Category Archives: Dark chocolate
by Carolanne Wright
(NaturalNews) Good news for all you chocolate lovers out there, new research has found this divine food has even more health boosting advantages than previously recognized. Not only does it enhance both cardiovascular and mental well-being, but it also lowers body mass index (BMI) and insulin resistance. However, before consuming chocolate with wild abandon, it’s important to discern between the different varieties – and choose only superfood grades for ultimate benefit.
Food of the gods (and mere mortals too)
Relished for over 3,000 years, chocolate (also known as cacao in its purest form) has been used as a potent tonic, aphrodisiac and mighty food across cultures and continents. The ancient Aztecs raised cacao worship to new levels, reserving it for royalty and specific ceremonies. Europeans stumbled upon the delights of this strange ‘almond’ while exploring the New World and quickly adopted it as a remedy for fevers, mental fatigue, tuberculosis, poor digestion and gout. Fast forward to the present day and modern research has uncovered still more health enhancing features of this magical bean.
Live your bliss with chocolate
Containing a cornucopia of beneficial compounds, cacao has been shown to alleviate a wide-range of health complaints. But to reap the benefits, only high quality chocolate will do. Focus on raw, organic, dark cacao. And remember, the higher the percentage of chocolate, the lower the sugar. Below are some of the perks associated with this tasty superfood.
Cardiovascular – Of all the known edibles, cacao ranks the highest in beneficial antioxidant polyphenols that curb heart disease. A study at the University of California Department of Nutrition in Davis demonstrated the superior properties of a cacao rich beverage on platelet aggregation, thereby curbing heart harming blood clots. Even moderate consumption of cacao can reduce stroke risk and blood pressure while lowering cholesterol.
Brain – A wealth of mood-modifying elements, cacao has a positive effect on the mind. Theobromine, phenethylamine (PEA) and anandamide present within chocolate stimulate the central nervous system while promoting positive, clear, and some claim, blissful mental states. Cacao also encourages production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin which soothes depression, anxiety and irritability.
Diabetes prevention – A small Italian study at the University of L’Aquilia discovered that participants who consumed the equivalent of a candy bar’s worth of dark chocolate over the course of 15 days reduced insulin resistance by almost half. According to lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production. And that helps control insulin sensitivity.”
Stress reduction – As reported in Women’s Health Magazine, “Swiss scientists (who else?) found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated.”
Sun protection – Rich in skin protecting flavonols, dark chocolate is a smart choice. British researchers discovered that participants who consumed nutrient dense cacao over the span of three months had significant reduction in the speed of developing sunburns.
Lower BMI – Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that out of 1,000 Californians between the ages of 20 and 85, those who consumed chocolate on a regular basis had lower body mass index ratings. Dr. David Katz of Yale University remarks in the Huffington Post, “antioxidants might play a role in reducing inflammation, and that dark chocolate in particular might help balance the hormones that facilitate weight control.”
Looking for more benefits? Cacao also boosts cognitive ability, reduces tooth decay, calms coughs and improves vision.
Sources for this article include:
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Most of us would agree that life is a busy endeavor, which can lead to lots of stress. And the busier we get, the more stress we have to deal with.
Fortunately, there is a medicine-free way in which you can reduce a significant portion of that stress, all from the comfort of your own kitchen and dining room. Here are six excellent, healthy foods that can help you lower your stress levels naturally:
Grab a couple handfuls of almonds daily. Almonds, and other nuts, are so good for so many different reasons – among them; their ability to reduce your stress level.
“Nuts are loaded with vitamin E, which boosts immunity,” says Health and Living. “A healthy immune system means you’re less likely to fall victim to that cold that’s making its way around the office, and a healthier you means a less stressed you, too.”
According to Anna Magee and nutritional therapist Charlotte Watts, authors of the book The De-Stress Diet, “Nuts are crammed with B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and omega oils, nutrients that are depleted when anxiety is high. As a source of healthy fats, nuts have also been shown to curb appetite, naturally balance blood sugar levels, reduce sugar cravings, and support the metabolism.”
Use caution; however, in terms of the amount of almonds and other nuts you consume, writes Lisa Collier Cool for Yahoo! Health.
There’s no fish like oily fish. Fish like salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, is the perfect dinner de-stress option. “Omega-3s have been shown to boost mood and brain function, and can aid significantly in dealing with anxiety and depression,” Health and Living says.
“A 2011 study from Ohio State showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety among medical school students who took omega-3 supplements,” Cool notes. “The researchers made this surprising discovery during research to test their theory that omega-3s would lower stress-induced levels of cytokines, compounds that promote inflammation in the body, which can lead to illness and heart attack.”
