In the largest study to date, German researchers  followed over 19,000 people for eight years, looking at daily chocolate consumption habits and the health implications; specifically heart disease and stroke. Those who ate the most chocolate (7.5 g/day) had a 40% lower risk of both stroke and heart attacks than those eating little or no chocolate. The flavonols in the cacao are what makes the difference, as they are broken down into nitric oxide, which relax blood vessels. Nitric oxide is the ingredient in nitroglycerine tablets that heart disease patients take when experiencing chest pains. The researchers cautioned against eating too much chocolate (they recommended 1 g/day, or 1 square of a chocolate bar), as it can lead to unwanted weight gain in individuals. Thankfully, sometimes things that taste good can also be good for you.

Speaking of eating, Americans in the 70’s were 19 lbs. lighter than todays group, consuming 500 cal/day less than we do today. You’d have to walk 2 1/2 hours a day to burn off those extra calories; I don’t know about you but I don’t have the extra time to devote to that, so for me, cutting down consumption is much easier to do.

Some tips on eating less. 1). Slow down; take the time to chew and enjoy the taste and texture of the food, and the experience of feeling full. It takes approximately 20 minutes after a meal for the brain to fully communicate with the gut about how much is in there. 2). Avoid distractions, try not to multitask, so avoid eating while driving, reading, or watching TV. 3). Follow the 80% rule-stop eating before you feel full. 4). Keep a food  journal for a couple of days, including a weekend day, writing down everything you put in your mouth. Remember to include any fluids. The list can give ideas where to cut back.

If you eat out often, use these strategies: 1). Share an entrée or get an appetizer or two. My wife and I do this and it works very well. 2). Avoid “value” meals. You may be tempted by the offer of extra food, but then you have to work too hard to take it off. To me, it’s not worth it. 3). Start the meal by drinking a full glass of water; it’s amazing how much it can fill you up. 4). Bring half home in a doggy bag, and have it wrapped early to avoid temptation.

My little secret: I take apple cider vinegar 15 minutes before 2 meals each day. dosage is 2 tbsp.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.