Can ‘bad’ be good? |

Can ‘bad’ be good?

Sarah L. Stewart
Preston UtleyThe whipped cream atop Rimini's hot chocolate might not be good for you, but studies show the dark chocolate used to make it can be.

In high school, it was the bad boy. Now, it’s the bacon-wrapped filet. Both adhere to the same fact of human existence that we tend to want what isn’t good for us.

The reasons why we sometimes gravitate to the forbidden are complicated and often very individual, says Dr. Susan Miller, a Vail psychologist. Whether the result of our upbringing or just our baser human tendencies, the inner battle between right and wrong is common, Miller says.

But there’s good news for the little sinner inside you: Some “bad” things can also be good for you. So put on your rose-colored glasses and check out the silver linings for some of our more indulgent urges ” but be warned, they all have their downsides, too. That’s why they’re “bad.”

Dietician and a self-described chocoholic Shirley Perryman calls chocolate “the fifth basic food group.”

Perryman, an extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University, is therefore just as happy as the rest of us to hear that the sweet stuff has some health benefits.

Dark chocolate, with a cocoa content of 70 percent or more, has the most potential health benefits, Perryman says. Studies have shown the flavonoids found in cocoa act as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and anti-platelets, reducing cell damage and decreasing clot formation.

And, something all chocolate lovers already know: It makes you happy. Chocolate contains substances that trigger mood-improving chemicals in the brain ” which could be part of why we adore it so much.

But, as with most food and drink, moderation is key, Perryman cautions. She eats about 1 to 2 ounces of dark chocolate daily, and recommends others also limit their intake to that amount.

“It doesn’t mean eat half a pan of brownies,” she says.

Undergoing plastic surgery to fulfill visions of the perfect body might be good for women’s self-esteem and sex life, according to one study.

Research released last year by the University of Florida showed that women who got breast implants experienced a significant increase in self-esteem, as well as a 79 percent increase in sexual desire, an 81 percent increase in arousal and a 57 percent increase in satisfaction.

Though researchers warned that implants are no cure-all for women with self-esteem or sexual problems, an increasing number of women are taking their appearance into their own hands: From 2000 to 2005, the number of breast augmentation procedures in the United States grew 476 percent.

Cayenne Dark Chocolate beckons behind the glass gelato case at Rimini in the Arrabelle at Vail Square. Sample one tiny spoonful, and a chocolatey fiesta erupts on your tongue. There’s no way this could be good for you.

But gelato, or Italian ice cream, is actually better for you than traditional ice cream. Because it’s made with milk and only a little cream, it generally has half or less the amount of fat of its creamy cousin, says Rimini pastry chef Vanessa Noonan. Without that mouth-coating fat, Noonan says, the flavors of the gelato tend to be more vibrant than ice cream.

Customers are often surprised to learn the decadent-looking treats aren’t a diet disaster, Noonan says.

“They associate fat and flavor, when it’s the opposite,” she says.

Cayenne Dark Chocolate, despite its evil appearance, is actually a sorbetto, which is made without dairy. Sugar, cocoa powder, water, cayenne pepper, sea salt and dark chocolate are its only ingredients. Since we already know chocolate is good for us, that’s cause for an extra spoonful.

Armed with your wallet, you scan the terrain of your favorite boutique, ready to strike when the moment is right. There, sitting beneath a spotlight, is just the jacket/purse/sweater/pair of shoes you’ve been searching for. Like a post-modern thrill of the hunt, we often find buying new things supremely satisfying, despite its negative effect on our back accounts.

Studies show the novelty of perusing items in a store releases dopamine, the same brain chemical released by food, sex and some drugs. Scientists call it a shopper’s high, and though it too can be addictive, at least it’s legal.

We’re taught not to lie about as soon as we learn to talk, and most of us would like to think ourselves honest people. But research shows that we all lie ” a lot ” and it’s not always a bad thing.

A 1996 study at the University of Virginia indicated that people lie every day, in up to one-third of their interactions with other people. Research in 2002 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst showed students lied three times per 10 minutes of conversation with strangers.

Some scientists have concluded that lying is part of the social grace that helps us all get along. Face it: You don’t really want to hear that you do, in fact, look fat in that outfit or that your haircut is a disaster, so why say it to someone else, even if it’s true?

Telling small lies to others can help us make friends; lying to ourselves might actually make us happier. One UCLA psychologist found that a little bit of self-delusion is beneficial for your mental health: Non-depressed people tend to be less honest with themselves than those who are suffering from depression.

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