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Chocolate-Lovers Rejoice: This Treat's Good for You!

December 18, 2008 By:
Michelle Mostovy-Eisenberg, JE Feature
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Shara Aaron

Chocolate is good for your health, your skin -- even your teeth.

Since this information comes courtesy of two registered dieticians in their new book, chocolate-lovers of the world can now shout "hallelujah!"

In their new book, Chocolate: A Healthy Passion, released in September, co-authors Monica Bearden of Texas and Yardley-based Shara Aaron include interesting tidbits from the history of cocoa (such as the fact that Aztec emperor Montezuma drank 50 goblets of chocolate before spending quality time with his wives), while also revealing the medicinal properties of the cocoa bean (that it can help with a long list of physical ailments, including cancer and toothaches).

They also provide readers with cooking instructions for how to make hazelnut chocolate-chunk cookies and two "better-than-sex cake" recipes, as well as how to make chocolate facials, soap, lip balms and shampoos.

The long-distance writers met several years ago, while providing nutrition communications for a locally based chocolate company; they then started their own nutrition-communications company. According to Bucks County native Aaron, 33, as part of their job, they had to read research studies about the health attributes of chocolate, and the seeds for the book" were planted.

"Who doesn't like chocolate? It's a fun topic," said Aaron. "It's not a hard sell."

The Jewish, married mom of two -- with another child on the way -- said that not a day goes by when she doesn't have a serving of chocolate.

She also noted that eating any kind of chocolate, in moderation, every day while pregnant can make for happier babies -- something she can vouch for.

Research Has the Answer

Throughout history, cocoa has been recognized for its health-giving properties, explained Aaron from her home office, where a glass candy dish is filled with pieces of Hershey's Extra Dark chocolate. And now, modern research can demonstrate why.

Plant-based cacao beans are rich in phytonutrients called flavanols, which can help protect the body from the development of diseases. Aaron explained that the higher the cocoa content of a chocolate, the more bean there is, which translates into more antioxidant benefits, which aid cardiovascular health and blood pressure.

"There's real science behind it," said Aaron, who reported that people get excited when they hear from two dieticians that they can enjoy their favorite food.

She said that during the past 10 to 15 years or so, "we've seen an [increasing] focus on plant-based nutrients," such as the lycopene found in tomatoes. But with chocolate, "it's taking a food that is kind of demonized and showing its healthy benefits."

The beauty benefits of cocoa are similar to the cardiovascular ones, said Aaron; the cocoa affects the opening of blood vessels and hydrates the skin.

She and Bearden also are the co-authors of The Baby Fat Diet, published in early December, in which the two moms use their personal experiences to provide simple ways that busy moms can "lose weight and feel fabulous."

People don't have to necessarily give up all the foods they love, "as long as they eat the right way," noted Aaron, a former nutrition editor for Family Circle magazine. "The right way," she explained, is "portion control" -- that is, realizing "you can't just eat all you want."

It's not a question of "yes or no," she continued, even with the chocolate.

What it means is not having a bowl of loose M&M's on your desk, but to have preportioned servings of individually wrapped chocolate -- the darker the better.

"My philosophy is, 'Let's enjoy life and enjoy eating,' " declared the dietician.

With about 30 calories in two dark-chocolate Hershey's Kisses, she advised people to "take two and call me in the morning."

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