Chocolate lovers
everywhere rejoice

Think Feb. 14 and what comes to mind? Cupid, hearts, flowers and . . . chocolate. According to the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, we will spend $665 million on the sweet stuff this Valentine's Day and consume an average 11.5 pounds per person this year. That's great news for the chocolate industry, but can those of us trying to eat healthy, low-fat diets have our chocolate and eat it too?

Fortunately for chocolate lovers everywhere, the delicious morsels are no longer the cardiovascular culprits we once thought. We've known for years that chocolate contains a high amount of saturated fat and that saturated fat in most people contributes to high serum cholesterol levels. But lately, reports on one of the saturated fats in chocolate-stearic acid-has made headlines. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have concluded that unlike most saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise serum cholesterol. Additional research supports these findings, and many scientists concur that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on serum cholesterol.

That's the good news. The bad news? Chocolate is still a high-fat food and packs a caloric punch. So how can you satisfy your cravings and still satisfy your fat and calorie budget? Try some of these tips to incorporate chocolate in a healthful diet: With a little planning, chocolate can certainly be part of a balanced diet. The key, as with all foods, is to enjoy chocolate in moderation. So on this Valentine's Day (and every day), have a chocolate heart . . . but only one or two.

Colleen Doyle is program director for the Seretean Center
for Health Promotion in the Rollins School of Public Health.

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