6 Benefits Of Eating Chocolate

 

Ghirardelli-Intense-Dark-Chocolate

My last post was about the health benefits of eating broccoli. I like broccoli and have always known it to be healthy. Making better choices every day to slowly improve our health and happiness is what this blog is all about and broccoli, fixed different ways can be one of those smart choices.

But, believe it or not, chocolate has some of the same healthy properties as broccoli. Don’t get too excited though. I’m not talking about those milk chocolate kisses or the solid chocolate bunnies we all love on Easter morning. I’m talking about Dark Chocolate. And not just anything that says “dark” on the wrapper.

When selecting chocolate, look for higher cacao and lower sugar content. In general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao content. For health benefits, choose chocolate with a cacao percentage of 70 or higher. I like the Ghiradelli Midnight Reverie with 86% cacao. A 45 gram (about 1 ½ oz) serving contains only 5 grams of sugar. And also contains 3 grams of protein. As a comparison the same serving of Special Dark Hershey bar contains over 21 grams of sugar. Needless to say the Hershey bar has very little of the health benefits shown below.

Since cacao is bitter, the higher percentage cacao, the more bitter it is. Most manufacturers add sugar to make it palatable so it is a balancing act to make it taste good and still retain the healthy properties. I would say it is an acquired taste but if you have cut back on your sugar intake like I have recommended a little sugar goes a long way.

Here are the six benefits of eating dark chocolate:

  1. It lowers blood pressure by increasing circulation and blood flow due to the flavonoids as well as increases blood vessel elasticity and slightly reduces LDL. This also improves eye health due to increased blood to the retina and brain.
  2. Contains antioxidants (more than green tea) which fight the free radicals in our bodies
  3. Contains reservatrol which is a strong anti-inflammatory and shields nerve cells from damage. This property also
  4. Contains polyphenols – this is what makes it bitter. Theobromine suppresses appetite and increases body’s ability to break down fat
  5. Lowered Insulin resistance which helps prevents diabetes
  6. Phenethylamine causes our brain to release dopamine which helps put us in a good mood

A bonus tip is that by combining dark chocolate with apples the healthy properties of each are enhanced so that the two foods become healthier than just eating them alone. Apples contain high antioxidant flavonoids and dark chocolate is rich in antioxidant catechins. The combination have been shown to break up blood clots and reduce risk of stroke.

Now I have finally given you something you can really sink your teeth into and enjoy. But, of course moderation is the key, especially if you are working on losing some weight

10 Ways To Cut Down On Sugar

Microsoft PowerPoint - Sugar

I have recently been pointing out the negative effects sugar has on our physical and emotional health. If you have missed those articles take a look at http://bit.ly/1RlGVCR and http://bit.ly/1RyC1iR  and also http://bit.ly/1WJFlMs to get a better understanding of how important it is to avoid sugar as much as is practical. And I do want to stress being practical. I have cut down on my sugar intake drastically over the past five months and I feel much better. I have more energy and my mind is more alert. But during this time I have learned how difficult it is. There are the obvious ones like deserts that we all love; cakes, pies, donuts, CHOCOLATE, and candy. Reducing these is simple but hard. It just takes a mindset shift and discipline. The really tricky ones are the added sugars in so many of our foods today, both from the grocery and from restaurants. Food companies and chefs know what we Americans like and they know we love sugar. When they add sugar we enjoy it and buy more. And, as I pointed out in my other articles, it is addicting so the more we eat the more we crave. The more we crave the more the market responds by supplying it. It is a vicious cycle that we need to derail. So here are the ten ways I have used to cut down on my sugar intake. Hopefully they will work for you.

