Coffee Benefits

Coffee Benefits

Coffee benefits the body and the senses! With its invigorating aroma, rich taste and natural burst of caffeine, coffee has earned its place as America’s favorite hot pick-me-up. This versatile brew owes its fame and flavor to a humble tropical fruit that, when sliced open, reveals a seed commonly called the coffee bean. Throughout the years, research has shown that this marvelous bean not only grinds up to produce a delicious drink-and even a great addition to some desserts like tiramisu-but it also has some major health-boosting benefits. Read on to learn how coffee benefits the joints, boost athletic performance and delivers several other surprising health benefits.

Coffee Benefits the Joints: Gout, a painful arthritic condition that afflicts the joints, results from an accumulation of uric acid (a substance that breaks down chemicals in certain foods) in the body which leads to crystal deposits in the joints. Coffee consumption has been shown to benefit the joints by decreasing uric acid levels, thereby lowering the risk of gout.

Coffee Benefits the Skin: A recent study conducted by Harvard Medical School, in partnership with Brigham & Women’s Hospital, demonstrated that women who consumed more than 3 cups of (caffeinated) coffee daily lowered their risk of a type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma by 21 percent. Men who drank over 3 cups of coffee per day reduced their risk of this skin cancer by 10 percent.

Coffee Benefits the Liver: Approximately 30% of American adults suffer from NAFLD, or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Studies indicate that drinking 4 cups of coffee can benefit the liver by reducing the dangerous accumulation of triglycerides (bad fats) in the liver cells. Fewer accumulated triglycerides means decreased risk of NAFLD.

Coffee Benefits the Brain: A recent study involving rats indicated that an unknown compound in coffee, combined with caffeine in coffee, helped raise blood levels of GCSF, a type of growth factor that helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Coffee Benefits Your Mood: A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health indicated that women who drank at least 4 cups of coffee daily had a 20% lower risk of depression compared to women who consumed less or no coffee. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health also reported a 50% reduced risk of suicide in men and women who consume between 2 and 4 cups of coffee daily. Researchers believe that the caffeine in coffee may help stimulate the central nervous system as well as increase production of certain chemicals in the brain which help maintain positive mood, thereby reducing the risk of depression.

Coffee Benefits Athletic Performance: A study performed by the University of Birmingham indicated that caffeinated coffee, (at least 5 mg of caffeinated coffee) can boost endurance athletic performance when consumed one hour before exercise.

Coffee not only offers a quick and delicious pick-me-up, it serves up a surprising number of health benefits. So pour yourself a mug of your favorite flavor of java, and drink to your health!

Sources for “Coffee Benefits:”

 

Originally posted 2013-11-18 13:15:03.

How to Ease Pain Naturally with Supplements

Natural pain relief

Natural Pain Relief: We’re all familiar with pain, or that unpleasant sensation, triggered via receptor nerve cells in your body, that tells your brain that something is wrong. Pain can serve as a first line of defense against a dangerous element or situation, but if your discomfort becomes chronic, due to illness or some other serious health condition, your overall quality of life can be greatly diminished. Using over-the-counter pain-relievers, or, in more severe cases, prescription drugs, can cause serious side effects. Some are even addictive, therefore leading to other potential health problems. Fortunately, you can reduce pain safely and naturally with the help of some simple compounds found in nature. Try these supplements to ease your pain the natural way, without the use of artificial chemical and stimulants.

Capsaicin for painful skin conditions, arthritis and osteoporosis: If you’ve ever sunk your teeth into a cayenne hot pepper, you know firsthand the kick of capsaicin-which gives these peppers their hot, spicy flavor. Capsaicin does more than make your eyes water when ingested. The chemical compounds in capsaicin lowers the level of substance P, the chemical responsible for transmitting pain messages to your brain, when applied topically. Use a cream or ointment containing capsaicin to treat skin conditions like shingles, as well as to soothe back pain, muscle pain, joint pain, and to reduce the pain associated with osteoporosis and arthritis.

Arnica for general joint pain and swelling: Arnica compounds, derived from the European arnica flower, contain anti-inflammatory properties that make it a natural pain reducer. Apply arnica in the form of an ointment or cream to inflamed joints or other swollen areas to reduce pain and inflammation.

Fish oil for arthritis and general joint pain: Fish oil (Omega 3 fatty acids) helps to reduce the production of prostoglandins, compounds that promote inflammation. Take 180 mg (milligrams) of fish oil daily to reduce arthritis-related inflammation and general joint pain.

Glucosamine/Chondroitin for arthritis and joint pain: Studies suggest that glucosamine and chondroitin, substances found in cartilage, may help strengthen joint cartilage in arthritis sufferers. Chondroitin is often combined with glucosamine in supplement form. Take 500 mg of glucosamine and 400 mg of chondroitin 3 times each day to safely treat arthritis and joint pain.  

Magnesium for menstrual cramps: Magnesium is a mineral that helps maintain healthy heart, muscle and nerve function. Some studies indicate that magnesium supplements may also reduce menstrual cramps and pain. Consume 360 mg of magnesium each day to safely alleviate menstrual discomfort. 

Bromelain for back pain, arthritis and general inflammation: Bromelain, derived from pineapples, contains a combination of enzymes thought to reduce inflammation resulting from back pain, sprains or other injuries. Take 500 mg bromelain supplements four times a day to reduce inflammation.  

