Category: Living Well Written by Jennifer Motl, Fredericksburg.com
Chocolates come in a heart-shaped box for a reason—certain types really are good for your heart.
Eating dark chocolate regularly is linked to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. And it’s just plain delicious. So indulge a little.
Like green tea, dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, antioxidants that may product the heart and blood vessels. It’s also a very rich source of magnesium, a mineral critical for a healthy heart as well as for the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar.
But not all chocolates are created equal. Here’s my guide to how chocolate may help your heart and your moods without stretching your waistline, and to which chocolates are best to eat.
CHOCOLATE FOR HEARTS
Eat dark chocolate daily. That’s the prescription recommended by Australian researchers recently for people with metabolic syndrome, who carry extra weight around the waist and have a combination of mildly elevated trigly-cerides, blood sugar or blood pressure, and low HDL cholesterol.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, suggested that dark chocolate could help prevent heart attacks and strokes for these people.
Chocolate’s effects are mild compared to medicines—it may reduce cholesterol by a modest 8 points and blood pressure by 5 points. But less than half of Americans actually take their pills as prescribed, according to the journal
Patients might be more compliant with a prescription for high-quality chocolate with 60 percent cocoa. (Don’t stop taking medications, though—speak with your doctor about any concerns you have and consider chocolate in addition to medicines.)
MORE GOOD NEWS
Eating chocolate frequently was linked to a much lower risk of heart disease in The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study. Of nearly 5,000 volunteers, those who ate chocolate five or more times a week had a 57 percent lower risk of heart disease than folks who avoided chocolate.
And chocolate lovers had 29 percent fewer strokes than chocolate avoiders, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.
European researchers found that chocolate may improve the elasticity of blood vessels and prevent some dangerous clots.
Folks who eat chocolate were 19 percent more likely to have normal levels of the good HDL cholesterol, plus they had a 15 percent lower risk of metabolic syndrome compared to chocolate haters. That’s according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 15,000 Americans.
BOOST YOUR MOOD
Along with helping the heart, chocolate helps the head. Chocolate contains natural mood-boosters such as theobromine. One study of older Finnish men found that those ate chocolate were more optimistic than men who disliked chocolate.
Dark chocolate may help folks with chronic fatigue feel better, too, according to a small study in the United Kingdom.
GREAT TASTE, LESS FAT
People who ate chocolate most frequently had lower rates of obesity, in a startling study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Another study found that women can lose weight while eating small amounts of dark chocolate daily. Published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the study found that during an 18-week program including frequent coaching by dietitians, volunteers were able to lose more than 12 pounds while including sugar-free hot cocoa with their breakfast and two snacks of 60-percent-cocoa chocolate.
The two chocolate snacks provided a combined total of 90 calories and were part of a low-calorie, balanced meal plan.
THE DARK SIDE
There are some down sides to chocolate consumption, too. Some depressed folks eat more chocolate, according to study in Archives of Internal Medicine. Another study found that some people try to self-medicate their depression with chocolate binges.
And your attitude toward chocolate may reflect your overall relationship with food. Women who craved chocolate but felt guilty after eating it were more likely to have eating disorders, according to an Australian study. Women who ate chocolate and felt fine about it were unlikely to have eating disorders.
Consider eating dark chocolate, at least 60 percent cocoa. Dark, not white chocolate, improved blood pressure and insulin sensitivity in an Italian study. Other great options include unsweetened chocolate, cocoa powder, and cacao nibs.
Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been fermented, roasted and crushed—basically unprocessed baking chocolate. Nibs are slightly bitter and crunchy, somewhat like coffee beans. Try cacao nibs sprinkled on top of oatmeal or granola. Or put them in a tea ball and brew in coffee or tea.
Most chocolate bars and cocoa mixes contain more sugar than chocolate, which can cancel out the benefits. Australian researchers recommend chocolate with at least 60 percent cocoa. That means it’s 60 percent chocolate and 40 percent fillers like sugar and vanilla.
When it comes to hot cocoa, commercial mixes have more fillers than cocoa. Homemade hot cocoa has more cocoa powder, and thus more antioxidants and magnesium. Just heat a mug of milk in the microwave, then stir in two teaspoons of cocoa powder, a few drops of vanilla extract, and honey or sweetener to taste.
Moderate amounts of dark chocolate and cocoa can be healthful, not to mention luxurious.
Last Updated on Monday, 04 February 2013 12:03
Category: Living Well Written by thehuffingtonpost
The flu virus has been spreading around our office like wildfire, and we've done our best to stay out of its path. But if you do unfortunately get sick, or someone else in your household comes down with the ailment, you'll want to take certain steps to disinfect your home from the flu and get rid of germs fast.
