Health Benefits of ChocolateHealth Benefits of Chocolate

Source: MyFoodDiary.com

Health Benefits of Chocolate

Research shows that chocolate may improve heart health, but not all varieties are equally nutritious. Find out what type to pick and how it can promote good health.

Why is chocolate healthy?

The cacao bean used to make chocolate is rich in flavanols that act as antioxidants, which protect against disease. While these findings have been supported in numerous studies, researchers continue to find more reasons chocolate has a positive impact on health. A recent study showed that good bacteria in the gut convert chocolate to compounds that combat inflammation, a major factor in chronic disease.

The antioxidants in dark chocolate may help reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke. They have been found to protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from being oxidized, which causes plaque build-up leading to blood clots. There is also evidence that chocolate may lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and through the arteries.

What type of chocolate should I choose?

The darker and less processed a chocolate, the more flavonoids it contains. Milk chocolates are often heavily processed with added fat and sugar. According to University of Michigan Integrative Medicine, the milk in milk chocolate also binds to the antioxidants making them unavailable to the body. Choose bittersweet and semi-sweet dark chocolates that are at least 60 percent cocoa solids. Some health experts recommend 65 percent and higher.

How much chocolate should I eat?

The Cleveland Clinic suggests incorporating 1 ounce of dark chocolate a few times a week, but the Mayo Clinic also notes that 3 ounces of dark chocolate is the dose that some studies have found to provide health benefits. The problem is that this amount of chocolate can contain up to 450 calories, so keep this in mind when choosing a serving. Also, stick with solid dark chocolate. Extras, like caramel fillings, increase the calories and may reduce the overall health benefit.

Sources

Pear & Walnut Waffles RecipePear & Walnut Waffles

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Pear & Walnut Waffle Recipe

These whole grain waffles are sweetened with fresh pear and studded with heart-healthy walnuts. With so much flavor, you will need only a drizzle of maple syrup for a sweet and filling breakfast with plenty of dietary fiber and less sugar than regular waffles.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 waffle
Amount Per Serving
230
Calories
% Daily Value*
5%
Total Fat 3.4g
2%Saturated Fat 0.3g
Trans Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 1mg
16%
Sodium 365mg
14%
Total Carbohydrate 42.3g
22%
Dietary Fiber 6.2g
Sugars 7.8g
Protein 9.7g
Vitamin C 4%Vitamin A 3%
Iron 9%Calcium 17%
*
The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Yield: 4 waffles

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp fine ground sea salt
  • 1 pear, cored and shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tbsp chopped raw walnuts
  • 1 cup milk (any variety)
  • 1 large egg white
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Optional toppings: chopped pear, chopped walnuts, pure maple syrup

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the pear and walnuts and toss to coat them with the dry ingredients.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg white, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. The batter will be thick.
  3. Spray a waffle iron well with nonstick cooking spray and preheat. Add ½ cup of the batter to the waffle iron and use a spoon or spatula to spread it across the surface. Close waffle iron and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the waffle is browned and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining waffles. Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

Active Games for the Whole FamilyActive Games for the Whole Family

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Active Games for the Whole Family

You can have a positive influence on your family’s health by making your time together more active. Not only do these active games help you burn calories, they teach your children that exercise can and should be fun!

Backyard Obstacle Course

Gather gear together and create an obstacle course in your backyard. Lay hula-hoops on the ground and hop to each one, crawl the length of a jump rope, and hop over a sturdy crate. Get everyone involved and let each person create their own obstacle to add to the course. Time each family member as they complete the entire course. Repeat the course and encourage everyone to beat their own time.

Indoor or Outdoor Circuit

Circuit training isn’t only for adults. Involve the kids in a circuit of activities outdoors or create some space inside on a cold and rainy day. Incorporate stations like hula-hoop, jumping jacks, jump rope, crab-walk, wall-push ups, and chair-sits. Use a stopwatch and set up everyone at their first station. Do each exercise for 50 seconds, and then use 10 seconds to transition to the next exercise.

Toss in the Bucket

Select a starting line where everyone will toss their ball. Set up buckets of different sizes, different distances away from the line. Be sure to make some far away so that everyone has to put effort into his or her throw. Pick balls that vary in size, appropriate for each bucket. Try golf balls, tennis balls, or softballs. Allow each family member to throw the balls in the buckets and keep things active by making everyone retrieve their own ball. Get the heart rate up and encourage a faster pace by timing each person with the winner being the one who makes the most buckets and who also has the fastest time.

