health

Beyond a Sweet Treat: 7 Perks of Dark Chocolate

Beyond simply tasting delicious, a dose of dark chocolate adds a variety of health perks that are sure to have your body (and taste buds) thanking you! The good-for-you properties actually come from the minerals and antioxidants found in the cocoa, hence why the darker the chocolate (think 70% or higher), the better for your health. 

7 Perks of Dark Chocolate


1. Enhances Brain Function.
 Yup, it’s true - a small dose of dark chocolate may help you think better. Dark chocolate is naturally rich in the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, two compounds that can add a short term boost to overall brain function. Theobromine has been found to improve focus, concentration and visual processing of information. Dark chocolate may also improve blood flow to the brain.

2. Rich in Antioxidants including Polyphenols, Flavanols, and Catechins. The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidant power, which means the more perks for your health!

3. Decreases Cancer Risk. The antioxidants found in dark chocolate have been found to neutralize free radicals that increase the risk of cancer. Therefore, enjoying a dose of dark chocolate can help decrease cancer risk.

4. Improved Heart Health. Researchers have linked the flavonols in cocoa to decreasing cholesterol levels, blood pressure and arterial plaque.

5. Lowers Blood Pressure. The flavanols in chocolate have been found to support the production of nitric oxide, which in turn helps relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.

6. Mood-Boosting. This one comes as no surprise, but there is scientific evidence that supports the fact that dark chocolate really does make people happier. Not only does it add a sweet treat, but it will help boost endorphins, lifting your mood.

7. Bonus Nutrients. While dark chocolate doesn't provide a significant amount of essential nutrients, it is rich in iron, fiber, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

And don’t forget there is no BAD food. Everything can be enjoyed in moderation.

Tips for Creating Healthy Dining Habits

  1. Fill up on fiber and lean protein. 

    A meal high in protein and fiber can help keep you satisfied and prevent overeating. Use the Fast Casual Cheat Sheet in this newsletter, to help identify best meals to fill you up!

  2. Be stingy with the extras. 

    Things like bacon, cheese, mayo, and salad dressings will not only add to your food bill but also add unnecessary calories and fat to your meal.

  3. Watch out for the sneaky salad toppings. 

    While salads can be a nutrient-packed meal, they can also be higher in calories, fat and sodium than a hamburger. Fancy toppings like cheese, bacon, salad dressing, dried fruit, nuts, and croutons can really add up.

  4. Substitute sides. 

    Most restaurants default to serving fries, chips, onion rings, bread or mashed potatoes as their side. Often these are eaten out of habit and not because you are really hungry and need the extra food. Ask if you can substitute the high-calorie side dish with a side salad and light dressing, steamed veggies, baked sweet potato or a fresh fruit cup.

  5. Embrace the flavors of baked, broiled, grilled chicken or roasted lean meats.

    Avoid fried and battered foods as they are high in calorie, fat and sodium. By shifting your mindset to embrace the flavors of baked, broiled, grilled chicken or roasted lean meats you are opening yourself to a new relationship with food.

Yes, you can enjoy the Holiday Season eating healthy!

The holidays are a time for family, friends, good food and creating great memories. Our schedules are filled with shopping, decorating, and holiday party hopping. The busy days can make it challenging to maintain healthy exercise and sleep habits, making it easy to turn to food for a quick energy rush or comfort when feeling sad or lonely. 

When you combine lack of sleep with skipped workouts and poor food choices, it is easy to see why so many people complain of weight gain over the holidays. However, with a few simple strategies, you can fend off the unwanted holiday weight gain and prevent unhealthy habits from sabotaging the season!

Here are some of my favorite tips:

#1 Sip on soup. Soup is a low energy dense food, which means it provides fewer calories per gram - therefore you can eat a nice serving of soup, relatively low in calories. Having a cup of broth-based soup before a meal can help fill you up, so you don't overindulge in higher-calorie foods.

Bonus Tip: eat soup 30 minutes before your main meal to let your stomach register your food, helping to eat smaller portions of the more calorie-dense foods being served.