  1. Don’t go cold turkey – the whole premise of this blog is that we can make small healthier decisions each day and, over time, succeed at living healthier and happier lives. I recommend incremental changes even though you are actually breaking an addiction. Determine that you will eliminate one type of food or drink at a time such as sodas, candy or added sugar in your morning coffee. After a week or so of conquering that you can target something else. Start small and as you build momentum you will feel more in control.
  2. Change what you drink – this is the one area that, for most people, will make the most drastic difference in cutting down on sugar. According to the experts, sugary drinks are one of the top sources of sugar in our diet. For example, a mere 12 ounces of Mountain Dew delivers 52 grams of sugar and the same amount of grape juice has 58 grams. Orange juice has 33 grams of sugar and about 20 grams in Gatorade. And who stops at 12 ounces anymore? Learn to enjoy filtered water and you will be glad you did.
  3. Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time – success comes easier when you are organized and intentional about your food. Deciding in advance what you will eat will help you make good decisions, especially when you find those hunger pangs and junk food cravings sneak up on you. Have healthy snacks handy to avoid cramming handfuls of Thin Mints in your mouth. Also, eating regularly will keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  4. Choose fresh whole foods – the closer a food is to its original form, the less added sugar it will contain. Food in its natural state provides more and better nutrition and variety will feed your body and mind exactly what they need. Eating more vegetables and meats with a moderate amount of fruits will give you more energy and better focus. Your digestive system works much better and your body fights diseases more efficiently. Grabbing convenience foods from the freezer or snack isles will only increase your cravings for more of the same.
  5. Read labels – as I mentioned earlier, sugar is hiding everywhere! And, unfortunately, it changes its’ name often. Sugar can be in the form of honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucralose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose and most any other “ose”. The list of ingredients begin with the substance that is the highest concentration to the lowest concentration so if one of these sugar variants is high on the list it spells danger.
  6. Incorporate healthy fat and protein in each meal – they control blood sugar levels and make you feel full, satisfying your cravings. Eating too many carbs is like putting yourself on a roller coaster ride; your blood sugar zooms up shortly after you eat, then goes crashing down after a short time. you then find yourself hungry again and you start all over. Breakfast is the biggest challenge to avoid the bagel/cereal/toast/pastry ride. Check out my earlier blog on healthy breakfast choices at http://bit.ly/1pIVU0S
  7. Get the rest you need – trying to survive the day feeling tired and run down will not give you the resources your mind and body need to resist the temptation to go back to old habits. This can be hard and you need to be rested to make it past the first few days and weeks.
  8. Remove the temptation – get all your favorite sweets and junk food out of the house and out of those secret stashes at work. Cutting down on sugar is easier if you have to go in search of it.
  9. Get plenty of physical activity – you will be in a much better state of mind if you are more active. This can also take your mind off the sweet cravings if you are able to get up and walk or move around a bit when the urge hits you.
  10. Begin with a detox – this will help to reset your appetite and decrease your sugar cravings from the very beginning. I did this later in the process and wished I had done it earlier. Our bodies, especially our digestive systems, are so bombarded with toxins from our food, the air, the chemicals we slather onto our skin and just our environment that we must detox periodically to stay healthy and strong. I offer one with Advocare that does an excellent job but is mild enough not to disrupt your normal day to day life. It is the first phase of our 24 Day Challenge. Order it here; http://bit.ly/1UlHlNp

I hope this helps in your quest to be healthier and happier. It really is important to avoid sugar as much as possible and practical. Living healthy is all about understanding how our daily lifestyle decisions affect us and knowing how to prioritize the positive changes we strive to make. We can succeed!

11 Food And Drinks Diet Experts Won’t Touch

This caught my attention this weekend and thought it was valuable enough to share. It is from a website “Eat This Health” and is based on a book called “Eat This Not That“.

Granola

What do ketchup and cereal have in common? Nutritionists won’t eat them.

Imagine that you were given the opportunity to peek into the daily diets of nine top-notch nutritionists and dietitians. What would you take note of? Likely not the array of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, dairy and healthy fats on their plates—that’s practically a given. What you’d really want to hone in on was all the things they didn’t let pass their lips!

If eaten in moderation, many experts feel there is a place for just about every food in a balanced diet. But as it turns out, there are a number of foods out there that they personally wouldn’t let into their grocery cart, let alone their mouth. Some are in line with what you might expect—but others are pretty surprising (like cereal!). Although, you may not be ready to give up your Frosted Flakes quite yet, get a sneak peak into the eating habits of those who live and breathe nutrition daily.

