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10 Nutritious Delicious Reasons To Eat Chocolate

Like I even have to give you one reason to sink your teeth into a piece of chocolate, hahahaha! But, I am giving you ten reasons to indulge in organic Fair Trade (Fair Trade certification ensures that farmers receive a fair price, allows farmers to invest in techniques that bring out the flavors of the region, and strictly prohibits slave and child labor.) dark chocolate.

Cocoa is filled with good nutrition. It is the chocolate powder made from roasted and ground cacao seeds. Chocolate consumption has been linked with a reduction in the risk of diabetes and the promotion of good heart health through its association with lowering bad cholesterol (LDL), raising good cholesterol (HDL) and lowering blood pressure.

10 reasons to eat chocolate:

1. Chocolate tastes good!

2. CATECHINS in chocolate are antioxidants (prevents oxidative damage to cells). Catechins may help to protect against heart disease and cancer by preventing oxidative damage, helping to regulate blood pressure, and by stimulating the immune system, http://nutrition.ucdavis.edu/content/infosheets/fact-pro-catechin.pdf.

3. PHENYLETHYLAMINE is a neurotransmitter that is considered a mood enhancer. It is also used to help aid in weight loss.

4. VITAMIN E is a fat soluble antioxidant. It, like catechins, protects the body against free radical damage and helps to maintain a healthy immune system.

5. COPPER is an essential (the body cannot make it on its own, it must be consumed through food) trace element and acts as a catalyst in the formation of red blood cells, muscle function, bone health, growth, strengthening the immune system, supporting the nervous system, healthy skin, nails and hair.

6. MAGNESIUM is a mineral involved in biochemical reactions in the body. It’s involvement in protein synthesis, bone development, normal blood sugar and blood pressure, muscle contraction, strong bones, a regular heart beat and so much more, http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/.

7. IRON, an essential mineral, carries oxygen to cells throughout the body (especially the muscles), to help provide energy and it is essential for red blood production and is involved in nourishing skin, hair, and nails.

8. ENDORPHINS are neurotransmitters, also known as “hormones of happiness” or the cause of “the runners high” that accompanies prolonged activity. They stimulate natural opiates in our bodies, resulting in positive mood and calmness, may help control appetite and are involved in the release of sex hormones.

9. TANNINSare water-soluble antioxidants found in plant foods. Tannins act as antimicrobials (protecting against tooth decay), antifungals and antivirals. They are also abundant in tea and have been linked to contributing to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

10. FLAVANOLS are antioxidants. Studies suggest that flavanols may help improve the function of the brain by boosting memory and learning capacity via by blood flow to the brain, http://www.medsci.org/press/cocoa.html.

So indulge, eat chocolate to your hearts’ content…Not! When cocoa is processed (fermentation, alkalizing and roasting) into chocolate many of the popular brands of chocolate like Hershey’s or even Godiva use excess sugar, trans fats, corn syrup or ingredients that negate the natural health benefits of cocoa.

There is a great variation in the nutritional value of chocolates. Read a label and look for the least amount of ingredients. The ingredients listed below are for 85% Lindt chocolate:

INGREDIENTS: chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, bourbon vanilla beans.

This is not so bad. Sugar is the 4th of 5 ingredients. Add a couple of cashews or almonds to cut the bitter taste of high cocoa chocolate. Two squares contain 3 grams of fiber and 7.5 grams of carbohydrates.

Choose your chocolate wisely, get the highest cocoa content you can tolerate and as you get used to it, work your way up from there to higher percentages of cocoa. Select brands with minimal sugar and without hydrogenated oils (trans fat), corn syrup, etc…. Buy organic fair trade brands if possible or find chocolate like this Lindt bar to enjoy!

 
 

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Pass The Pink Salt Please!

http://www.healthybitchdaily.com/wp-content/uploads//2013/07/pinksalt.jpg

Salt, like fat, has a BAD reputation in relation to its effect on health. Do you hear the bells and whistles? They should be going off in your head right now. We should all understand that fat is not unhealthy and in fact supports many body functions that promote good health. Just like the spread of big “fat lie” that has been perpetuated for so many years, the same is true for salt. Not all salt is created equal.

In history, salt was the preservative used to helped maintain a constant food supply prior to refrigeration.  The value of salt flourished so much so that it was used as a monetary exchange system and was better known as “white gold”.  Even Roman soldiers were paid with salt as a salary (sal is Latin for salt) for their work. Just as an aside, you may find it interesting that the word salary comes from the Latin word salarium.

