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Valentines’ Day Chocolate: 7 HEALTHY REASONS It Is A Gift Of Choice

 

Image result for valentines day organic dark chocolate

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! Although traditionally Valentine’s day is for lovers. My belief is that Valentine’s Day is a day to appreciate those you love; family, friends and even yourself. A day of self appreciation and spreading positive thoughts that are warm and embracing to everyone. If you are single celebrate! Throw a party or read a romance novel. Do whatever you want but partake in Valentine’s Day by reaching out to others to spread love and happiness.

Valentine’s Day DOES NOT need to focus on spending money, Here are, “5 Simple Ways to Have a Frugal Valentine’s Day”, http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-frugal-shopper/articles/2016-01-25/5-simple-ways-to-have-a-frugal-valentines-day.

If you do choose to splurge of course, a massage or gift basket filled with healthy relaxation items, such as lotions, tea, wine is always nice.

But, chocolate has been a traditional gift for over 140 years when Richard Cadbury introduced the first Valentines’ Day box of chocolates. In fact, 1.6 billion dollars is spent on candy on this day.  So why not indulge in a little chocolate on Valentine’s Day?

Get creative using healthy high cocoa, low sugar dark chocolate for a guiltless valentine’s day  treat. Read the labels on any product you purchase.  It is important to keep in mind that just because chocolate is dark does not mean it is healthy. Focus on the ingredients section to know what it is you are exactly eating.

Cocoa is a superfood. Seven reasons to eat chocolate on Valentines Day:

  1. Better moods: Cocoa contributes to a calming feeling because of its effect on serotonin but is also contains Phenylethylamine (a body chemical or neurotransmitter) and theobromine (an alkaloid,http://www.phytochemicals.info/phytochemicals/theobromine.php) which can produce a stimulating euphoric effect, and is considered a mood enhancer.

2. Memory boost: The ability of cocoa to boost memory was tested in a small clinical trial where 90 older individuals consumed 48 mg, 520 mg  994 mg of cocoa flavanols (CF) for 8 weeks.  Cognitive function was assessed at baseline and after 8 wk and it was found to “reduce some measures of age-related cognitive dysfunction, possibly through an improvement in insulin sensitivity”, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25733639.

  1. Heart health: Research has shown bacteria in the gut ferments both the antioxidants and the fiber in cocoa to produce anti-inflammatory compounds that improve heart blood vessel function, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-dark-chocolate-good-for-you-thank-your-microbes/, in addition to the heart benefits of lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, raising HDL, improving  type 2 diabetes and insulin sensitivity. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23870648
  1. Antioxidants: Not many realize just how power packed cocoa is yet findings from Cornell University has shown cocoa has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidants found in green tea.
  2. Micronutrients: There is added value with small amounts of vitamins and minerals; magnesium, iron, chromium, vitamin C, zinc.
  3. Taste: Who does not love chocolate?*
  1. Fat: Healthy fat adds to the health value of chocolate. The type of fat found in cocoa butter is unlikely to clog arteries.  Most of that fat in cocoa butter contains the same monounsaturated fat as olive oil, oleic acid (known for supporting good heart-healthy) and stearic (a saturated fat)  that has a neutral effect on cholesterol.

*Chocolate that is higher in cocoa (85% or higher) and is minimally processed with sugar is sinfully delicious and healthy. The more cacao and the less amounts of other unhealthy ingredients such as sugar and milk solids, the better. Adding your own nuts will minimize any bitter taste.

The goal is to get as close to 100% cocoa as possible and avoid Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity). You will notice with lower amounts of unhealthy ingredients, healthy chocolate contains more cocoa, more fiber and more fat. It is important to keep in mind that just because chocolate is dark does not mean it is healthy. Read the labels on any product you purchase. Focus on the ingredients section to know what it is you are exactly eating.

Use these brands as Valentine’s Day options. These taste good and are easily available:

  1. >90% Cocoa Lindt
  2. Vivani 85% Cocoa
  3. Endangered Species 88% Cocoa (one serving is 17 g of carbs so only do <1/3 of a bar)

Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa is the perfect “guiltless” pleasure. So if you love chocolate, eat it! There is absolutely no reason not to indulge on Valentines day.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Food Politics Victimize Natural Trans Fats: Vaccenic acid (VA) and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA )

Conjugated linoleic acid - Dr. Axe

Photo from: http://draxe.com/conjugated-linoleic-acid/. Read what Dr. Axe says about   CLA,  “reducing body fat in obese patients, a dose of 1.8 to 7 grams per day has been used successfully. But amounts on the smaller side of that range might be plenty, since some research shows that greater than 3.4 grams per day doesn’t seem to offer any additional benefits”.

You should care. You should care about food politics and its effects on how you fuel your body. What you eat is your choice. Be an educated food consumer, not a victim.

GMO, BPA, pesticides, hormones, whether you are involved in food politics (The political side of food production, control, regulation, inspection, distribution and consumption. Food politics can be affected by the ethical, cultural, medical and environmental disputes concerning proper farming, agricultural and retailing methods and regulations.) or not, food politics boils down to big business and big money, not healthy eating, http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/the-sleazy-story-of-cereals-success/. Here is a list and description of the larger agribusiness companies: Monsanto, Cargill, Dupont, Land O lakes and Bayer crop, http://www.nationofchange.org/10-companies-controlling-world-s-seed-supply-1382363748.

These companies have the power to influence health messages. Messages like “eggs raise cholesterol” and “fat is bad for you”, are important. If you hear them often enough you believe them,  so you buy what you believe is healthy and agribusinesses rake in the profits. These loaded health claims that spread misinformation paved the way for the diabesity (Diabetes caused by overweight or obesity) epidemic  by shifting eating bahaviors towards no fat and more grains and convenience foods.

Let’s not make the same mistake continuously.

Read these two examples of information about grains and breakfast cereals:

Which do you believe? How do you make food choices? If you read more of the first message you may believe it or maybe you would just be confused and ignore it and do what is convenient.

Why am I bringing this to your attention? Let’s not make the same mistake of getting caught up in a continuous web of food politics. Food politicking and using general nutrition messages across the board is never in your best interest.

The latest example of this “messaging” is that ALL trans fats are bad. This is not true.

ALL TRANS FATS ARE NOT BAD!  

According to an article published back in 2002 entitled, “Not All trans-Fatty Acids Are Alike: What Consumers May Lose When We Oversimplify Nutrition Facts”, written by  Martha Belury, PhD, RD, there are trans fats that fuel good health and weight loss, http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(02)90341-X/references; yet it is likely you have not heard the message about the health benefits of some trans fats.

Two Healthy Trans Fats are:

  1. Vaccenic Acid (VA): increases the availability of CLA , acts as an anti cancer agent and may help lower heart disease risk. VA makes up about 4 percent of the fatty acids in butter and may “lower total cholesterol by approximately 30 percent, LDL cholesterol by 25 percent, and triglyceride levels by more than 50 percent”, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080402152140.htm, and actually increased HDL in rats, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25534067.
  2. Conjugated Linoleic Acid: may help regulate fat and improve insulin sensitivity (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1307498), blood sugar regulation, the immune system and it may protect against cancer, especially breast cancer, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942722/.

The major dietary sources of CLA are foods from ruminant animal sources, with about 70% from dairy products and 25% from red meat (i.e. beef, lamb and veal).  These foods generally have CLA levels in the range of 3-7mg/g, http://www.beefnutrition.org/CMDocs/BeefNutrition/Updated%20Materials/Beef%20and%20Health/TransFattyAcids.pdf.

There is no place for natural trans fats, CLA and VA,  in the political trans fat foods are “bad” for you conversation. Do not let a few spoiled commercially created “bad” trans fats steer you away from eating natural foods containing healthy trans fats. Include healthy trans fat foods like beef, lamb, veal, butter and other dairy products into your diet to help improve health and weight loss.

 

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Just Eat It: You (and Mary) Should Have A Little Lamb

 

AmericanLambArugulaSalad

Photo: http://www.americanlamb.com/consumer/american-lamb-arugula-salad-with-blackberry-vinaigrette/#sthash.Pls88TPC.dpuf

When I ask clients to provide me with a diet history, it typically includes beef, poultry, pork or fish. Rarely is lamb on the list. Why?  Lamb is affordable. The shoulder is about $6.00 a pound at the grocery store or you may find owning your own livestock share more enticing; Over the grass farm, a 420 acre preserve for native plants and animals and a farm producing grass-fed and finished beef, lamb, and dairy cows, offers livestock sharing so you can buy your own right off the farm, http://www.overthegrassfarm.net/grass-fed-finished-beef-lamb-and-poultry.

Lamb can be grilled, broiled, sautéed or stewed in a slow cooker. Here are some recipes:

Truth is, it does not matter how you eat lamb, just EAT IT.

Lamb tastes delicious and provides:

  • Healthy fats: Healthy fats help to lower body fat, regulate blood sugar, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system like monounsaturated, omega-3 and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, may also have anti-cancer) fatty acids; and saturated fat supporting the heart, brain, lungs and body cells.

 

  •  Minerals: Zinc (healthy immune system, hair, nails skim) and iron (helps form red blood cells) from lamb is more easily absorbed by the body than from other sources. Copper (helps form collagen, an important nutrient for anti-aging supports nerve function),  manganese (brain, bone and nerve support, blood, sex hormones, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation),  selenium (antioxidant and thyroid function), thiamine( helps metabolize fats and protein), niacin (helps control cholesterol and supports good heart health.

 

With all the health benefits of lamb, there are situations where one should avoid it because it contains purines. If you are having an acute gout attack or have kidney stones, you may want to avoid it.

Otherwise, enjoy the added bonus of knowing that lamb is raised without using antibiotics in the United States, http://www.americanlamb.com/lamb-101/nutrition/. So you at least know you are safe when it comes to that “poison”.

Despite the fact that Americans are not eating enough lamb, it has been a delicacy consumed by the Romans, Greeks and Chinese for thousands of years. According to Chinese medicine (TCM), lamb is a “warm” food. Warm referring to heat in the body not the actual temperature of the food.  Lamb is considered a yang food that helps promote wellness  by supporting memory, the immune system, hormone balance, low sex drive and fertility (sperm count too), warming the blood and body (i.e. cold hands and feet) especially in the winter, pain in the lower back, knee and pain and increasing energy.

Build good health by adding lamb to your weekly nutrition plan. Eat it! Bring in new and exotic flavors and even more nutrients to your typical eating regimen.

 
 

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Wake Up and Smell the LDL Coffee: Size Matters

image by www.longevitytesting.com 

As far back as ten years ago, please correct me if it has been longer, research has supported the notion that Total LDL cholesterol was an inferior measure of heart disease risk.

Excuse me for being a little annoyed and confused. I do not understand. Why today, in 2016,  are there so many people, especially health experts, still not seeing the whole cholesterol picture? There is no excuse. A healthcare provider should use and educate patients on the most up to date practical information for their patients. My advice surround yourself with well rounded clinicians not just those who are reputable or have graduated from an ivy league school.

These are just 4 doctors who have been on the cholesterol forefront for many years:

  1. Ronald M. Krauss, MD
  2. Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD http://www.ravnskov.nu/
  3. Thomas Dayspring MD,FACP http://www.thefatemperor.com/blog/2014/11/12/ldl-its-not-the-bad-cholesterol-thats-simplistic-foolery
  4. David Perlmutter,MD, FACN, ABIHM and is a Board-Certified Neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition http://www.drperlmutter.com/ldl-friend/

WHY LDL CHOLESTEROL SIZE MATTERS

In general, cholesterol and LDL cholesterol both have a negative connotation and are associated with heart disease. More precisely, cholesterol is a natural substance your body produces as part of  cell membranes and sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone), as a precursor to vitamin D and as an antioxidant for the brain. LDL, like HDL, is a  protein “package” that carries cholesterol throughout the body supporting these body systems. In fact low LDL has been linked to cancer, http://www.anh-usa.org/ldl-cholesterol-may-protect-us-against-cancer/, as well as an increase risk of brain illness such as stroke and dementia, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25320101.

The general, total LDL number is not very informative, it is the specific size that matters. LDL packages come in four different sizes, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/35058896/ns/health-heart_health/t/bad-cholesterol-its-not-what-you-think/#.VpqkCBUrLIU:

Dr. Ron Krauss explains, “a big, fluffy form known as large LDL, and three increasingly dense forms medium, small, and very small LDL. A diet high in saturated fat mainly boosts the numbers of large-LDL particles, while a low-fat diet high in carbohydrates propagates the smaller forms” and increases triglycerides (fat in the blood associated with increased heart disease risk). The smaller the LDL size the greater the health  risk.

Krauss found two significant predictors as patterns to heart disease:

  1. A combination of high levels of smaller and medium LDL (size matters; a dreaded diabetes-linked syndrome or pattern B) with low HDL
  2. Low HDL levels

High total LDL (not taking size into account) levels were a risk for men but not as significant.

Genetics, lifestyle and environment influence the size of the LDL package. While it is true that what you eat can affect both cholesterol and LDL, if you eat more cholesterol the body compensates and produces less. It handles saturated fat differently than expected as well.

Dr. Krauss discovered that “a diet high in saturated fat from dairy (cheese, butter) products or beef can make total LDL rise but the increase is the low risk larger more buoyant size LDL (pattern A) not the unhealthy smaller LDL. Following nutritional guidelines and reducing saturated fat while increasing carbohydrates in a diet can shift a person’s LDL profile from safe to dangerous,” http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/83/5/1025.full.

Be progressive. Test the pattern or size of your LDL cholesterol, http://www.bostonheartdiagnostics.com/patients_assessing_risk.php, www.longevitytesting.com When it comes to LDL and HDL cholesterol size matters  if you are specifically measuring risk for cancer, brain and heart health.

 

 
 

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Excess Stress Keeps You Mess

image: http://apeiron.academy/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/stress_ball2.jpg

Yes we have heard about how stress makes us sick. But how does an emotion affect us physically (the gut, the heart, the immune system)? Simply it effects the signaling of hormones and other body activities that wreak havoc with our health.

Although we do not always make the emotional/physical connection it is always present.

Libido and sexual function is strongly correlated with stress in men and women. You connect a feeling (positive feelings, physical response, negative feelings, no response) with a physical response almost on a daily basis.

There are other circumstances too, for example, when you are emotionally drained it is hard to physically do daily tasks or just get out of bed and it can even invade your ability to rest and sleep.

Here is a list of what and how stress hormones (mainly cortisol and adrenaline) affects us physically:

  • Stress hormones work to contract muscles they become tense. This tension can affect your nerves, blood vessels, organs, skin, and bones contributing to muscle spasms, teeth grinding, headache, erectile dysfunction, chest and back pain.
  • Disruptions in the normal function of stomach acid can speed up or slow down muscle movement in the gut causing constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and weight changes.
  • Shifting balance from the body’s natural rhythm also affects blood circulation, muscle contraction and clotting factors that raise risk for coronary heart disease, sudden cardiac death, strokes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and trigger arrhythmias.
  • Raising cytokine levels, http://www.pnas.org/content/109/16/5995.short, weaken immune function (via cortisol resistance: consistently high cortisol levels desensitize the body similarly to the way elevated insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance.) and contribute to inflammation. Inflammation is an underlier of many health conditions: cold/flu, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis,…
  • Blood sugar imbalance can be caused by high cortisol levels as it seems to cause insulin resistance not only in the muscles and liver, but also in the hippocampus. The reverse can also be true. Diabetics whose blood sugar is poorly controlled also have high cortisol, too. “It’s all a disastrous circle of sugary hormonal bodily terror”, https://ww.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201103/how-stress-makes-you-sick-and-sad.
  • Neurochemicals can trigger negative consequences in the brain increasing anxiety and depression as a result of increases in glutamate.
  • Shortening telomeres that affect white blood and immune cells. Telomeres are parts of human DNA that affect health and how our cells age, https://www.tasciences.com/what-is-a-telomere/. Stressed moms whose children were chronically ill were found to have shorter telomeres, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92975996. “At least in a laboratory dish, if you put Cortisol with white blood cells, they do not produce the same amount of telomerase as cells that don’t have cortisol in their environment.”

So, the emotional feelings of stress do effect health.  Stress creates fluctuations in the body’s balance of glutamate, telomeres, blood sugar, cytokines, muscle function and stomach acid as an underlying factor for many physical health ailments.

You can reduce stress and improve health by training your mind. Mindfulness training interventions can improve mental and physical health, http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/23/6/401.abstract. Try starting with one of these suggestions, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368?pg=2, but there are focused based stress reduction techniques too here’s on for weight loss, https://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/3-secrets-to-shape-up-and-strip-down-for-the-summer-secret-3/.

Lowering stress CAN improve your quality of life and save it.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Trust Your Gut Instinct: Leading to Mind & Body Wellness

 

Credit: Shutterstock

” Always trust your first gut instinct. If you feel something is wrong it usually is”. Getting in touch with your “inner gut feeling” can be a matter for survival in more ways than just one.  It can be a an innate sense of a good or an evil action and your gut is also at the center of your health and well-being.

What we are finding today is significant evidence that supports eastern medicine philosophy which focuses on a whole body balanced approach (mind and body coming from the same energy (Qi) source vs. western medicine which treats the mind and body, even body systems, separately.  As we learn, we now have a better understanding of the intricate role your mid-section and its micro flora (bacteria that inhabit the small and large intestines/gut) or “landscaping” play in weight and wellness.

Gastrointestinal (GI) health is not just about digestion and absorption of nutrients there are 100 trillion microorganisms living in your intestines and research links gut health with:

brain function

appetite/weight gain

metabolic function/dysfunction

moods/depression

immune system

neural function

hormonal regulation

allergies

headaches

autoimmune disease

ADD

arthritis

acne

and yes even autism, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20337404

Starting at the time of birth, your gut health is programmed by the type of delivery at birth, diet (formula vs. breast milk), antibiotics/medications and even activity level.

Recent research published in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology, suggests engaging in exercise at a young age “can alter (gut health) that microbial community for the better, promoting healthier brain and metabolic activity over the course of a lifetime.” http://www.nature.com/icb/journal/vaop/naam/abs/icb2015113a.html.

While exercise seems to have a positive effect on the gut, consuming “pumped up” foods that contain additives can be detrimental. You think eating seemingly “healthier” sugarless food options are good for you. Yet, foods that contain maltodextrin seem to precipitate ill gut health, such as Chron’s disease . And, maltodextrin is not the only food additive causing stomach distress, “xanthan gum was also linked to feeding intolerance, increased gastric residuals, abdominal distension and bloody stools in premature infants”. There are more food additives that are guilty of wreaking havoc on  your gut and immune system, http://suppversity.blogspot.com/2015/04/no-sugar-foods-with-maltodextrin-mess.html?spref=fb&m=1

So my point to this is, while you are trying to stay healthy by improving on what you eat, be proactive eat to strengthen your gut.  Avoid sugar, processed foods, antibiotics, anti-acid blockers and anti-inflammatory medications when possible. There are natural alternatives.

Consume

  • lactic acid-fermented foods to boost healthy gut bacteria: real Greek yogurt, real sauerkraut, kefir, Korean kimchi, miso, buttermilk more examples can be found here: http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/traditional-fermented-foods-examples/. Nourished kitchen is a great website for gut friendly foods recipes or shopping guide, http://nourishedkitchen.com/where-to-buy/.
  • Cruciferous vegetables broccoli kale, cabbage, and cauliflower contain glucosinolates which are broken down by microbes to release substances that reduce gut inflammation and cancer risk

·      Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, leeks are considered a prebiotic because inulin ferments in the colon into good bacteria

·      Blueberries may help to diversify gut bacteria and build immunity

·      Probiotics. If you’re not sure what to buy, this may interest you, https://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/beneficial-body-bugs-health-and-exercise-performance/

Your gut is an important piece of the whole health puzzle. Eat real food as part of a daily health care routine, not commercially created additives, to nourish your gut, strengthen healthy gut bacteria and to maintain an effective immune system.

 

 

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A New Year’s Reservation Can Get You A Clean Bill of Health

Valerie's Voice: For the Health of It

Times Square New Years Eve Ball Times Square New Years Eve Ball (Photo credit: ★ SimonPix)

No matter what your New Years’ Resolution is, you have to be in good health to see it through. So start the year off right by taking care of yourself.

It is typical to ignore the signs and symptoms of your body functioning at less than its’ peak performance. We tend to make excuses, like “I am getting old” or just simply ignoring the obvious. If you are curious what some of these symptoms might be, try looking at or completing these:

Both surveys are short and easy to complete. They will help assess the state of your health…

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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 
 
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