We spoke with Allison Janse, a self-described "germ freak," and co-author of "The Germ Freak's Guide To Outwitting Colds and Flu" who told us that cold and flu viruses can stay alive on surfaces for up to three hours. (Gross!) And there are certain spots in our homes that are particularly infested. So click through the slideshow below to learn the 7 best ways to rid your house of what's been "going around."
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 01:33
Category: Living Well Written by Keri Gans, USNews
As a registered dietitian, many people are interested in what foods I eat, and just as often, what would never land on my plate. All foods fit, I say to them, and to my patients. Anything in moderation. But truth be told, there are foods that -- barring a deserted-island situation -- I wouldn't touch. White bread, Spam, sugary breakfast cereals, soda, cheese doodles and Doritos: Not for me. I avoid foods that offer very limited, if any, nutritional benefit. While I have a few exceptions, at this point, those kinds of foods don't even taste good to me.
The consensus? Most of us focus on a "clean" diet. We like to know where our foods came from and to be able to pronounce all the ingredients on the label -- if there even is a label. Even if there are foods my friends and I wouldn't eat, we try focusing more on what we should eat. By directing our choices toward the positive, maybe by default, we'll eat less of the negative.
Last Updated on Monday, 21 January 2013 10:21
Category: Living Well Written by Josh Garskof, Prevention
If the belching smokestack near your home worries you and you never leave the house without checking the air-quality index, here's an eye-opener: There may be two to five times more air pollution inside your home than outside. And that's with some of the windows open. Shut them tight during winter and contaminants get trapped, making your air quality potentially 100 times worse than that of the outside air. Here's what top experts suggest you do to fight air pollution from the inside.
Check Your Detection Devices
Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors should be installed in a central hallway on each level of your home as well as in the basement, and a smoke detector should also be installed in each bedroom. (Check your local building codes for exact placement.) If your detectors aren't integrated into a burglar alarm system, think about upgrading to wirelessly linked units so that if one detector gets triggered, they'll all ring and wake up the whole family. First Alert's OneLink Series SCO500 ($64; amazon.com), for example, provides both smoke and carbon monoxide detection, and a voice alert indicates where the alarm originated.
Test For Radon
Radon is an odorless and invisible radioactive gas that's carcinogenic over the long term--it's the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States--and has been found to be present in homes across the country. Radon gas is produced as a result of the natural breakdown of uranium in soil. The gas rises from the ground and seeps into your house through foundation cracks. Fortunately it's easy to detect. You can buy a test kit at a hardware store for about $14, including lab fees and a postage-paid mailer. If results reveal gas levels above the EPA-recommended 4 picocuries per liter, hire a remediation company to install a system for venting the gas away from your house (about $1,200).
Service Your Heating System
Homes with heating and air-conditioning systems rely on ductwork to deliver the warmed or cooled air, and because out of sight can mean out of mind, it's easy to forget about maintaining them. But these ducts should be cleaned every 5 to 10 years to remove dust, pet dander, pollen, and mold that can collect in the system and spread throughout the house whenever the heat kicks on, says Jeffrey May, a Tyngsborough, MA, indoor air quality inspector, an organic chemist, and the author of My House Is Killing Me! This is not a do-it-yourself job. You'll need to hire a professional, but be savvy about which company you choose. "Pick someone who uses brushes instead of only vacuums or chemicals and cleans the blower unit--and the air-conditioner coil if you have central air," May says. You'll pay about $500 or more if you have central air and need the blower and coil cleaned. You should also have your heating system serviced annually to ensure that it's burning cleanly and not causing exhaust to reenter the house as back draft.
Invisible Toxins In Your Living Room
Clear The Air
If you have forced-air heating, replacing the furnace filter four times a year will not only make your system more efficient but will go a long way toward filtering dust, mold spores, and other contaminants. But instead of using the standard flat fiberglass filters, choose pleated products (they look like accordion-folded paper) with a MERV-8 rating, and seal any gaps around the filter-access opening with duct tape. Pleated filters are more effective than fiberglass at trapping the smaller particles you're likely to inhale. If a family member has allergies or chronic respiratory ailments, hire a contractor to upgrade your system with a media filter such as the Aprilaire Whole-House Air Cleaner, which turns the heating system into an air purifier. The project can cost around $1,000, and you'll have to replace the $50 filter annually. Also, if you don't have one already, add a humidifier to your furnace. "Dry winter air dehydrates the nasal and lung linings, making people more susceptible to asthma, congestion, and viral infection," says Jay Portnoy, MD, chief of the allergy and asthma department at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO.
Clean The Chimney
Every 5 years or so, you should hire a chimney sweep to clean and inspect your flues. But if your fireplace is used on a regular basis, have it done every year. A clogged flue can cause a potentially deadly exhaust backup and become a fire hazard if too much flammable soot builds up inside.
Last Updated on Monday, 07 January 2013 09:59
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