Today processed white table salt (void of any other minerals and processed with anti-caking agents, i.e. sodium silicoaluminate or sodium ferrocyanide) is still used as a preservative and like any processed food is something I recommend avoiding. I just prefer staying away from processed foods as natural foods tend to be healthier. Processed salt, like processed food, is a staple: at home, in restaurants and commercially prepared items such as canned and frozen foods.

According to the CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssodium/, we use too much table salt. While most Americans consume about 3400 mg of salt each day, The Institute of Medicine recommends a range of 1500-2300mg/day. Although studies have linked table salt with negative health consequences of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease, there is controversy regarding salts true role with these conditions.

Unprocessed pink Himalayan salt is found across the Himalayan Mountains in China, Nepal, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and India.  Unlike table salt, pink salt contains less salt and 84 trace minerals and elements that are found in the human body. These include magnesium, calcium, potassium, strontium, fluoride and Iodine, that provides health advantages that can help:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Balance electrolytes
  • Improve hydration
  • Equalize pH (alkaline/acidity)
  • Support and strengthen bone health
  • Minimize acid reflux
  • Alleviate muscle cramps and stimulate circulation while relaxing in the tub
  • Prevent goiter

Adding pink salt to water is a much healthier and a more cost-effective way to replace electrolytes for athletes than using Gatorade or any other beverage that also adds unhealthy ingredients.

Try eating real food. Stay away from the products that have salt already added to them. Table salt does not add to your health, pink salt will help better your health and exercise performance. If you have been depriving yourself of adding salt to your food and to your cooking, deprive yourself no more. So do not pass on the pink salt, make sure you sprinkle it on…you will feel the difference when you use it instead of table salt.

When it comes to salt, think pink, add Himalayan salt to your foods and beverages

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2014 in health, SALT

 

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Soft Drinks Hit Health Hard (Part 2)

Soft drink

Picture from: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/experts-concerned-about-the-amount-of-soft-drink-were-consuming/story-e6frg6n6-1226500270601

 

Last week I asked the question, “should soft drinks be considered unhealthy”? I’ll let you answer for yourself. No matter what “soft” drink you imbibe today, it is likely filled with ingredients that you do not know is lurking in the recipe. Today, the main ingredient (about 90%) of the beverage is carbonated water. Five to 10% of its content is high fructose corn syrup, sugar or non-calorie sweetener, acid (lowers blood PH) and other additives gums, pectins, caffeine, flavors, colors, and preservatives like BHA.

WARNING: The information below may contain material that is alarming but definitely worth reading. The information gives you a better understanding of why it is important to understand what ingredients you actually put into your body.

How can soda affect your health and weight?

1. Citric acid and phosphoric acid affect blood PH and natural stomach acid secretions interfering with digestion, increasing risk of kidney stones, yeast overgrowth and bowel disease and leaching calcium from bone (especially teeth, spine, pelvis) causing weak bones and mineral imbalances.

2. Caffeine is a diuretic that can facilitate vitamin/mineral depletion, dehydration, fertility issues, sleep problems, anxiety, irritability, and depression.

3. High fructose corn syrup and excess sugar leads to excess calories, increased weight and blood sugar problems like diabetes. Research studies also support a link with the following health hazards:

a. Pancreatic cancer: University of Minnesota conducted a study with individuals who drank approximately two regular sodas/day. The conclusion was that there was an 87% higher chance of having cancer than those who drank beverages without sugar/corn syrup.

b. Diabetes and heart disease: At the American heart association’s Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention Annual Cardiology Conference there was a presentation by a professor from the University of California, San Francisco who made the association of approximately 200,000 new cases of diabetes and heart disease/year with soda drinkers.

c. Immune system: sugar has also been shown to lower the immune system due to damage of white blood cells.

4. Artificial sweeteners can lead to eating more because they do not provide the calories to signal to your body that it is satisfying your hunger. They breakdown to methanol and formaldehyde affecting the immune and nervous system and may even be involved in destroying brain neurons leading to headaches/migraines, nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue with an inability to fall asleep. Other associated symptoms include vision problems, anxiety attacks, depression, and asthma/chest tightness. Recently diet soda, like regular soda, was linked to a 50 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome — a cluster of risk factors such as excessive fat around the waist, low levels of “good” cholesterol, high blood pressure and other symptoms.

5. Sodium benzoate can throw off electrolyte balance. It is a preservative in many foods. The combination of sodium benzoate and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in soda can react to form benzene. The major health effects of benzene include damage to bone marrow and decreases in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can cause damage to DNA. Damage to DNA will contribute to aging and nerve diseases like Parkinson’s. Benzene is known to lead to cancer in both animals and humans.

