Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why it's Good to be the Birthday Girl and Why You Shouldn't Go Nuts with Dark Chocolate

Hello all!

I've been celebrating my birthday this last week and it has been a blast! My actual birthday was on Tuesday, I celebrated my birthday with family on Wednesday, I went to the Counting Crows concert on Thursday, my company outing to the Giants game was on Friday, Emily and I went to the beach yesterday (there will be another post about that), and we're going to the Giants game today!

Birthday cupcakes at work! I wanted to try banana split (left) and also have my all-time favorite s'mores, so I had half of each

My new food scale!

Ingredients for a huge grilled salad at my parent's place

The beautiful America's Cup Pavilion where Michelle and I got to see The Wallflowers and Counting Crows

Our amazing seats at the Giants game

Our post-workout feast on the beach! Tomato & mozzarella salad, smoked salmon, steamed baby carrots with guac, berries, an assortment of smoked meat (not pictured), and some amazing birthday cupcakes (not pictured)
All of that was just so amazing, thank you to all my family and friends who are responsible for making me feel so lucky and loved.

I'm sure you can imagine that with a week like this one, it was a little difficult to track what I was eating and make it to the gym on a regular basis. I tried to stay as active as possible, didn't beat myself up about not being able to exercise, and I didn't pay too close attention to what I was eating. I tried to keep my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks as healthy as possible. But dinner, I allowed myself to go a little nuts.

It was great, but it's not sustainable, so back to the norm (on tomorrow/Monday) for this girl! Which should be easier with the food scale that Lance gave me!

[food scale]

Using this food scale will make it soooooo much easier for me to determine just how much of my beloved treats I'm eating, like dark chocolate. (smooth and fluid transition, whaaaaaaat?)

I can imagine some of you sitting there like "ummmmmmmmmmm, dark chocolate has antioxidants and is a health food, I thought I could eat as much as I wanted...."

As do most of us.
Well, yes and no. It's a double edged sword. Yes, dark chocolate has antioxidants. Yes, dark chocolate is a great indulgent treat. Yes, there has been a study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) that says dark chocolate can lower blood pressure. But there's also the small matter of the fat in dark chocolate, namely that half that fat comes from saturated fat.

Um... what?
Saturated fat is something to be consumed in moderation and it's in a surprising amount of stuff. Meat contains saturated fat, cheese contains saturated fat, chocolate contains saturated fat. Saturated fat is the type of fat that is solid at room temperature, making it a popular choice (along with trans fat) for manufacturers who sell prepackaged foods that might sit on the shelf for a while. Fat will go rancid after a period of time, so food manufacturers like... Nabisco.

Nabisco is responsible for Oreos, and I am not here to argue that you should never eat Oreos because I think that Oreos are absolutely delicious and I do have one or two from time to time. Oreos can sit on the shelf for a long while, maybe on your shelf and not on the supermarket's shelf, but if those cookies go rancid, Nabisco will catch a lot of hell and the brand would suffer. So they cram them full of these resilient fats to postpone that awful reality as long as possible.

So, why is saturated fat  supposedly bad for you? This is where the research is divided. Some say that saturated fat does not increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, or heart disease. Some say it increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. But you do have to view these claims and realize that when you're restricting saturated fat, you're replacing it with other macronutrients, including different types of fat. You can find abstracts for other studies on saturated fat and cardiovascular disease here and here.

Your best bet? Don't cut out saturated fat, but don't over consume it either. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (last published in 2010) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommend getting less than 10% of your daily calories from saturated fat. Assuming you're on a 2000 cal diet, that means 22.2 g of saturated fat per day. We'll call it 22 g for the sake for whole numbers. Assuming you're into Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate (because it is available almost everywhere), you can have 1 2.6 oz dark chocolate bar per day since it clocks in at 21.4 g of saturated fat.

That's great! 2.6 oz of dark chocolate sounds amazing.

I hear ya buddy
Yes and no. 2.6 oz of chocolate should be enough to satisfy the chocoholic above, but that is assuming you don't consume any other sources of saturated fat. That means no meat, no cheese, full fat dairy, butter, etc.

Oh good, I'm suggesting a sliding scale. Ugh.

Consider the fact that a serving of dark chocolate is 1 oz. That gives you 8.2 g of saturated fat (again, assuming Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate, each chocolate will have different numbers). That's just over one third of your daily recommended allowance of saturated fat! You can totally work that in, right?

You can indulge in dark chocolate, daily if you want, but you have to remember to work it into your nutritional plan for the day.

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