Valentine’s Chocolate is Heart Healthy (in Moderation)


 So Valentine’s Day is here…… Did you get some chocolate?

 The chocolate we enjoy today is very different from the cocoa that was eaten more than 2,000 years ago. Cocoa was first used by the Maya and Aztecs as a medicinal drink.  The natural plant product, cocoa, and the processed food product, chocolate, are quite different. Chocolate is a combination of cocoa, sugar, milk, and other ingredients to form a solid food product. Chocolate is often viewed negatively because it is relatively high in calories from sugar and fat.

Recent research has linked cocoa and chocolate to improved heart function, lower blood pressure, and improved blood vessel health.  Cocoa is a rich source of flavonoids, even greater than tea and wine. Dark chocolate contains substantially more flavonoids than milk chocolate.

Keep in mind that while chocolate has some health benefits, it is loaded with calories and should be eaten in moderation.

Dark chocolate has the greatest heart healthy benefits.  For only 20 calories, two tablespoons (10g) of unsweetened cocoa powder provides the same antioxidant power as two glasses of red wine, two cups of green tea or three cups of black tea.

Amounts of common chocolate products that contain approximately 100 calories (adapted from The Hershey Company):

Product Amount Equaling 100 Calories
Semi-sweet chocolate 1 ½ baking block (21 g) or 1 ½ Tbsp. chocolate chips (22.5 g)
Bittersweet chocolate 1 ½ baking block (21 g)
Unsweetened  baking chocolate 1 ½ baking block (21 g)
Milk chocolate 0.75oz candy bar or 2 Hershey’s Nuggets or 4 Hershey’s kisses (22 g)
White chocolate 1 ½ Tbsp. white chocolate chips (22.5 g)

So, enjoy your Valentine’s chocolate – but in moderation!

For more heart healthy tips visit


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7 Quick Healthy Diet Tips


fruits and veggies

Small changes can make a BIG difference over time.  If you are trying to lose weight or just trying to eat healthier here are a couple of suggestions to gradually make some dietary changes.

1)      Replace white bread with whole grain bread
2)      Avoid candy instead try some dried fruit (raisins, dates, apricots)
3)      Eat brown rice or wild rice instead of white rice (increases your fiber intake)
4)      Instead of potato chips have baked tortilla chips or whole wheat pretzels
5)      Pick up some fruit you can eat on the run (banana, grapes, apple, pear)
6)      Have nonfat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream
7)      When ordering pizza request extra tomato sauce, oregano, basil, add some veggies (limit or cut back on the amount of cheese)

Change is hard, so try to make gradual changes whenever possible (even one a week or one a month).  A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who ate fish JUST ONCE A MONTH reduced their stroke risk.

For more healthy dietary tips visit

Heart Healthy National Nutrition Month Tips


March is National Nutrition Month, this month you should think about focusing on good nutritional habits and a heart healthy lifestyle.  Try to get yourself on the right track by examining your refrigerator and pantry and write down some goals to improve your nutritional habits…

A healthy diet includes 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Try eating more whole grains, lowfat dairy products, nuts (handful a day), fish (two servings per week), and lean meats.  Cut back on trans fats and saturated fats also limit your salt/sodium intake to less than 2,400 mg per day (less than 2,000 mg per day if you have high blood pressure or heart failure), also watch the added sugars. Fiber is very important (women should get about 20 to 25 grams of fiber per day, men 30 grams per day).

Fill your refrigerator with:

Fresh fruits and vegetables (variety is important – eat all the different color fruits and vegetables to improve the nutritional value)

Low-fat dairy products

Skinless chicken, turkey, lean beef, fish

Frozen vegetables without added sauces to limit the added sodium

Stock your pantry with:

Olive or canola oil (avoid vegetable oil)

Non-fat cooking sprays

Try experimenting with different seasonings and spices (avoid salt or seasonings with sodium)

Raw nuts and seeds, dried fruits, whole grain crackers, baked chips, brown rice cakes, plain popcorn, whole grain pretzels make good snack choices

Before you eat it – Read it! Check the food label (especially serving sizes – most products list the nutrient values per serving but the package may contain several servings).

Avoid or limit empty calories like soda, sweetened juices, alcohol.

Watch your portion sizes and limit your fast food intake.

Many of you may have made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight – well it’s three months into the new year – How are you doing?  Avoid those infomercials and diet supplements that promise quick weight loss and try and stick to a sensible diet.  A recent study found that the best way to lose weight is to CUT CALORIES – it doesn’t matter which diet you are following (low fat, high protein, low carb). To lose one pound a week you need to eat 500 fewer calories per day or burn 500 calories per day (exercising). If you need help think about consulting a nutritionist – they can help you develop an individualized plan.

Recent research studies have also shown that coronary artery disease starts to develop in children even though symptoms do not appear until adulthood. Encourage your kids to develop a heart healthy eating habits early – remember your children learn by watching you!

Happy National Nutrition Month – try to celebrate by making at least one healthy change to your diet, your heart and body will thank you.  Remember you can’t change everything overnight, try to make small gradual changes.

For more information visit (American Dietetic Association)

“Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” is a new book we wrote which includes heart healthy shopping and cooking tips and healthy suggestions when eating out. Learn your risk factors and how to prevent heart disease. More information is available at