1 GRANOLA

“One of the leading health food impostors, this common yogurt and ice cream topper has nearly 600 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar in one tiny cup. That’s the equivalent of eating not one, but two slices of cheesecake. Which would you prefer? While some granola brands do offer up some nutrition such as fiber, protein and iron, the cons certainly outweigh the pros here. Switch to a lighter alternative like Cheerios or Special K. They pack the same satisfying crunch with a fraction of the calories, fat and sugar.” – Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group

2 EGG BEATERS

“Eggs that come out of a container are not a health food. Heat pasteurized and made from factory-farmed eggs, this product is processed so much that makers actually have to add in synthetic vitamins to boost its nutrient density. This is as far removed from a natural egg as you can get.” – Dana James CDN, a nutritionist from Food Coach NYC

3 KETCHUP

“Sure it tastes good on just about everything, but what you might not realize is how quickly the sugar and calories in ketchup can accumulate. Just one measly tablespoon has up to four grams of sugar and 20 calories—which might not seem like a lot—but the average consumer will douse their food with at least four or five. Plus, it’s loaded with high fructose corn syrup, which has been shown to increase appetite and, over time, lead to health problems such as obesity and diabetes. If you really can’t live without the stuff, use an all-natural version with no added sugar, chemicals or HFCS.” – Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group.

4 JUICE

“Juice is just a sugary beverage masked to be a healthy. Although there are some vitamins in it because of its fruit content, some varieties have just as much sugar as a soda. Plus, when you transform produce into juice, you take away its fiber—one of the major benefits of consuming whole fruits and vegetables.” – Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN a New York City-based Registered Dietitian

5 SPAM

“Spam is high in both blood pressure-spiking sodium and artery-clogging fat, which no one really needs to be eating more of. Unless you’re saving in for a horrific power outage, there are better canned proteins to choose from!” – Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, President and Founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition

6 COLD CEREAL

“Most cold cereals are carb-laden, sweet and highly processed. They are definitely not the breakfast of champions—at least not thin champions. If you start your day with a bowl, you will continue to crave carbs as the day goes on. Plus, since it’s not particularly satiating, you will likely be hungry just two hours later.” – Lauren Slayton, MS RD, founder of Foodtrainers

7 FLAVORED COFFEE CREAMER

“I avoid flavored coffee creamers because they are filled with fake ingredients that can do more harm than the flavor is worth. Packed with partially hydrogenated oils (which are just trans fats in disguise), artificial sweeteners, carrageenan and artificial coloring, this seemingly innocent coffee addiction can raise dangerous LDL cholesterol levels and increase the risk of blood clots and heart attack. The healthier choice would be a half and half that only lists milk and cream as ingredients.” – Gina Consalvo, MA, RD, LDN, Pennsylvania-based owner of Eat Well with Gina

8 CHEESE FRIES

“When I see cheese fries on the menu, I wonder why the dish even exists. They take a perfectly nutritious potato, deep fry it and then to top it all off, they load it up with salty, greasy, processed cheese. No, thank you.” – Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RDN, FAND, a Chicago area registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant

9 HOT DOGS

“When you’re grilling outside, hot dogs may be the first thing that comes to mind, but they should not be the first thing to hit your plate. Not only are they high in fat, one dog also has more than a quarter of the day’s sodium. Throw this salty dog in a bun and drown it in condiments, and you’ve got yourself a diet disaster. Not to mention, research has shown a correlation between processed meats and colorectal cancer.” – Jim White, R.D., personal trainer and registered dietitian

10 NUTELLA

Nutella is one of those foods that people believe to be healthy because it contains a nut. Although hazelnuts are naturally healthy on their own, they lose their nutrients when they’re transformed into the sweet spread. With over 20 grams of added sugar and only two grams of protein, there’s little reason to indulge.” – Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN a New York City based Registered Dietitian

