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The Surprising Reason Chocolate is SO Healthy!

The Surprising Reason Chocolate is SO Darn Healthy

Chocolate is something of a miracle food — it can ease depression, boost circulation, lower blood pressure, and even help you lose weight. In a strange correlation, it could even make you more likely to win a Nobel Prize! To think, all of this bang in one, tiny, delectable package. But, why? How do the compounds in chocolate react in our bodies to produce such dramatic results? The answer lies within you.

In keeping with the wave of interest in our microbiomes and their effect on our health, recent research shows that the good bacteria in our stomachs, like Bifidobacterium, actually thrive on chocolate. That’s right, your good bacteria love chocolate just as much as you do. Within these bacteria, the chocolate gets fermented and converted into various, anti-inflammatory compounds. These anti-inflammatories then travel throughout the body, spreading their good cheer, so to speak, to the heart, brain, blood, and beyond.

These findings, unveiled at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, come from research associated with the cocoa solids — cocoa powder — so no sugar was present (which feeds less desirable gut dwellers). The powder is known to contain several antioxidants, known as polyphenols, and a bit of fiber — which keeps it moving along when digested. All of this makes bitter cocoa an ideal fuel for the hungry, friendly bacteria in your digestive system — and you can be sure they will pass on the benefits to you. Their feast can result in higher endorphins, less depression, and enhanced heart health, among countless other benefits, for you. A couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder in your smoothie might be just the trick to balance out health and deliciousness for a perfect breakfast!

Remember, not all chocolate is created equal. If you opt for a chocolate bar, be sure it is dark, as in 85% or greater. Too much sugar could negate the benefits. If that’s too bitter for your taste, add a small dollop of raw honey to very dark chocolate for a double-whammy of health benefits and palatable sweetness.

Without your microcosm of gut bacteria, chocolate might not pose nearly as many benefits to your health. Keep your gut balanced with probiotics and a balanced diet — and make sure to give your micro-critter friends a big thank-you with a health-boosting treat of dark chocolate once in a while.

( Leesa recommends Vivani organic 85% dark choclate)

By Jordyn Cormier

Jordyn Cormier

Jordyn is a choreographer, freelance writer, and an avid outdoors woman. Having received her B.F.A. in Contemporary Dance from the Boston Conservatory, she is passionate about maintaining a healthy body, mind, and soul through food and fitness. A lover of adventure, Jordyn can often be found hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and making herself at home in the backcountry! Check out what else Jordyn has been up to at jordyncormier.com.

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Leesa Wheeler

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

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13 Reasons to Love Pomegranates

13 Reasons to Love Pomegranates
One of my favorite fruits, pomegranates offer more than just incredible  taste—they are nutritional and healing powerhouses. Here are 13 reasons to start  eating pomegranates or drinking their juice if you aren’t already:

1.  Anti-aging effects:  Pomegranates contain  plentiful amounts of antioxidants. They rate high on the U.S. Department of  Agriculture’s ORAC scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity)—a measure of how  well free radicals are absorbed. Pomegranate juice measures 2860 on this  scale.

2.  Kidney protection:  New research published  just days ago in the journal Renal Failure showed that an extract of pomegranate  prevented kidney damage and protected the kidneys against harmful toxins.

3.  Liver protection and regeneration:  More new  research published in the journal Toxicology and Industrial Health showed that  pomegranate juice not only protects the liver, it helps it to regenerate after  it has been damage.

4.  Immune-boosting:  Pomegranates and pomegranate  juice are packed with  immune-boosting vitamin C—an essential and quickly depleted nutrient at this  time of year.

5.  Anti-allergic:  Pomegranates are high in  substances called polyphenols which have been shown to reduce the biochemical  processes that are linked with allergies.

6.  Protects against heart disease:  New research  published in the journal Atherosclerosis shows that pomegranate improves the  body’s ability to synthesize cholesterol and destroy free radicals in the  vascular system.

