By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Good news on the eve of Easter: A new study shows the average Easter baskets may reduce the risk of strokes.
As chocolate bunnies and cream-filled eggs have lined the store shelves, researchers from Glasgow University in Scotland have reported that moderate chocolate consumption may help decrease the likelihood of strokes. This reinforces several other scientific discoveries in recent years that have encouraged moderate chocolate consumption.
A 2009 study from Northumbria University in England showed that chocolate may sharpen arithmetic skills. England's University of Reading found in 2011 that chocolate may improve eyesight.
Renee Higgins, owner of Bailey's Coffee House and Fudge Shop in Quincy, often reminds her customers, too, that studies have shown dark chocolate improves moods.
"It's about moderation, but dark chocolate is proven to be good for you," Higgins said.
The Glasgow University study found that eating a single piece of chocolate impacts the carbon dioxide levels in the body. The change affected blood vessels, improved blood flow and had a positive on brain cells, which decreases the risk for stroke.
As Higgins has packaged gourmet truffles and prepared trays of fresh homemade fudge for the Easter, she has kept her mantra that a small indulgence is good.
Higgins has busied herself preparing for her first Easter as the owner of Bailey's Coffee House and Fudge Shop. She took over the shop in August and enjoyed a brief lull before the string of holiday candy rushes. The shop boomed throughout Christmas and Valentine's Day, and she expects a similar sugar rush for Easter.
While science may continue to discover the health benefits to chocolate, the candy often contains sugar and fat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies most candies as empty calorie foods. The USDA My Plate program allows 120 empty calories per day for young children, which equals roughly two fun-size candy bars.
Jen Kamps, a dietician at Hy-Vee on Harrison, said the store carries several true dark chocolate bars garnished with berries, fruit and nuts in the health section. York Peppermint Patties, Junior Mints and Three Musketeers typically are considered the healthier than most mainstream candy bars.
She also cautioned that mainstream dark chocolate candy bars may contain mostly milk chocolate. She explained the front of the chocolate bar may not always convey the same ingredients as the nutritional information on the back.
"They can say whatever they want to within reason on the front to get you to buy it," Kamps said.