11 CHEESY PUFFS

“First they crunch, then they melt in your mouth. Cheesy puffs may be delicious, but the unnaturally bright orange snack should be avoided. Not only do their scary chemicals make them totally addictive, but because they are made up of so much air, the brain can’t tell that the stomach is filling up even though the calories are adding up.” – Libby Mills, MS, RDN, LDN, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

4 Ways To Have More Energy

Low Energy
How is your energy level? Do you find yourself dragging out of bed each day feeling like you just fought a bear? And lost? Do you lose energy just before lunch then need a siesta after your Big Mac and fries? How about the mid-afternoon blahs? Need a little pick-me-up? I understand completely. Most everyone would like to have more energy. We are so busy going from task to task we forget to give our body and mind what they need to stay sharp. Here are four ways to have more energy throughout the day.
Energetic-Person_1

  1. Exercise first thing in the morning. I know many of you are “not a morning person” but this doesn’t have to be an all-out Insanity workout. I am just saying get up and move enough to get your blood pumping. Just a walk around the block or some jumping jacks. Or even a quick plank will get you going. Believe it or not, a little exercise first thing when you wake will help you have more energy during the day.
  2. Drink plenty of water. “Experts” say divide your weight in half and drink that many ounces each day. I say if that seems like too much (it is for me) adjust it a bit for you but just be consistent on your water intake. So many times your lack of energy is due to dehydration. A quality energy drink is a good way to keep you going and provides the water you need along with some important vitamins. Try Spark by Advocare.
  3. Eat every 3-4 hours. Start with a healthy breakfast. Then choose your snacks wisely as you go about your day. You will have more energy avoiding the roller coaster effect of up and down blood sugar levels which ultimately zap your energy.
  4. Make sure you are getting the nutrition your body requires, whether through a healthy balanced diet or by taking quality supplements. As I have discussed before it is practically impossible to get all our nutrients from our food so if we want to have more energy nutritional supplements are necessary. An excellent whole food multivitamin is Sun Nutrition Green Multivitamin and you can buy it on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1NAtzzv

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning how to have more energy. Check back soon for a more comprehensive ebook that will explore other key ways to have more energy.

5 Healthy Benefits Of Eating Blueberries

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I have written about eating fruit including blueberries but have discovered that this tasty little jewel is one of the healthiest of fruits. They are especially high in anthocyanins which are compounds of the flavonoid family which possess anti-carcinogenic properties. And the cool thing is it is enhanced when the berries are frozen by making them more easily absorbed.

The berries actually have their sharp, blue color because of the anthocyanin in the tissue. Organic berries already have higher nutritional content than non-organic, but freezing them can actually improve on these 5 benefits:

  1. Improves Heart Health

Eating frozen blueberries can significantly lower your risk of heart disease. This is because the nutrients regulate and relax the elasticity of your arteries in the vascular wall, keeping them from getting damaged. This also improves your blood flow, giving you a healthy blood pressure in the process.

  1. Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Forms of Dementia

The anthocyanin in the berries can actually improve your memory functions, and protect your brain against cell damage and loss. The berries can also improve your nerve cell growth, and make communication easier between nerve cell processes. This actually slows down the rate that they age, and ultimately, die.

  1. Improves Nervous System Health

The antioxidants in blueberries provide your nerve cells with protection. They also keep your brain healthy from the various forms of pollutants that it’s exposed to every day. They basically create a safeguard around your nervous system to keep it healthy and strong for a longer period of time.

  1. Improves Motor Function

Older adults, who are suffering from impaired movements (70+ years), generally perform and behave more function after eating frozen blueberries. They also show heightened cognitive ability, which translates into improved motor ability in comparison to other men and women in the same age group.

  1. Improves Digestion

The antioxidants in blueberries protect your digestive tract from damage occurred outside sources. What’s scary is, many people who lack antioxidants in their diets consequently develop cancer as a result of poor gastrointestinal health. People at risk of developing colon cancer should definitely bring more frozen blueberries into their diets.