7.  Prostate-cancer protection:  Research  conducted at the University of California, Riverside, and published in the  journal Translational Oncology indicates that pomegranate  juice and pomegranate extracts caused cancer cell death.

8.  Breast-cancer protection:  Scientists at the  University of California, Riverside, also studied the effects of pomegranate  juice and its nutritional components: luteolin, ellagic acid, and punicic acid  against breast cancer.  They pubished their results in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment and concluded  that pomegranate juice and its extracts “are potentially a very effective  treatment to prevent cancer progression…”

9.  Skin-cancer protection:  Consumption of  pomegranate was associated with a decrease in both main types of skin  cancer—basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, according to new  research in the British  Journal of Dermatology.

10.  DNA-protection:  The antioxidants and/or  phytonutrients in pomegranates also appear to interact with the body’s genetic material for  protection.

11.  Blood pressure normalizing:  Early research  published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition found that  pomegranate extract may help prevent blood pressure increases associated with  eating high fat meals.

12.  Metabolic syndrome regulating:  Research  published in the journal Food and Function shows that pomegranate helps  regulate blood sugar, improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin, decreases  inflammation, and improves numerous other factors involved in metabolic  syndrome—frequently implicated in obesity and often a precursor to diabetes.  Because of these effects, pomegranate may aid weight loss.

13.  Anti-infectious:  New research published in  the journal Food  and Chemical Toxicology found that an extract of pomegranate increased  the effectiveness of a drug used against gram-negative bacteria.  Many  gram-negative bacteria are known for drug resistance.

How to Enjoy  Pomegranates:

You can eat them fresh on their own for a delicious snack or dessert.

Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on a salad for a beautiful and nutritious  addition.

Drink unsweetened bottled pomegranate juice devoid of preservatives. I  recommend diluting 1 part water to 1 part pomegranate juice to avoid blood sugar  spikes and crashes.

Use a splash of pomegranate juice in salad dressing to jazz up a plate of  greens.

Add some pomegranate juice to your favorite smoothie recipe.

Enjoy pomegranate juice with citrus juices for a delicious citrus  cocktail.

I’d love to hear how you are enjoying pomegranates or pomegranate juice.

(For those you want to conveniently enjoy the benefits of pomegranates, Leesa recommends www.chews4health.com/Leesa!

By Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD

Michelle Schoffro Cook

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international  best-selling and 12-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine,  whose works include: Healing  Recipes, The Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body  Detox, The Life Force Diet, The  Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, and The Phytozyme  Cure.  Check out her natural health resources and subscribe to her free  e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News at WorldsHealthiestDiet.com  to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow her on Twitter @mschoffrocook  and Facebook.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/13-reasons-to-love-pomegranates.html#ixzz2Emq1WFTA

7 Super-Healing Summer Berries

7 Super-Healing Summer Berries

 

Berries are a delicious addition to any diet.  But,  taste is not the only reason to love them.  Here’s why you should add these  seven super-healing summer berries to your diet:

Blackberries

Loaded with vitamin C, blackberries also contain ellagic acid—an important  phytonutrient that protects skin cells from damaging UV rays. Ellagic acid also  prevents the breakdown of collagen in the skin that occurs as we age and is  linked to wrinkling.

Blueberries

Blueberries are phytonutrient powerhouses.  They  contain: anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechins, and salicylic acid.  If the latter sounds familiar, you may recognize it as the drug we’ve come to  know as Aspirin. That’s right—blueberries contain natural aspirin, but in this  beautiful and delicious packaging offered by Mother Nature, there’s no worry  about harmful side effects. What’s more, blueberries are proven to reduce heat  shock proteins that are linked with some forms of brain disease, making these  little marvels potent weapons in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s  disease as well as other neurological disorders.