6. Caramel color may suppress the immune system and has been linked to increase blood pressure.

All these potential harmful effects of drinking a “soft” beverage seems kinda extreme when in actuality most of what you are drinking is water. If you are thirsty stick with water and flavor it yourself. Tea (hot or iced), V-8 or homemade lemonade are also good options.  Any questions about what you are really eating and drinking, let me know and we can decipher it together.

 

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“Soft” Sugary Drinks Hit Health Hard

Funny how the adjective “soft” describes non-alcoholic beverages in relation to “hard” alcoholic beverages. There is nothing soft about any soft drink in today’s world. The original soda may date back to the 13th century and consisted mainly of natural mineral water that came from springs. The original ingredients were much different, than today. It was consumed to improve health.

It was not until the 1800’s that soda water was created from “imitation” mineral water (sodium bicarbonate mixed with acid) and marketed by pharmacies as “medicinal”. An entrepreneurial pharmacist tried adding 2 stimulants to soda, coca leaves and cola nuts and this was the birth of Coca-cola. This timeline gives you a quick historical perspective, http://inventors.about.com/od/sstartinventions/a/soft_drink.htm.

Today, soda is hardly a beverage that would be considered “healthy” but should it be considered unhealthy?

Apparently, research connects obesity, heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver, gout, stomach issues, depression  and other medical and behavioral conditions with drinking soda. Health experts and even politicians (by taxing or regulating soda portion size, http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20140208/new-havens-mayor-toni-harp-touts-tax-on-soda, http://www.banderasnews.com/1310/hb-thefighagainstsodatax.htm) try to break society’s soda addiction and  yet it is hard to combat the billions of dollars sugar-laden beverage companies spend on marketing. In fact, “preschoolers viewed an average of 213 ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks, while children and teens watched an average of 277 and 406 ads, respectively; http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/.”

Despite the information and the efforts to cut sugar laden beverages from our diets, half of Americans consume sugary drinks, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db71.htm. Highlights from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2008 are:

  • Males consume more sugar drinks than females.
  • Teenagers and young adults consume more sugar drinks than other age groups.
  • Non-Hispanic black children and adolescents consume more sugar drinks in relation to their overall diet than their Mexican-American counterparts. Non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American adults consume more than non-Hispanic white adults.
  • Low-income persons consume more sugar drinks in relation to their overall diet than those with higher income.
  • Most of the sugar drinks consumed away from home are obtained from stores and not restaurants or schools.

Just because a drink may be light, airy and refreshing (or so you assume), don’t get stuck in a soda rut, thinking it is harmless. The effects on your body are the same as eating a piece of chocolate cake. I am not just talking about fizzy beverages. I’m talking bottled lemonade, iced tea, fruit punch, Gatorade any beverage made up of sugar and artificially sweetened non-nutritive (zero calorie) products.  Diet soda may be considered a healthy alternative to regular soda for those who have diabetes or weight problems. They are NOT.

There is nothing soft about “soft” drinks. They hit you hard. In my opinion, they are worse than alcohol in the sense that at least with alcohol, you, or others around you, can tell when you have imbibed enough. The symptoms are obvious. When you drink “soft” drinks, there are no quick symptoms telling you to stop. The long-term consequences on weight and health are undeniable and not easily reversed.

What are the ingredients in soda that compromise your health? Check it out next week.

 

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Seeking Saturated Fat

Image: http://coconutoil.com/enjoy-saturated-fats-theyre-good-for-you/

Hopping back from the diabetes debate, http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/diabetes-debate-on-carbohydrates/, and on to more of the beneficial functions of saturated fats. It started with the heart, brain and lungs, http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/when-it-comes-to-saturated-fat-use-your-noggin/, but there is more.

Fat soluble vitamins, (for example, vitamins A,D,E,K) and minerals are not well absorbed without fat. Thus the health benefits of these nutrients are not being attained, if adequate fat in the diet is not present. And just like the body systems working together, fat soluble nutrients work synergistically along with all nutrients to attain good health. I never realized the impact that saturated fat has on nutrient absorption when compared with unsaturated fat.

A perfect example of this is a study showing that saturated fat from beef tallow as compared with polyunsaturated fat from sunflower oil increases beta-carotene absorption from a salad 11 to 17 percent, http://www.westonaprice.org/fat-soluble-activators/nutritional-adjuncts-to-the-fat-soluble-vitamins.  In this linked article, Chris Masterjohn specifically mentions that the “absorption of beta-carotene from a salad with no added fat was close to zero”. The saturated fat dressing was a superior vehicle in delivering nutrients to the body. It seems that monounsaturated oil (olive oil) was better in aiding absorption than the polyunsaturated oil.

“The reason for this is unknown, but it may be that oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids promote the oxidative destruction of fat-soluble vitamins in the intestines before we are able to absorb them. Thus, the more fat we eat, and the lower those fats are in polyunsaturated fatty acids, the more fat-soluble vitamins we absorb.”

More interesting saturated fat functions from Dr. Mercola lists specific saturated fats that benefit many facets of health, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/24/cbs-sings-praises-of-fat.aspx:

  • caprylic acid found in coconut and palm oil (antifungal, antiviral)
  • lauric acid is attained from palm, coconut and butter (cavity and plaque fighter, antifungal)
  • stearic acids are derived from vegetable oils and animal sources: cocoa butter, pork beef, lard, dairy (lowers cholesterol)
  • butyric acid mostly in dairy products has been shown to help prevent colon cancer and

James Carlson board certified MD who just happens to have an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and microcellular biology says that biochemical pathways in the body work better when carbohydrates are lower and animal fats are higher.

He uses saturated fat, not drugs, to help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight on “thousands and thousands of patients”.

He points out that while we have been led to believe that lard is one of the unhealthiest types of fat, more than half of its fat (60%) is unsaturated fat. Yes, and while you are gasping for air at the thought of this, I know I was. Fifty-five percent of beef fat is unsaturated. So, if you like the skin on the chicken but discard it because you were told it is healthier, you may want think twice before peeling off the fat because 80% of that fat is unsaturated, http://web.pdx.edu/~wamserc/C336S06/fat.pdf. Where did all the hype come from in regards to an all or nothing saturated fat content from animal meats?

Listen for yourself, to Dr. Carlson  speak at this “Dietary Guidelines Press Conference” it is important to keep this stuff upfront in our minds,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TlBEf-v5fQ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri7rt7AzzUY.

If your doctor is not at least giving you a low carb high fat diet as an option to lose weight and improve your health, before putting you on drugs, get a second opinion…FAST!

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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When It Comes to Saturated Fat Use Your Noggin’

 

“Follow The Nutrition Guidelines or Follow Your Heart, http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/follow-the-nutrition-guidelines-or-follow-your-heart/” came to be because it is important to understand that following mainstream advice without using your noggin’ is not always the right way. Cutting fat from your diet is a theme that has been used to brainwash people for way too long. Know that saturated fat is healthy for more than just your heart (60% of the hearts energy comes from burning fat) and there are healthcare professionals and research that supports this way of thinking.

Data relating saturated fat as supporting body organs and vital body functions exists and the next few blogs will hopefully open more discussions on this topic.

After last weeks blog on the heart, the brain tops this list as an organ that depends on monounsaturated and saturated fats and cholesterol for proper functioning. Fats compose 60% of the brain and is especially important for fetal brain development. This may be why human breast milk is one of the best sources of saturated fat. The brain also houses twenty-five percent of total body cholesterol.

Monounsaturated fats can help boost moods and help improve psychological health related disorders but these fats may be especially important for aging brains and the elderly, specifically in regards to memory and visual-spatial recognition (important for driving).

Saturated fats and cholesterol are just as important as monounsaturated fats in regards to brain health. In this interview for Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-optimalist/201310/your-healthy-diet-could-be-quietly-killing-your-brain, David Perlmutter (Board-Certified Neurologist and Fellow of The American Board of Nutrition) describes the benefits of both these nutrients. He says that saturated fats “are “building blocks for brain cells” and cholesterol is a “brain protective” antioxidant that is a precursor to vitamin D too, which also plays a role in brain health and indirectly is a precursor to the sex hormones.

He cites two examples that measured saturated fat and cholesterol intake in elderly volunteers. The results are not those you will likely hear from a typical doctor. One is a study that found a 36% lowered risk for developing dementia in individuals who ate the most saturated fat; the other study, resulted in a 70% risk reduction for dementia in volunteers with the highest cholesterol levels. He mentions this phenomena as a possible issue with medicine intended to lower cholesterol. Even the FDA acknowledges this, as they now require “memory decline and cognitive health concern” warnings on the labels of cholesterol lowering medicine. In another study, results showed an 89% increase in dementia risk in those who ate more carbohydrates.

The lungs need saturated fat too. Lung surfactantis a fluid made of fats and protein. It works to prevent the lungs from collapsing and helps protect the lungs from bacteria and viruses. Studies on animals with poor lung function were tested using three diets, (unsaturated, monounsaturated and palmitic saturated fat). Unsaturated fat made lung function worse.*

* The study appeared in Nutrition,2002 Jul-Aug;18(7-8):647-53 and the author and title: Wolfe et al., Dietary fat composition alters pulmonary function in pigs.”

This may be due to the fact that 68% of surfactant in the lungs is saturated palmitic fatty acid. Palmitic acid is one of the most common saturated fats found in the food supply, 14% in olive oil and 25% in beef, lamb and butter, http://dietheartnews.com/2012/01/you-cant-fool-the-body-saturated-fats-are-converted-into-unsaturated-fats-and-as-needed-unsaturated-fats-are-converted-back-into-saturated-fats/.

I’m not here trying to bring down unsaturated fats, I’m trying to shed light on the health importance of saturated fats to even the playing field in regards to your thoughts on saturated fats and optimizing your diet with a variety of all types of foods and fats. Next week I will continue to describe the helpful role saturated fats play in good health.  

 
 

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Pill Poppers Beware of Getting Robbed (Part 2)

pills

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The continuation of my list of medications from last week that may rob you of your health is lengthy. You may be surprised at this list and may not realize that you are a pill popper because for some of these on the list you do not need a prescription and it is just over the counter medicine.

Get in the habit of knowing about what you ingest (food, beverage, pill ) or inhale, read the packaging and educate yourself on what you put into the body. This is important with concerns of nutrient depletion but also with other health issues. For example, taking a laxative may be very helpful in a time of need but it is also addicting. If you take laxatives for a long enough time period, your bowels will not work without them. This is true of nasal spray as well. So for the sake of your health,  I continue with number five on the pill popper list.

5. Birth Control Pills (prevent pregnancy)

This is a big one, so I ask you ladies before you start taking the pill, is he worth it? There are much safer ways to prevent pregnancy. One of which is to just say, “no”. If you are going to engage in sex, find a way to prevent pregnancy without messing up long-term mental and physical health. Taking the pill to regulate hormones? There are much safer ways to regulate them, speak to your doctor.

Depletes: Vitamins;  B1, B2, B3, B-6, B9 (folic acid) and B12, C, the amino acid tyrosine, CoQ10 and minerals; selenium, magnesium and zinc (copper typically increases)

Problem: lowers immune system, sense of taste and sex drive and raises the risk of heart disease, depression, cancers of the colon and breast and CoQ10 depletion (see #1 statins, http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/pill-poppers-beware-of-getting-robbed/)

Replenish: High potency multivitamin and multimineral, COQ10 200mg, Tyrosine on an empty stomach, speak with your doctor about dose

6. Diabetes Medications (lower blood sugar)

Depletes: vitamin B 12, folic acid (B9) and CoQ10

Problems:  Uncontrolled muscle movements and weakness, low blood pressure, mood swings, eye issues

Replenish:  vitamin B12 800 mcg, folic acid 400 mcg and CoQ10 100mg

7. Antibiotics (antibacterial)

Depletes: biotin, inositol, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and beneficial gut bacteria

Problems: yeast overgrowth or (candida), diarrhea and any other symptom mentioned before regarding depletion of these nutrients.

Replenish:  biotin 50 mg, inositol 500mg, vitamins B1 25mg, B2 25mg, B3 50mg, B5 50mg, B6 50 mg, vitamin K 100mcg, calcium 1000mg, magnesium 500mg, potassium 100mg, iron and a probiotic of at least a billion active cultures to improve gut bacteria

8. Steroids (treat many conditions with inflammation and other ills from rashes to asthma)

Depletes: B vitamins, Vitamin C and D, folic acid, potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium and zinc

Problems: decreased immunity, muscle weakness, weight gain, diabetes

Replenish:  the vitamins and minerals using the information that have already been mentioned. Monitor blood sugar.

The list goes on to include medications for: ulcers, epilepsy, gout and acid reflux. It also includes over the counter and much more critical health treatments as chemotherapy, aspirin, laxatives, anti-fungals, antipsychotics, hormone replacement therapy and antibiotics.

Potentially “good” medications can be “bad” for your health. General symptoms of not feeling well may not be identified by your doctor and you may not be getting the answers or help that will make you feel better. Medications that rob the body of micronutrients may be culprit for your ills.

Take a minute to research your O-T-C or prescription before you pop a pill. Here are a few suggestions that may help so you have the knowledge to make educated decisions with your doctor about taking medicine and your health.

1. Read the package insert

2. http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/ce/ceCourse.aspx?s=ND&cs=&pm=5&pc=11-108

3. http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/search.cfm?startswith=lipitor&x=0&y=0

 
 

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