsiveness".

Need more evidence? How about a CNN report revealing that "chocolate contains even more treasured antioxidants than red wine, blueberries or black tea". Even the prestigious American Dietary Association agrees that cocoa flavanoids found in chocolate "are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease". Hoo-yah!

While chocolate was first made in this country in 1765, it originated with the Aztecs of ancient Mexico for whom it was, quite literally, the food of the gods. The Aztecs considered chocolate divine; the tree on which the beans grow served as a bridge between earth and heaven. Chocolate was an everyday drink, but the Aztecs also solemnized everything from marriages to human sacrifices by having the participants drink it.

The Aztecs got it right from the very beginning. A little chocolate (and an occasional glass of red wine) adds to the quality of life not only psychologically, but as has now been confirmed, medically as well.

If medical science next reveals that beer, pizza, Philly cheesesteaks, and jelly donuts are good for you as well, then all my prayers will have been answered and I can die in peace.

3 Comments:

  • At 2/22/2006 06:14:00 PM, Blogger Moose said…

    Pizza and philly cheesesteaks are ABSOLUTELY good for you! I have to say, you may be living my worst fear. If someone in a white coat told me I was no longer allowed my chocolate, I might just curl up and die. To see you carrying on so valiantly is an inspiration.

     
  • At 2/22/2006 08:04:00 PM, Blogger April said…

    I agree with Moose, I would, in NO WAY have enough will power to abide by such a strict diet. More Power to YOU!

     
  • At 2/23/2006 12:57:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    Thanks, but y'all may be giving me too much credit. You may notice in all those articles I referenced, the key word is moderation (i.e., don't eat an entire 2-pound box of Leonidas at one sitting). Well, I can moderate like crazy: if I happen to allow myself the occasional Snickers Bite (about 200 calories) I simply compensate for this by NOT eating the caloric equivalent of some other food, such as ten pounds of brussel sprouts, for example. I'd say that's a pretty fair exchange.

    Seriously, my weight is checked three times a week during my pulmonary rehab workouts, so I can't cheat too often and get away with it. But everyone's told me that any diet, in order to be successful, must allow for for a rare treat now and then as a reward. Diets that are too rigid often fail because they're so difficult to stick to. So it's not that I never eat any of these goodies, just not very often and in very small quantities. And I appreciate them so much more when I do!

     

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