Walk and Drop

Find a round object that is large enough to be held between your legs at knee level. This might be a softball, a balloon, or even a potato. Set a starting point and place a bucket or bowl a few yards away. The further the bucket, the harder the game, so adjust according to the ages of your children. Each person must put the object between their knees and walk with it to the bucket where they will then drop the object into it. Time each person. The faster you move, the better the exercise and your chances of winning.

Pass the Pedometer

Pedometers don’t have to be reserved for adults. Giving one to the whole family creates a way to track activity while also providing an easy math lesson. Before you head out to the park or off on a hike, strap on the pedometer. Everyone can guess how many total steps you’ll have by the end of the day, or let everyone wear the pedometer for a set amount of time and see who gets in the most steps. Once you know the total number, you can divide it by 2,000 to get a rough estimate of how many miles the whole family covered.

The Pros and Cons of Drinking CoffeeThe Pros and Cons of Drinking Coffee

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Pros and Cons of Drinking Coffee

If you are a coffee lover, you likely perk up when you hear that it improves health. But you may also wonder if you are doing damage when you hear negative reports. Research on coffee uncovers its benefits and also some dangers in having too much. Knowing both the pros and cons of drinking coffee will help you make the best choice for your personal health.

The Good and the Bad

Past studies have shown that heavy coffee consumption could lead to an increased risk for heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, recent studies do not show a connection between moderate coffee consumption and the risk for heart disease or cancer. Coffee has been found to boost memory, improve concentration, and decrease fatigue.

The antioxidants in coffee appear to be associated with its major health benefits. They may help to protect brain cells and reduce the risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease. These antioxidants have also been found to make cells more sensitive to insulin, which improves regulation of blood sugar. Although, other studies have shown that the caffeine has the opposite effect on blood sugar, so the influences of regular coffee on insulin sensitivity may be more complicated.

Many of the negative effects of coffee drinking are due to the caffeine. There is evidence that coffee can increase blood pressure, increase heart rate, and decrease bone density. The caffeine in coffee can also lead to irritability, anxiety, stomach upset, and a lack of sleep. Compounds in unfiltered coffee could also increase LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Drinking Coffee for Health

So how much coffee is too much? Moderate consumption is defined as about four cups of coffee or 400 milligrams of caffeine. The negative effects of coffee are found with an intake of five or more cups per day. Some people have a greater sensitivity to the caffeine and some health conditions and medications influence coffee’s effect on the body.

If you are healthy and have not been advised by a medical professional to avoid coffee, enjoy it in moderation like you would any other food or drink. The negative effects become a greater risk when you begin to rely on coffee to reduce fatigue. This is because your system will build up a tolerance to the caffeine over time, meaning you will need to drink more and more to get the alertness you are seeking.

Also be sure to drink your four cups or less in the morning. While the lasting effects of caffeine vary from person to person, it takes about six hours for it to leave your system. Drinking coffee too late in the day can disrupt your ability to sleep, which will then cause you to drink more coffee the next day, and lead to an ongoing cycle of overconsumption.

Skillet Sweet Potato Hash RecipeSkillet Sweet Potato Hash

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Skillet Sweet Potato Hash Recipe

Sweet potatoes are full of vitamin A and dietary fiber. In this recipe, they are cooked with green peppers and onions and seasoned with smoked sweet paprika. This makes a hearty breakfast when served with eggs, or use it as a side dish for grilled chicken or fish.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
94
Calories
% Daily Value*
4%
Total Fat 2.3g
2%Saturated Fat 0.3g
Trans Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
6%
Sodium 139mg
6%
Total Carbohydrate 17.4g
10%
Dietary Fiber 2.8g
Sugars 4g
Protein 1.5g
Vitamin C 21%Vitamin A 222%
Iron 3%Calcium 3%
*
The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Yield: 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ¾ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, chopped small (about 4 cups)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • ¼ tsp fine ground sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped spinach

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the bell pepper and cook for 1 more minute.
  2. Stir in the sweet potatoes and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until some edges are browned and the pieces start to become tender. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the water, stir and cook for 7 to 10 minutes until the water has evaporated and the potatoes are tender.
  3. Sprinkle in the paprika, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir the spinach just before serving.
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