Oily fish also contain a host of vitamins and minerals – B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium – “that help reduce sugar-addiction cycles and counteract the damaging effects of stress on the body,” says Dina Spector of BusinessInsider.com.
Oh, yes – chocolate. Not that the other foods aren’t good (and good for you), but seriously, who can resist a little chocolate?
Few of us can but that’s all right because a little chocolate goes a long way towards reducing our stress levels.
“Too much indulgence is likely to keep you from your weight-loss goals, but a small portion of chocolate as a pick-me-up isn’t such a bad idea,” Health and Living says. “This sweet treat helps to boost serotonin levels, which plays a key role in dealing with stress. In a study conducted by Duke Medical Center, researchers found that lower levels of serotonin actually cause a more extreme reaction when the body encounters stress.”
How much is just enough?
“Research has shown that 40g of dark chocolate a day can help us cope with stress by releasing ‘happy chemicals’ known as beta endorphins in the brain,” says Spector. “When it comes to a treat, dark chocolate can be a good snack choice to stave off cravings for less healthy choices, while providing a much-needed energy boost without the agitating effects of caffeine.”
From chocolate to… spinach. Well, Popeye knew a little something about nutrition after all.
“Spinach and other dark leafy greens like Swiss chard and kale are loaded with magnesium, which has been credited as a major stress fighter, helping to relax muscle fibers and put you at ease,” saysHealth and Living.
“There’s no such thing as a chill pill, but some foods contain body-boosting nutrients that help soothe stressed-out nerves,” adds Whole Living, noting that green leafy foods contain folic acid, which helps “make dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.”
Oranges – for sunshine in your life. Oranges, along with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, red and green peppers and strawberries contain lots of vitamin C, which “boosts your immune system and fights brain-cell damage resulting from constant exposure to cortisol,” says Whole Living.
“Stress makes our body release even more free radicals than when we are in good mood. Interestingly, vitamin C helps to keep the free radicals in control, and repairs the body. Basically, it helps protect the body from the cumulative effects of stress,” adds Dr. Lee Dobbins, a physician who specializes in weight loss-related issues.
To comprehend the health risks of midsection fat, it is important to understand the different varieties. Subcutaneous fat is found just under the skin of the hips, buttocks, thighs and abdomen; whereas visceral fat is deep inside, surrounding the vital organs in the pelvis, abdomen and chest. This second type of fat can be extremely harmful to health. According to Kristen Hairston, MD, “We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease.”
Belly fat burning foods
Monounsaturated oils are especially effective in diminishing abdominal fat. A study at the Reina Sofia University Hospital in Spain observed a group of overweight individuals who were put on four different diets for a month. All ate the same amount of calories per day, but had varying ratios of carbohydrates and fat. The researchers found that the group who consumed monounsaturated fats had the best results in losing extra weight around the midsection – even without exercise. Good sources of monounsaturated fat include avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
Dark chocolate is also rich in this slimming fat. Research has shown that when men consumed 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate two hours before a meal, they ate 17 percent fewer calories compared with those who consumed milk chocolate. Organic, raw chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao is optimal.
Soluble fiber found in vegetables, fruit and beans target abdominal fat as well. According to a study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, fiber intake directly affects midsection fat. Participants reduced visceral fat 3.7 percent over a five year span simply by consuming an additional 10 grams of soluble fiber per day. Those who also included moderate exercise had a total fat loss of 7.4 percent.
Another belly fat blasting food is coconut. A study in the journal Lipids found that coconut oil reduced abdominal obesity. The double-blind clinical trial involved 40 women between the ages of 20 and 40. Each group received either soy bean or coconut oil dietary supplements during the 12-week period. All participants adhered to a balanced diet and walked 50 minutes each day. At the end of the study, a decrease in total body mass was seen in both groups, but only the women who consumed coconut oil saw a reduction in waistline circumference.
Sources for this article include:
“Delicious, fatty foods that will help you lose weight” Mike Oliva, News Room Jersey, July 19, 2012. Retrieved on July 22, 2012 from: http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com
“Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity” Assuncao ML, Ferreira HS, do Santos AF, Cabral CR Jr, Florencio TM, Lipids, 2009, Jul:44(7):593-601. Epub 2009 May 13. Retrieved on July 22, 2012 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058
“Soluble Fiber Strikes a Blow to Belly Fat” Science Daily. June 27, 2011. Retrieved on August 1, 2012 from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110627123032.htm
“Flat Belly Diet Cookbook” Liz Vaccariello, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, 2008 Rodale Inc.