#2 Move away from the munchies. When socializing, avoid positioning yourself close to the appetizer and hors-d'oeuvre spread. This will not only help keep you more engaged in the conversation, but you will also not be tempted to eat between every other word. By stepping away from the food, you can focus on the people you are with.

Bonus Tip: When you eat, serve yourself on a plate. Think about the food you are eating, enjoy the smell, taste, and flavors of the meals. When talking, talk.

#3 Stock up on healthy foods. Prepare for your success by planning in advance. Be aware that life will get busy, you will get hungry, and your body will need food to function. Therefore, empower yourself by stocking up on nutritious and portable foods you can stash in your desk, car, gym bag, briefcase or purse.

Bonus Tip: Avoid going shopping or to a party on an empty stomach. Keep office goodies out of view or in an inconvenient location.

#4 Delay satisfaction. What should you do if you are at an office party? Instead of depriving yourself, which will probably lead to overindulging later, take it home for later. Often times delaying satisfaction can lead to realizing you did not need another serving or save it for when you can you can slow down and savor it.

Bonus Tip: Allow yourself to be more flexible this time of year. By giving yourself permission to savor holiday foods you'll be less likely to overeat and binge when your favorite foods are offered to you.

#5 Maintain a health and wellness journal. Food journaling has long been known as one of the most useful tools for helping people manage their weight. However, sometimes a food journal can get mentally exhausting if you are only thinking about the calories you consumed. Instead, shift the focus to health and wellness journaling. Track sleep habits, physical activity, mindful food moments, holiday joy, and if you choose to track food intake, pay attention to hunger and fullness cues along with your enjoyment of the foods.

Bonus Tip: Use the journal to explore what makes you feel both mentally and physically healthy.

Happy Holiday Season!!!

Yours in health,

Juliana

Healthy Habits To Better Blood Sugar


 Make a new holiday tradition...
 
Instead of crashing on the couch before AND after your holiday feast, create a healthier tradition by encouraging your family and friends to get outside and play a game of football or frisbee together. You could also simply take a walk with your family to prevent those spikes in blood sugar when eating larger amounts of food. Research has shown that routine physical activity can help to improve blood glucose levels and even lessen your need for insulin or oral diabetes medications. Remember, the more you move, the less spikes you will have!
 
Additional perks of exercise:

  • Increased level of good cholesterol (HDL)

  • Leaner, stronger muscles

  • Stronger bones

  • More energy

  • Improved mood

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Weight management

  • Better sleep

  • Stress management

Inflammation and nutrition

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Inflammation is a hot topic in the world of health and nutrition. It’s the body’s natural response to an infection or injury. Without it our body would not be able to heal. However, inflammation that persists—known as chronic inflammation—plays a role in serious illnesses such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and many types of cancer. Thankfully healthy food choices among other lifestyle choices can reduce risk of developing chronic inflammation. 
There may not be one super food to cure chronic inflammation, but a healthy and varied diet can boost the body’s immune system and reduce inflammatory stress. 

Although diet is important in fighting inflammation, other lifestyle choices that reduce risk of chronic inflammation include: maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of sleep and engaging in regular physical activity.

This month I’m sharing foods and spices that help fight inflammation. This month, eat well to feel great!

Enjoy all the autumn harvest has to offer by incorporating seasonal produce and spices into meals, all while fighting inflammation!
 
Cranberries
Cranberries contain phytonutrients shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the cardiovascular system and digestive tract. Sprinkle a handful of dried cranberries in your morning oatmeal or mix with roasted nuts for a quick healthy snack.
 
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes have high amounts of antioxidants—beta-carotene, vitamin E and vitamin C—that have anti-inflammatory benefits. Try roasting sweet potatoes in the oven and drizzling with honey or maple syrup for a warm fall dessert.
 
Apples
Apples are plentiful in fall and have been shown to reduce inflammation through their polyphenol content. They’re great on their own for a quick grab and go snack or are delicious baked with cinnamon sprinkled on top.
 
Dates
The magnesium found in dates has been linked to reduced blood pressure and has anti-inflammatory benefits. Dates are naturally sweet and are great used in baking as an alternative sweetener or an elegant appetizer stuffed with cheese or nuts.
 