 

Loganberries

A cross between blackberries and raspberries, these berries  strengthen blood  vessels, making them an excellent addition to help  fight heart disease or  varicose veins. They contain rutin, which  research shows strengthens  capillaries and improves circulation. They  look like long raspberries.

Currants

Currants contain gamma-linolenic acid that inhibit the body’s histamine—the  allergic response in reaction to pollens. That makes them great to help you  avoid or eliminate sinus congestion and itchy eyes linked to seasonal allergies.  Since they are tart, you might enjoy them best mixed with other berries.

Raspberries

Raspberries are still my favorite fruit. Raspberries, like other  berries,  contain an important compound that is 10 times more effective  at alleviating  inflammation than aspirin. Containing the phytonutrient  ellagic acid,  raspberries can help protect against pollutants found in  cigarette smoke,  processed foods, and may neutralize some cancer-causing  substances before they  can damage healthy cells. They’re delicious on  their own, in a fruit salad, in  a smoothie, or on top of a green salad.

 

Gooseberries

Gooseberries—the berries that resemble green grapes—help you to feel  happier.  In recent research in the journal Experimental  Neurobiology,   scientists found that gooseberries contain a flavonoid  called   kaempferol that prevents the breakdown of brain hormones serotonin and   dopamine. These brain chemicals naturally help us fight stress and keep   our  spirits up.

Strawberries

More than delicious, when it comes to disease prevention, these babies pack a  serious punch. Not only do eight strawberries contain more vitamin C than an  orange, they are antioxidant powerhouses. Whether you want to evade heart  disease, arthritis, memory loss, wrinkling, or cancer, these berries have proven  their ability to help. Plus, they’re just so easy to get into your diet on a  regular basis.

By Michelle Schoffro Cook

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international  best-selling and twelve-time book author and doctor of traditional natural  medicine, whose works include: Healing Recipes, The Vitality Diet,  Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body Detox, The  Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan,  and The Phytozyme Cure.  Check out her natural health resources and  subscribe to her free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News at WorldsHealthiestDiet.com.

Image credit (loganberry): ndrwfgg / Flickr

Foods that Boost Serotonin

Foods that Boost Serotonin

Serotonin plays an important role in regulating happiness, problem-solving and  concentration. When the level of serotonin fluctuates, it can directly change an  individual’s mood, sleep  patterns, appetite, memory, ability to learn and comprehend, body  temperature, heart performance and muscular functioning. A deficiency in  serotonin is sometimes regulated with medication but consuming specific food  items can boost the level of this chemical in the brain.

Fruits that Increase Serotonin

Various fruits boost serotonin and other mood-improving chemicals in the  brain. Plums, pineapple, bananas and sour cherries can directly influence  serotonin production. Bananas contain high levels of a chemical called  tryptophan. This chemical is converted to serotonin in the brain. Melatonin, a  chemical known for improving sleep, is found in sour cherries.

Serotonin Boost from Protein Sources

Turkey is another food known to contain high levels of tryptophan. Many  people report feeling drowsy after eating turkey. The sleepiness following a  large meal with turkey, such as the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, is somewhat  due to tryptophan and serotonin but it is also due to eating a larger quantity  of food. Other foods that can boost serotonin in the protein family include  eggs, beef, wild fish and most animals that are free of growth-promoting  hormones.

Carbohydrate-based Foods that Increase Serotonin

Carbohydrates can make a person feel full. Any grain or sugar-containing item  is usually considered to be a carbohydrate source. When an individual feels the  full sensation in the stomach, it can be rewarding in different ways. The person  may feel satisfied because basic nourishment has been fulfilled, but the brain  may also produce more serotonin as a result of the sugar and make up of the  carbohydrate-based food. Examples of carbohydrate foods include pasta, bread and  white potatoes. Dairy products consist of sugars that boost serotonin  production. Examples include milk, Swiss cheese and cheddar cheese. The cheeses  can increase other mood-boosting chemicals in the body having the same effect as  an increase in serotonin.

