Monthly Archives: February 2014

Go Dark and Love Your Health This Valentine’s Day

HeartDid you know some chocolate can actually be good for you…and your heart?

This Valentine’s Day, treat your sweetheart to healthier chocolate surprises with ideas below.

When choosing chocolate sweets for your sweet, look for those made with natural ingredients…cacao and cacao liquor, a little sugar, and butter. Dark chocolate contains less sugar. Avoid artificial ingredients. Look for sweets made with dark chocolate and fruit. Great options include dark chocolate-dipped berries, dried apricots, banana and pineapple slices.

So what makes dark chocolate the smarter choice?

Cocoa beans contain a heart-healthy group of antioxidants called flavonoids. The higher the percentage of cacao in chocolate, the higher the flavonoid level and the darker the chocolate color. These beneficial flavonoids relax and dilate blood vessels, promoting healthy circulation and potentially better blood pressure levels. They also have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-clotting properties, all good for the heart. These flavonoids go the brain, too, promoting circulation, helping us feel good and enhancing cognition. Studies have found that in order to reap the health benefits of cocoa, chocolate must contain a cocoa content of 70 percent or greater. When choosing sweets for your Valentine, look for dark chocolate labeled “70-85% cocoa.”

Still, go easy on chocolate. All chocolate contains high levels of saturated fat and calories, with 1 oz dark chocolate containing about 175 calories, 12 grams of fat and 9 grams of saturated fat. An ounce daily is a reasonable portion. And with its more intense flavor, dark chocolate quickly satisfies your sweet tooth, compared to milk chocolate.

Another smart option to help the chocolate go further, is to melt it (1 oz = 2 tablespoons) to drizzle over frozen yogurt , dip in fruit or add to milk for a decadent cup of hot cocoa.

So this Valentine’s Day, treat yourself….just a little….and enjoy!

Spread the Word: Go Red for Women

Go Red for Women

Today is Go Red For Women Day, a national campaign that strives to raise awareness and educate people on the risk of heart disease and its effect on women. 

Though it’s the leading killer among women worldwide (accounting for one third of all deaths1), many women don’t recognize that heart disease is such a health threat. That’s why, today, it’s more important than ever that we get the message out there and spread the word to empower women to take charge of their heart health.

Heart disease actually affects more women than men. Women are also less likely to receive treatment and less likely to survive heart attacks. In fact, 42 percent of women who have heart attacks die within one year compared with 24 percent of men. Research has also found that women are often not diagnosed or treated as aggressively as men, and symptoms may be different than what men experience when having a heart attack.1

Women ages 45-55 are also the largest growing segment of the population to suffer from heart disease. This can be attributed to stress, weight gain, poor diet, smoking and a lack of physical activity among women at this age.

The good news is that heart disease is preventable and the decisions women make today impact their health for tomorrow. Here are simple steps you can take that will lead to heart healthy living.

Know the Symptoms

When heart disease strikes, it’s crucial women are aware and recognize women’s symptoms. The classic symptoms like chest pain and a pain extending down the arm, are not always experienced. Women may experience more silent symptoms that are harder to diagnose. Some women report feeling fatigue or like a cold is coming on. Others experience shortness of breath, sweating or pain in their stomach, back, jaw or neck.

Heart Healthy Foods

Eating right plays a key role in lowering the risk of heart disease. Consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat, fish and nuts while forgoing sugary and processed food can help keep your heart in check. When cooking, get creative with healthy substitutions. Opt for whole wheat flour and pasta. Replace butter with half canola oil and half applesauce in baked goods. Use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise or sour cream in snacks and recipes. For a great snack option, check out Chobani’s recently launched Simply 100 Greek Yogurt. At just 100 calories for a 5.3 ounce serving, this makes for a heart-healthy snack that you could also top with fruit for a sweet dessert.

Get Moving

Inactive lifestyles play a big role in heart disease and this is something we can surely change. Make small steps to incorporate regular exercise into your day. Strengthening your cardiovascular system will help lower blood pressure, strengthen bones and improve oxygen circulation, all which are important to decreasing your risk for heart disease.

Reduce Stress

How much stress you feel and how you react to it can have significant effects on your heart health and too much stress in your life can lead to higher issues of cardiac distress. That’s why it’s important to incorporate stress-reducing activities into your weekly routine. Just as you need to carve out time to exercise, you also need to set aside time to unplug and de-stress. Plan activities that give you quite time and allow you to clear your mind. Yoga, listening to music, meditation and positive self-talk are all stress-reducing options that can help your overall health and be essential to reducing heart disease risk.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011

For more ideas on healthy eating and quick meals , check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009) or contact me for individual consults.  My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit:

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.