I started using unprocessed virgin coconut oil (VCO) about 7 years ago for ulcerative colitis, mostly for calming my GI tract. More recently, I’ve begun using it for cooking-it tolerates high heat without breaking down, which makes it an excellent choice for stir frying vegetables. Newer research touts the health benefits of VCO. VCO is made up mostly of lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride that enhance immune function, and may improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. VCO does not raise cholesterol, clog arteries, or pose any other heart health risks. It lends a unique flavor to the veges, and it can be used as a substitute for butter in baking, although I haven’t tried it yet.

Chocolate’s popularity is evident in the number of product choices available, and recently has been added to list of foods high in flavonoids, which are antioxidants found in plants. But, not all chocolate is the same. Raw cacao beans are a rich source of flavonoids, but are bitter to the point of being inedible. In order to make chocolate palatable, those beans must be processed to some extent.

As a general rule, flavonol content mirrors the level of fat-free cocoa solids in the product-unless the product is ‘dutched’; a process which uses alkali to neutralize the bitter taste. As a result of ‘dutching, the chocolate has fewer flavonoids, and may have half the antioxidant activity of natural cocoa. White chocolate contains no cocoa powder, so no flavonoid activity. Milk chocolate also scores low on the flavonol scale due to the addition of a dairy ingredient. Milk chocolate beats out white chocolate,but not by much.

As a general rule, the best chocolate choices are those that don’t list sugar as its first ingredient and is not ‘dutched’. Unsweetened cocoa powder has 82% fat-free cocoa solids, a great choice. Next, unsweetened baking chocolate has 47%, dark chocolate has 23%, semisweet chocolate chips 17%, milk chocolate and chocolate syrup come in at 6%. A square or two of chocolate a day (the darker the better) is good for you.

I started my Blilie Boot Camp on April 8th, and of this morning I have lost 4 1/2 pounds of fat! I have exercised five times per week, never for more than 25 minutes, using the high-intensity training (H.I.T.) approach. I have not, repeat NOT, been counting calories; I’m just using sensible eating habits.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.