Sweet Treats Boost Mood

Eating a favored sweet treat, like dark chocolate, can increase mood not just  because it is so well-liked but also because it increases serotonin levels in  the brain. Some sugary snacks can lead to a dip in energy, causing the  individual to feel sleepy instead of energized or happier. For the purpose of  increasing serotonin, foods lower in sugar will have a more lasting effect.

Things to Consider

Every individual will respond differently to various foods. The exact  quantity of each food needed in order to increase serotonin has yet to be  determined. Eating foods known to boost serotonin is not a recommended method of  treatment for depression or other mood disorders associated with serotonin  deficiencies. Instead, mood-boosting foods can be eaten during illness or other  short-term events that cause a negative mood, fatigue, trouble concentrating and  sleep problems.

by Sarah  Harding, Contributor to Holistic  Nutrition on Allthingshealing.com

All Things Healing (allthingshealing.com) is an online  portal and community dedicated to informing and educating people across the  globe about alternative healing of mind, body, spirit and the planet at large.  We are committed to bringing together a worldwide community of individuals and  organizations who are working to heal themselves, each other, and the world. We  offer 39 healing categories, 80 plus editors who are experts in their fields, a  forum for each category, and an extensive “Find Practitioners” listing. Our  Costa Rica Learning Center and Spiritual Retreat is coming soon. Join  us!

You’ve Come a Long Way, Kombucha

You’ve Come a Long Way, Kombucha

You’ve Come a Long Way, Kombucha

Years ago I was told about a mushroom shaped fungus that people in the health food “know” were calling Kombucha, and using for medicinal purposes. At the time I was working with a pioneering medical doctor who insisted that we find some of this elixir and make it ourselves. Having the right connections brought this slimy little bugger to my kitchen where I placed it in a bowl of water with some sugar and bags of tea and let it do its thing. Not only did it ferment the water, but it grew another baby Kombucha, and therein lies the dilemma of making home brewed Kombucha, what to do with all the babies?

Needless to say, I spread the word to my friends and family, who, by now, knew my unorthodox interest in all things odd and alternative where food and medicine was concerned. At the time there was very little information as to how Kombucha worked, just that it was a great blood detoxifier that had emigrated from Russia and could heal a multitude of ills in a small amount of time. One unproven claim was that this odd looking mass of gelatin could heal cancer, which would only elicit a succession of raised eyebrows and unbelieving groans. Undeterred I continued to soak the Kombucha, drink the elixir, and give away the babies.

Having already spent years dancing around the media hype of the just-blossoming-health-food industry, I knew to take it all with a grain of sea salt and do my own research. Which usually means, to first try it out on myself in order to test the claims. The good doctor happily offered his body for additional research and for several months we soaked and sipped Kombucha until, seeing little or no results, we just could not take another sip of the vinegary solution. Alas, the last remaining baby was laid to rest in the woods and we all returned to drinking elixir from the green tea family.

Now, some 20 years later, and Kombucha appears to be one of the most popular health drinks on the market to the tune of $295 million dollars last year. Naturally, this means that the taste has to have greatly improved with the addition of cranberry, mango, ginger or berry flavors; but what hasn’t changed is that people still claim that they feel much better after drinking the Kombucha elixer. Even with that sharp vinegar taste devoted Kombucha fans find relief from a number of ailments, in particular digestive, intestinal issues.

But I make no claims here, only that if you are a Kombucha drinker you might like to know that you can make that four-something-a-bottle health soda into a delicious summer drink by adding:

  • a few ice cubes, and sparkling mineral water for a Kombucha Spritzer.
  • a few scoops of non-dairy ice cream for a delicious Kombucha Ice Cream Float.
  • 1-2 ounces of botanically infused Gin or requisite Vodka with a splash of flavored Kombucha for a liver bracing Kombucha Martini.