Blueberries are already very healthy, but freezing them allows you to get the benefits in a higher concentration than refrigeration. They will taste the same, but will be much healthier after being frozen for a few days.

So next time you go to the shop buy a couple extra packs for freezing or better yet, start growing some blueberry bushes around your home if possible and share with the neighborhood.

6 Healthy Snacks That Will Satisfy Your Cravings

Yes, I admit it. I love to snack. I eat a good breakfast but by 10 o’clock I need something to tide me over until lunch time. I try to eat a healthy lunch and get enough to keep me going but by 3:30 or 4 I am looking for something to satisfy my cravings again. But, actually that is not a bad thing. Many “experts” recommend we eat 5–6 times per day to prevent getting over-hungry resulting in choosing the wrong food at mealtime and overeating. Of course, the key is to choose a healthy snack.
Many of those same “experts” have a list of snacks to eat that leaves me feeling very unsatisfied and searching for the nearest Five Guys for a monumental pile of French Fries (the worst of the fast food fries with 526 calories, 23 grams of fat).
I have my favorite snacks but try to mix it up a bit, especially in the summer when veggies are fresh and plentiful. But you may not have the same cravings as me so here is a list that will, hopefully, help you stay healthy and at the same time keep your energy high between meals.
Bananas
1. Bananas-this has to be my favorite and I eat 2 of these every day; one in the morning and one on my way home from work. They are convenient, tasty and healthy with 105 calories, 14 g sugar, less than ½g of fat, 1 g protein, and heavy in potassium at 422 mg. Add some peanut (or almond) butter for a classic healthy snack.
Carrots
2. Carrots-these are also convenient delicacies with a great crunch that can be nibbled as you work. Two gives you 50 calories, only 6 g of sugar, same amount of fat as a banana and are also heavy in potassium at 390mg. But carrots are also packed with vitamin A giving you 400% of your daily recommended intake. Just don’t do like me and dump salt on them!
Hard Boiled Eggs
3. Hard Boiled Egg-I eat this at least once a week on a day I don’t have them scrambled for breakfast. This is a great source of protein at about 6 grams with only 78 calories. They do have about 5 grams of fat but only 1.6 of that is saturated fat. Eggs have a reputation of having too much cholesterol (about 187mg) but their many benefits outweigh the cholesterol you get from them.
Jerky Direct
4. Jerky-this is also an excellent source of protein and a very satisfying snack. But don’t just go grab any bag of jerky at the gas station. Some of that has more killer additives than Five Guys Fries. The best I have found is from Jerky Direct and they have every variety imaginable from beef and turkey to buffalo with lots of tasty flavors. They even have organic selections but it is all very healthy with no killer additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG). You can go to http://TNGold.jerkydirect.com to check it out. They are priced and shipped two bags to a pack or you can buy a case to have handy when you have a craving. Facts; one bag (3.25oz) has 90 calories, 1.5 g fat, 7 g sugar, 11 g protein. Good stuff.
Cashews
5. Nuts-most are very healthy and satisfying when you need something to keep you going. My favorite are cashews but almonds and walnuts are also excellent. Peanuts are the lowest quality of this group (also the cheapest, of course) and at least one health nut (like that?) says to stay away from them because of the mold in them. I think they are ok but not as good as the higher quality varieties which have about 157 calories in 1 ounce, 12 grams of fat (2.2 saturated), 1 g fiber, and 5 g protein.
Greek Yogurt
6. Yogurt-again, you can really mess up here if you go for the extra sweet variety with lots of sugar and fruit. And don’t be fooled by the low calorie choice with artificial sweeteners. Plain Greek yogurt is best and you can always include fresh fruit to make it more satisfying. Everyone knows about Greek yogurt but also excellent is Icelandic yogurt. Great taste and consistency. Six ounces gives you approximately 100 calories, 6 g sugar, 1 g fat, and 17 g protein.
Snacking is where you can either support your healthy lifestyle and enhance your main food choices, or you can wreck your entire plan. Do the right thing and have a healthy snack ready when the craving hits.