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Get Sweet on Chocolate this Valentines Day | Feb. 11, 2009

Here’s a little known fact. Dietitians love chocolate. So in celebration of Valentine’s Day, this is for all of you chocolate lovers out there. New studies identify chocolate as a useful tool in the fight against heart disease—the biggest killer in the United States. Here’s why: dark chocolate contains flavonoids, the same kind of antioxidants found in red wine, fruits, vegetables and green tea. Antioxidants are believed to protect cells from damage, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. Cocoa powder ranks the highest in antioxidants of the chocolate products, followed by dark chocolate and milk chocolate. The fat in chocolate is mostly steric acid which is a type of saturated fat. However, steric acid apparently does not raise serum cholesterol concentrations as do other types of saturated fat. Poor quality chocolate usually has less cocoa and more sugar and saturated fat. Your best bet is to eat high quality chocolate (which is usually expensive) or dark chocolate.

This doesn’t mean you should fill up on bon bons instead of eating fruits and vegetables. In fact, there are about 25 calories in each little dark chocolate kiss. Will we ever see a recommendation on number of servings of chocolate per day? Not likely! Chocolate products like bars and candies are loaded with fat, sugar and calories. Two kisses have the same amount of calories as one whole apple, and they don’t contain the nutrients or fiber. Like so with many other things, moderation is the key.

Whatever your reasons for loving chocolate..surrender!. Having a piece of chocolate once in a while is not going to harm your health and may just satisfy a sweet tooth. It’s all part of balance. A couple of kisses per day can be good for your heart!

Cooking Tip:
When a recipe calls for chocolate, use dark chocolate (usually less sugar), or even better, cocoa powder. To substitute 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate, use 3 Tbsp of dry cocoa powder+ 2 Tbsp of sugar + 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil.