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02-07 The Gift of Dark Chocolate

Is dark chocolate really
a great gift for the one you love?

by Dawn Weatherwax, RD, CSSD, LD, ATC, CSCS and Jon Zwitt

For years experts have told us that fruits and vegetables provide health benefits, and that we can't get up from the table until we eat every last bite of them. But what if we were told that we could not get up from the table until we finished our... chocolate?!

Yes, that's right! Studies in two prestigious scientific journals say dark chocolate, not white chocolate or milk chocolate, is good for you. Researchers are now proclaiming that chocolate can result in health benefits, and even more specifically heart-health benefits.

How can dark chocolate benefit you?
The answer is plant phenols, or more precisely cocoa phenols. These compounds are known to lower blood pressure and are found in dark chocolates. Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids, which are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods, and are associated with certain health benefits. Flavonoids are found in a variety of foods and beverages, such as cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea, red wine, and YES, dark chocolate!

This new information is not an excuse to go on an all out chocolate binge.

However, as in every other aspect of nutrition, remember the key word is moderation. This new information is not an excuse to go on an all out chocolate binge. According to researchers, eating more dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure and provide other heart-health benefits, but only if you’ve reached a certain age and have mild high blood pressure. You also must balance the extra calories by eating less of other foods.

Is there a certain type of dark chocolate that is better than others and how much do I need to obtain health benefits?
When selecting a type of dark chocolate, remember that chewy caramel, marshmallow, and nut covered dark chocolate is absolutely not a heart healthy option. These additional ingredients are what boost the fat and calorie totals found in dark chocolate foods. Also, there is not currently an established serving of dark chocolate for individuals to garnish the cardiovascular benefits, but it is safe to start off with 1 ounce of dark chocolate a day (the size of a domino). In addition, drinking milk with your dark chocolate can cancel out the perceived health benefits by interfering with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate.

So, as far as a gift, you may want to make sure the dark chocolate pieces are individually wrapped to avoid the temptation of eating them all at once!

Love Starts in the Kitchen!™
By: Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP, CMH

Macy's Regional Culinary Professional, Syndicated Columnist Community Press, and Certified Modern Herbalist

Go to taste on this!

  • 1 pound Cajun style smoked sausage or regular or chicken or soy sausage, cut into 1/4" slices
  • 2-3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic or more to taste, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cups cooked diced chicken
  • 32 oz. chicken broth, fat free, low sodium
  • 1-1/4 cups brown or white rice
  • Cajun seasoning to taste: start with 2-3 teaspoons
  • Salt to taste
  • Tomato slices and thinly sliced green onions for garnish

Sauté sausage, celery, onion, garlic and green pepper over medium heat until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add chicken, broth, rice and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower to simmer and cook until rice is done and liquid is absorbed, about 25-40 minutes or so. Add salt. Cooking time will depend on the type of rice you use, if the chicken is straight from the frig, etc. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serves 10-12

To serve: Place jambalaya on plate. Lay a tomato slice on top. Sprinkle with green onions.

Go to taste on the spices & herbs!

  • 1 generous cup chopped onion
  • 1 generous teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cups brown or white rice
  • 2 cans red beans, drained
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, fat free, low sodium
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: Thinly sliced green onions, chopped tomatoes

Film bottom of pan with olive oil (or just use a cooking spray and spray the veggies after they're in the pan to lower the fat). Add onion, garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Sauté until onion looks almost clear. Add rice, beans and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer and cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Serves 10-12 as a side dish

Why these are good for you:

  • Chicken: A good source of iron and protein.
  • Beans: These cancer-licking legumes are low fat, high fiber and protein, beans help lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, especially folks with heart disease who also have diabetes.
  • Onions and Garlic: Great for your heart.
  • Tomatoes: The lycopene in tomatoes is a powerful antioxidant and is also good for the prostate.
  • Brown rice: Nutritionally superior to white, this rice has a lower glycemic index and your body absorbs it more slowly.

Read Rita!
My books Gifts without Ribbons, Culinary Herbs that Heal Body and Soul, The Official Snack Guide for Beleaguered Sports Parents (co-authored with Dawn Weatherwax, Joan Manzo and Ellen Shuman) are available locally at Susan's Natural World, Jungle Jims, Borders, Jo Beth, Natorp's, and Kremers in Northern Kentucky.

Buy them at Susan's Natural World and Jungle Jims.

© 2007 Rita Heikenfeld.


"Being a woman, there is a lot of pressure to be thin. However, I am an athlete and need to feed my body as such. I put my nutrition in Dawn's hands and almost immediately saw results. One month after I started working with her, I did a personal best time in the 10K, with an injury. Overall, I feel better, stronger, and have more energy. I am able to put more quality work into my training sessions, and my times show it!"

R. Kurtz

Current News

Published Article
Different Nutritional Plans for Different Athletes for the NSCA’s Performance Training Journal Vol.5 No 6
By Dawn Weatherwax, ATC, RD/LD, CSCS 

Speaking Engagements
Dawn Weatherwax will be speaking in Sharonville, OH on Feb 23rd, sponsored by Gatorade.

Dawn Weatherwax will be speaking in Las Vegas, NV on March 11th, at the National NCSA convention for personal trainers on "Different Nutrition Plans for Different Clients." Sponsored by School Health.

Dawn Weatherwax will be Presenting and providing sodium chloride testing for the Human Powered Racing Clinic on March 21st.

Dawn Weatherwax will be putting on a two hour Sports Nutrition Coaches Clinic in Dayton, OH on March 22nd for the AAU Ohio Valley Force Program.

Dawn Weatherwax will be speaking in Kansas City, KS for the NATA Regional meeting on March 15th and 16th. Sponsored by Gatorade.

Dawn Weatherwax will be speaking at St. Xavier's HS baseball program on March 24th. "Fueling for Competition!"

Dawn Weatherwax will be speaking in Anaheim, CA for the IHRSA National Conference on March 30th. Sponsored by Gatorade/Propel.

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