Ask A Dietitian Archives


1. There has been news lately about studies that say chocolate is good for you. Is that true?

2. I have been trying to lose weight for sometime now. I started by following a low carb diet, but that didn't have lasting results. I seemed to gain the weight back quickly. I have started buying a lot more of the low sugar and low fat food items available and still have not had much luck at losing. I try to exercise at least three times per week, but don't always succeed. Is there anything new you can tell me that may help me to win this battle?

3. My husband has just been diagnosed with high cholesterol. We have started watching his fat intake and have tried to cut back on red meat and pork. How much cholesterol is he allowed each day and does he have to avoid eggs all together?


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1. Is it true that chocolate is good for you?

Chocolate, though often thought of as a junk food, does have its pluses and minuses. The minuses are that chocolate does contain a lot of calories and fat. Eating too much can lead to weight gain and therefore increasing health risks that come with weight gain. However, when eaten in moderation chocolate can have some positive health benefits. The fat in chocolate is a combination of saturated and unsaturated fat. One type of unsaturated fat found in chocolate is Oleic Acid, a monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil. This type of fat makes up about one third of the fat in chocolate and has been found to have beneficial effects for your heart.

Chocolate , especially dark chocolate, contains antioxidants and flavonoids. The darker the chocolate the more of these are found in it. Antioxidants have been shown to aid with the prevention of cholesterol sticking to your arterial walls, therefore decreasing your risk for heart attack and stroke. The flavonoids also have disease preventing benefits just like the flavonoids in red wine and tea.

So next time you crave that chocolate go ahead and enjoy it. Just make sure you don't over indulge.

2. Is there anything new you can tell me that may help me to win the battle with my weight?

Losing weight is not always an easy thing to do. Changing your eating behaviors is a life long commitment if you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off. It is good that you have been paying attention to your sugar and fat contents in food. Just because something is low in sugar or fat does not always mean that it is low in calories. Often times it is more beneficial to read the food label on the item that you buy rather than just the health claims.

When sugar is taken out of a food it is often still high in fat and may often contain the same amount of calories as the original version. Just because the item may not have what we refer to as table sugar it still may have some form of carbohydrate or alternate form of sugar that will have the same amount of calories.

When items are low in fat they may still be high in simple sugars which if eaten in large quantities will be stored as fat. It is great that you watch your fat and sugar, but remember to also count calories. No matter what type of calories you are eating, if you eat more than you need you will store it as fat.

The low carb diet is not a healthy diet and is not recommended due to the fact that it is generally a high fat, high protein diet. A healthy diet is actually 55-60% Carbohydrates, 20-30% fat and10-20% protein. When following a low carb diet you tend to lose more than just fat, you lose muscle and water. This is why you lose weight so rapidly on this diet. It also is why you gain weight back quickly after returning to your normal diet. You gain a lot of water weight back. The safest and most effective rate to lose weight is no more than 1-2 pounds per week. This is the rate that your body can lose fat. Anything more is usually water and muscle. To lose a pound of fat in a week you need to cut back 3500 calories. This is equal to 500 calories per day. I recommend that you keep a food record for about three days and then look at what you are eating. There are many ways to cut out calories. For example if you drink regular soda switch to diet. This will decrease your calories dramatically. Change whole or two percent milk to skim milk. You also can make sure you use only 100% fruit juice instead of fruit drinks.

Exercising to lose weight is usually recommended at least 5 times per week. Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. Exercising three times per week will most likely prevent you from gaining weight, but to really lose you need to increase to about five days per week.

3. How much cholesterol is he allowed each day and does he have to avoid eggs all together?

It is great that you have started watching his fat and cholesterol intake. Make sure to pay special attention to his saturated fat. This type of fat has the most effect on his serum cholesterol (the cholesterol in his blood). Since most foods that are high in cholesterol are also high in saturated fat you will find that you are probably already avoiding a lot of these foods.

We recommend that individuals with high cholesterol try to eat no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. Since egg yolks contain about 200 mg of cholesterol per egg I would recommend that he eat no more than 3 or 4 eggs per week. The cholesterol in the egg is found in the yolk of the egg so if you avoid the egg yolk you avoid the cholesterol. The fat in eggs is mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. This means that he should limit his egg yolks but not the egg whites. When cooking you can substitute two egg whites for every one whole egg and you will have the same taste and texture without the cholesterol.