Chocolates for Valentine's Day?

The always useful and informative UC Berkeley Wellness Letter offers some good news to lovers who want to celebrate Valentine's Day with a little chocolate and bubbly.

The key on both counts, however, is "a little."

In its February issue, the Wellness Letter notes that "broccoli or a whole grain loaf might be the healthy choice, but we vote for chocolates."

It also notes that other kinds of wines and alcohol in addition to red wine may provide equal health benefits. Again, the key is moderation, say the experts.

The editorial board of the highly respected Wellness Letter is comprised of Berkeley professors and chaired by Sheldon Margen, professor emeritus of Public Health.

An article on Valentine's Day is titled, "Chocolate: just say yes." But it also notes that a single ounce of chocolate has between 140 and 150 calories, and that fat makes up 55 to 65 percent of those calories.

It notes that if the chocolates come with nuts, there's even more fat and calories. But if the candy is mostly mint or cherry, the article says, there may be only 120 calories an ounce and 2 to 3 grams of fat.

Four chocolate facts for thought from the Wellness Letter: Chocolate does not cause acne, it doesn't appear to boost blood cholesterol the way other fatty acids do, it is not physically addictive and it is not as bad for the teeth as sticky candy.

On the other hand, chocolates do contain phenylethylamine that can trigger headaches, they can cause heartburn and they have some caffeine, but only a tiny amount. In an accompanying article, the publication also looks into whether alcohol other than red wine -- say champagne -- carries possible benefits for healthy hearts.

Evidence, it says, has continued to accumulate about the potential benefits of moderate alcohol intake. The bottom line, says the article, "Drink what you like but only in moderation and never if you're pregnant, never if you're on certain medication and never before driving."


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