Pumpkin
Pumpkin is one of the best sources of alpha- and beta-carotene, which gives pumpkin its orange hue. The seeds are a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, known to fight inflammation. Toast pumpkin seeds in the oven and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt for a delicious fall snack.
 
Pecans
Pecans are a traditional fall staple, rich in magnesium and are known to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Pecans are great in salads or as a topping on hot cereal. Toasting pecans enhances their flavor.
 
Turnip Greens
The greens of this root veggie are an excellent source of vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids, both known as anti-inflammatory nutrients. Turnip greens are great sautéed or drizzled with a vinaigrette dressing.

Ginger
 Ginger contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols shown to help fight inflammation. Fresh ginger root can be used in teas, baked goods and most commonly in Asian and Indian dishes. Try adding freshly grated ginger to sautéed veggies or rice to spice up any dish.
 
Allspice
Eugenol is the main active compound found in allspice, which has been shown to decrease inflammation within the body. Allspice is a warming spice and has the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper. Sprinkle over roasted butternut squash drizzled with olive oil for an easy side dish.
 
Cloves
Cloves also contain the compound eugenol. Cloves are a versatile spice and is commonly used in fall recipes, from drinks to meat dishes.
 
Cinnamon
Cinnamon contains compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce the risk of cellular damage and chronic disease. Use in place of sugar in your morning coffee or tea for an alternative sweetener.

Is social media negatively impacting your health?

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Here’s some ways that social media might be negatively impacting your health.

FOMO
FOMO - the fear of missing out. While we all occasionally experience this in our day-to-day lives, Facebook only further feeds into your fear of being left out of the loop. Your need to stay connected is one of the reasons social media is so pervasive in the first place. You want to know what your peers are up to. An incredibly common phenomenon, FOMO can leave you feeling inferior to your peers and dissatisfied with your own life. FOMO means that you are spending more time than we realize scrolling through your Facebook feed instead of putting forth the effort to enjoy and improve our own life.

This leads us into the next reason why Facebook is more harmful than most people realize:

Envy
Facebook gives you a glimpse into the lives of your peers - the restaurants they eat at, the cars they drive, and the clothes they wear. It can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing your life to the image that people present on social media. However, it’s important to remember that most people strive to present their best selves on social media. It’s easy to post the good things and leave out the bad. So next time you find yourself envying one of your Facebook friends, here’s a good tip: take a step back from the screen, take a deep breath, and write yourself a quick list of things you’re thankful for. There’s probably more things on there than you realize.

Addictive Screens
Let’s face it, spending too much time staring at a screen is just plain bad for your health. Spending a lot time on Facebook or on the computer in general can cause serious health issues. From eye strain to bad posture to simply encouraging a sedentary lifestyle, these are all serious risks from spending too much time online. Of course, like anything, moderation is key so if you can’t quite go cold turkey with social media, try to limit your time browsing social media.


5 Ways to Step Away From the Screen



Limiting your social media usage can be a hard habit to break. Instead of simply cutting yourself off from the web, consciously replace your screen time with healthier activities. Your body and mind will thank you.

  1. Go Outside. Put down your phone, slip on a pair of tennis shoes, and head outside for a breath of fresh air. Whether taking a walk around the block or sitting in your backyard and taking in the views, being outdoors is great for your mental health (and the research agrees).

  2. Clean. Although cleaning might be a task you dread, research has shown it’s great for your mental health. Instead of browsing Facebook, take some time each day to declutter your space. Put in a pair of headphones, turn on some music, and get cleaning!

  3. Journal. Taking the time to sit down and reflect on your thoughts and emotions is a great way to improve your mental health, especially in today’s hectic world. Writing down your feelings is a great way to find gratitude in what you have rather than what you don’t.

  4. Call up a Friend. Instead of using Facebook to stay connected, call up a friend to hang out instead. Meeting face-to-face over a cup of coffee is a far better way to stay in touch than liking each other’s statuses every now and then.

  5. Exercise. Trade in 30 minutes of Facebook time for a physical activity: Take a trip to the gym, go for a swim, or ride your bike. Staying active is a fantastic way to keep your mind off social media.