As the Irish are want to say when raising a glass or two, Slainte, “To Your Health!”

 by Delia Quigley

Delia Quigley is the Director of StillPoint Schoolhouse, where she teaches a holistic lifestyle based on her 28 years of study, experience and practice. She is the creator of the Body Rejuvenation Cleanse, Cooking the Basics, and Broken Bodies Yoga. Delia’s credentials include author, holistic health counselor, natural foods chef, yoga instructor, energy therapist and public speaker. Follow Delia’s blogs: brcleanse.blogspot.com and brokenbodiesyoga.wordpress.com. To view her website go to www.deliaquigley.com

Leesa’s favorite is GT Dave’s Multi~Green Organic Raw Kombucha!  Which is your favorite flavor?

Chocolate: Fact vs. Fiction

Chocolate: Fact vs. Fiction

A new study reported in WebMD leaves health professionals questioning results. First off, the study was conducted by Hershey Company (ah what?) and published in Chemistry Central Journal. The study compares the total flavonol and polyphenol content as well as antioxidant activity content of cocoa powder and dark chocolate vs. superfoods like acai, blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate.

Researchers found a higher level of antioxidant activity in cocoa powder than some of the other antioxidant-laden superfoods to which it was compared. But a review of the story and study on Health News Review brings up some important questions. For example, most chocolate sold in the U.S. is nothing more than sugary candy, including Hershey’s candy bars. And even more importantly, serving size matters. If you eat an entire candy bar, whether it’s dark chocolate or not, expect an expanded waistline, rather than the benefits of antioxidants.


Separate Dark Chocolate Fact From Fiction

 1. It’s Cocoa Not Dark Chocolate That Has Antioxidants

The story in WebMD did make a clear distinction between milk chocolate and dark chocolate when it comes to health benefits. But the fact of the matter is that it’s much more than just milk chocolate versus dark chocolate. Dark chocolate itself doesn’t supply the antioxidant value; it’s the cocoa powder that it’s made with. So in order to get the antioxidant benefits outlined in the study, there must be a high percentage of cocoa. The chocolate should be Fair Trade certified, organic, and be at least 70 percent cocoa. Avoid any filling like peanut butter, which could be laced with hydrogenated oils.

2. How Small is the Serving Size?

The serving size is incredibly important here. It’s normally a tiny square of chocolate within the chocolate bar, and depending on the size of the chocolate bar, there can be between 4 and 12 servings. If you’re not careful you can really overdo this, meaning that the saturated fats and sugar content can outweigh any benefits that you might have enjoyed beforehand. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, authors of YOU: On a Diet, answered some important questions on the specifics of dark chocolate consumption. According to the article in the Sun Setinel, you don’t need a whole bar to get a healthy dose of antioxidants. The flavonoids in dark chocolate are so powerful that a daily piece the size of a Hershey’s Kiss can lower your blood pressure. While this is an ideal size comparison, it’s not a good quality comparison as written above.

3. The Price Is Much Different with Real Dark Chocolate

When compared to a conventional candy chocolate bar found in the candy aisle, real dark chocolate with known health benefits is much more expensive. Projections for world food prices show that the cost of chocolate is going up, up, up and real dark chocolate, already averages between $3 and $8 per bar.

4. Find the Benefits of Cocoa in Other Places

Sometimes a candy bar isn’t the best place to find the benefits of this known antioxidant. One of my favorite places to find it is in whole leaf tea. Use a French press to seep the tea leaves for at least 7 minutes. Add a touch of cream and raw sugar and you have the essence of delicious dark chocolate that’s much easier on your waistline. You can also enjoy cocoa by adding the unsweetened raw cocoa powder to a smoothie in the morning.

(Leesa recommends Chewcolat!  It’s the best of both worlds,  amazing acai, blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate found in www.chews4health.com/Leesa and just the right amount of natural dark chocolate!  Learn more and place your order at www.chewcolat.com!)

By Sara Novak, Planet Green

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, planetgreen.com and TreeHugger.com, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.

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