Chocolate: The New Food Group

Tomorrow, Feb. 14, I will be attending a session hosted by Purdue’s WorkLife Programs titled “Chocolate: The New Food Group” The event will be held in Stewart Center, Room 322 from 12:10 to 12:50 p.m. Here is a brief summary on this event:

“We have all heard and desperately wanted to believe the rumor that chocolate is good for us. But what’s the truth? Learn about the history of chocolate and how it has earned a reputation as a health food. Get the lowdown on what kind (and amount) people really should be eating.”

These WorkLife discussions are meant to increase the health and wellness of Purdue faculty and staff, who receive “points” for attending sessions. By holding these sessions and thus improving health of staff, insurance costs may consequently decrease. (Unable to access WorkLife Programs site because I am a student. Source: Jane Natt.) Other services offered by Purdue WorkLife include childcare, confidential financial counseling, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation assistance, alcohol and drug information and more! Other sessions have discussed sleep, preventive dentistry, Weight Watchers and a positive attitude. You can follow these events on Twitter @PurdueWorkLife.

A similar session, “Health Benefits of Chocolate,” was held Jan. 6, 2010 with Karen Hosterman, RD. Perhaps this session will also be hosted by her. Karen Hosterman (now Karen Hosterman-Sabel) is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator. She is the first fulltime registered dietitian to join the WorkLife staff. One of her specialties is chocolate. She gives public talks on diet and nutrition as well as one-on-one consultations.

Here is some information on chocolate I found that might be covered at this session:

  • Dark chocolate (not milk or white) is healthy
  • Dark chocolate lowers high blood pressure if you’ve reached a certain age and have mild to high blood pressure
  • This is not an excuse to binge – you need to balance out these extra calories by eating less of other things
  • Dark chocolate is a potent antioxidant which rids the body of free radicals
  • Free radicals are implicated in heart disease
  • Milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate
  • Moderation is key

According to Smithsonian Magazine, chocolate comes from the “cacao” plant and beans. Before the Spaniards arrived in modern day Latin America, the Aztec’s brewed a bitter drink from the beans (think hot chocolate – sort of). Historians estimate that chocolate has been around for over 2,000 years. Back in the day, these cacao beans were also used as currency. The Mayans and the Aztecs believed the bean had magical and divine powers and were used in sacred rituals. Then the Europeans came along and added honey or sugar cane to the drink in order to sweeten it. In Europe, it was believed to be nutritious and medicinal.

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