Valentine’s Day Chocolate
Valentines Day is full of tradition. One tradition is the giving of chocolates. In the early 1500’s, Christopher Columbus brought back chocolate from the New World as a gift to Queen Isabella. It was prepared as a bitter and spicy drink, and few Europeans liked it.
However, over time, a few bold candy makers experimented and started developing “eating chocolate.” In the mid 1800’s John Cadbury produced chocolates packaged in heart shaped boxes. Giving these to loved ones on Valentine’s Day became a tradition that has stuck with us for the last 200 years.
Many speculate the reason chocolate is so strongly tied to romantic love is that chocolate is high in phenylethylamine (PEA). PEA is a neurotransmitter that produces the feeling of being in love.
It is a romantic gesture to give Valentine’s chocolates, but some people fret that they will gain weight by eating such high calorie treats.
Approximately how many calories are in a one-pound box of chocolates?
A) 700 calories
B) 1000 calories
C) 1400 calories
D) 2000 calories
The answer is C) 1400 calories.
Chocolate can cause weight gain due to something called caloric density. Caloric density is how many calories are in a given mass. For example, one pound of broccoli will have far fewer calories than one pound of chocolate. There are two reasons for this caloric discrepancy.
First, the type of macronutrients in the food.
This shows how many calories are in a gram of fat, protein, carbohydrate, and alcohol.
Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories
Alcohol: 1 gram = 7 calories
Chocolate has a lot more fat than broccoli. Fat is one of the four “macronutrients,” or nutrients that give us energy. It has the highest caloric density, 9 calories in each gram, compared with 4 calories per gram in carbs and protein.
Second, the proportion of macronutrients to other food volume.
Chocolate is almost pure macronutrient: sugar and cocoa (carbohydrate); and butter (fat). Each bite is pure energy. Broccoli has macronutrients (mostly carbohydrate) but also contains a lot of fiber and water, so there are fewer macronutrients in each bite.
So, if you are choosing a diet that’s not calorically dense, consider:
· Do you have a healthy balance of macronutrients (fat, carb, and protein)?
· Are you eating foods high in fiber?
· Are you eating foods high in water?
Take home message: It’s Valentine’s Day, enjoy some chocolates!:) Eating a few chocolates won’t wreck a healthy diet, but for every day eating, stick with foods that are less calorie dense.