Valentine’s Day is one of the sweetest holidays that we celebrate. Flowers, hearts, Cupids, and sweet sentiments do no harm, but an abundance of sugary chocolates can be hard to resist and may lead to binge eating over a short period.
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of “The Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction,” doesn’t believe that you must forgo chocolate completely. But moderation is the key to indulging without putting your health at risk.
“Chocolate is actually a healthy food. It is chock-full of healthy nutrients, and eating a small amount each day is associated with a 45 percent lower risk of heart attack death,” Teitelbaum says.
By comparison, treating high cholesterol with medications is only associated with a 2-10 percent lower risk.
But the trick, Teitelbaum adds, is not to eat more chocolate than you typically would, because it is not a low-calorie food. In other words, go for a small amount of really good chocolate instead of an entire bag of M&Ms.
The health benefits of dark chocolate, even with sugar, outweigh most other kinds of candy. Dark chocolate contains potassium, zinc and selenium, and also provides iron to the diet.
It is also good for the heart, blood circulation, and brain heath. Flavonoids (antioxidants) are important components of chocolate, especially dark chocolate.
Teitelbaum says that theobromine and phenylethylamine are psychoactive substances in chocolate that create pleasurable effects. Chocolate also improves the bioavailability of nitric acid, giving it a mild “Viagra effect.”
If you want to enjoy your chocolate without any guilt, cut out some of the big sources of sugar — like sodas and fruit juices. Each of these have ¾ teaspoon of sugar per ounce, so if you cut out a 48-ounce soda, you’ve spared yourself 36 teaspoons of sugar.
Swap out the 16 ounce OJ or apple juice — with its 12 spoons of sugar — and eat an orange or apple instead.
Teitelbaum says that the average American consumes 140 to 150 pounds of sugar annually. This wreaks havoc on your body. Sugar addiction contributes to the following health conditions:
• Fatigue and pain
• Weight gain
• Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia
• Chronic sinusitis
• Irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colon
• Metabolic syndrome with high cholesterol and hypertension
• Heart disease
• Hormonal problems
• Candida and yeast infections
• Anxiety and depression
You can address the down side of sugar addiction, and splurge on Valentine’s Day, by choosing your sweets carefully. Here’s how:
- Bridgewater Chocolates, a mail order business based in Connecticut, offers dark chocolate truffles and bars made with Malitol, a sugar-free substitute. A 3.8 ounce bar contains 62 grams of carbs, 458 calories, and 37 grams of fat — but no sugar.
- Chocolate-covered strawberries, which you can make yourself or buy, can be delightful. Go with dark chocolate for added nutrients. You may also consider other chocolate-covered fruits.
- Chocolate-covered popcorn or pretzels are available commercially or you can make these treats on your own.
- Health food stores stock cookies and other treats made without sugar.
- Try creating a gluten-free, sugar-free chocolate cake. Recipes can be modified to suit your taste, but consider using unsweetened cocoa, various kinds of oils, almond milk, date sugar which is rich in B vitamins, flours made of brown rice and tapioca, and then top with a drizzle of fresh raspberries!
Teitelbaum’s book, “The Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction,” offers plenty of other alternatives to sugar.
“Understanding what’s driving your individual type of sugar addiction can make the cravings go away, so you can enjoy small amounts of sugar in a healthy way,” he says.
And, finally, he adds, it’s good to remember what Mark Twain said: “Moderation in all things, including moderation.”
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