The occasional ache and pain is normal, but you don’t have to accept long-term or chronic pain, or resign yourself to a harsh medication regimen to treat it. Try these supplements to ease your pain naturally and to help you get back to your healthy, happy lifestyle.

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Originally posted 2013-11-14 11:55:32.

10 Vegan Ways to Get Calcium

collard greens cooked in bacon drippingsOne million Americans call themselves vegans, according to the Vegetarian Research Group. Vegans, who eschew not only animal products, but also fish, eggs and dairy, can enjoy such benefits as a reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. However, due to a limited variety of food sources, vegans can also suffer from certain nutrient deficiencies, such as calcium. Calcium is crucial for maintaining healthy teeth and bones, and also contributes to your heart health and your muscle and nerve function. Fortunately, vegans have access to several sources of calcium that don’t involve dairy products. Here are 10 healthy, vegan ways to get calcium:

Calcium from fruits: Fruits offer a sweet, healthy treat that can top off any meal, and they’re loaded with nutrients and other good-for-you benefits. Some also deliver a good boost of calcium. Try an orange (75 mg calcium), a handful of figs (4 figs offers 506 mg calcium), a tablespoon of currants or a few apricots to help supply you with the necessary daily intake of this mineral.  

Calcium from vegetables: Green, leafy veggies don’t just pack a wallop of iron. Several serve up a solid boost of calcium as well. An 85 g serving of broccoli offers 34 mg of calcium, while curly kale provides a respectable 143 mg of calcium per serving. Okra and watercress also offer a solid calcium boost.

Calcium from legumes: I’m a big fan of the bean. With savory flavors and tons of protein, bean makes a great staple in any diet, and, in many cases, also provides a solid source of calcium. Opt for baked beans (72 g of calcium per serving), red kidney beans or chick peas for the best calcium bang for your bean buck.

Calcium from grains: Think grains are just good for fiber? Think again! Whole grains contain a host of nutrients and minerals, one of which happens to be calcium. In fact, one slice of wholemeal bread gives you 32 grams of calcium. Muesli bread (Swiss style), white rice (boiled) and cooked pasta also are good source of calcium.            

Seeds: Sesame seeds (1 tablespoon offers 80 g calcium) and fennel seeds (69 g calcium per tablespoon) can spice up your meal and provide a good serving of this vital mineral.

 Calcium from nuts: A mere 12 halves of walnuts will give you a healthy 38 g of calcium. Hazlenuts, almonds and brazil nuts are also delicious-and calcium packed-nut choices.

 Nondairy milk: If you think milk always means: dairy, you may be surprised. Nondairy-type milk choices abound. Almond milk, for example, serves up plenty of calcium (450 mg) per serving.

 Calcium-fortified foods: Many foods available at your local grocer, from juices to snack bars to cereals, come enriched with calcium. Simply check the food label to see if calcium has been added.

 Calcium from Vitamin D: No, Vitamin D doesn’t contain calcium. But you can actually increase your calcium intake by increasing your consumption of Vitamin D, a vitamin that assists in the use and absorption of calcium in your body. Get more Vitamin D by getting enough sunshine, eating fortified foods or through supplements. 

Calcium from supplements: A simple way to help you meet your daily calcium needs is by taking a supplement.

Keep in mind, for those between 19 and 50 years old, the daily recommend intake of calcium is 1,000 mg. So be sure to consume the right balance of foods and supplements to help you reach this amount.

Choosing a vegan lifestyle doesn’t have to lead to a calcium deficiency. Simply opt for calcium rich plant-based foods, calcium-fortified foods, or supplements to maintain the proper levels of this mineral, and you’ll be on the right start towards keeping your bones-and the rest of you-strong and healthy!

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Originally posted 2013-11-14 11:41:04.

7 Things You Probably Don't Know About Cinnamon

cinnamon-stickNothing may beckon the senses quite like fresh cinnamon. This sweet-smelling spice can tantalize, invigorate and stimulate, even before the first tiny brown fleck reaches your mouth. You may think you know the basics of cinnamon: that it’s great on treats, provides a rich, savory depth to some sauces and boosts the taste of certain food staples like oatmeal and yogurt, but in truth, the versatility of this spice extends far beyond its ability to liven up a dish.  Here are 7 things you probably don’t know about cinnamon but should! 

Cinnamon can make you a more alert driver: A recent study suggests that the scent of cinnamon added to your car may increase your level of alertness and even enhance your performance, while decreasing fatigue, frustration and feelings of anxiety.

Cinnamon acts as a preservative: Cinnamon has natural anti-microbial properties, which help prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. In fact, Cinnamon is so effective at inhibiting spoilage that it was once used in mummification processes to preserve the bodies of Egyptian royalty!

Cinnamon can lower your blood-sugar: Recent studies suggest that consuming up to 6 g (grams) of cinnamon daily can reduce serum glucose levels in your blood, thereby lowering your blood sugar levels and reducing your risk of type-2 diabetes. 

Cinnamon can make you smarter: A recent study linked enhanced brain activity to the inhalation of certain odors. Participants in the study, who were given cinnamon-flavored gum, showed improved cognitive function, better memory, faster reaction time and enhanced problem solving abilities.

Cinnamon can improve your heart health: Studies indicate that consuming just half a teaspoon of cinnamon daily can help lower LDL cholesterol, which contributes to potentially dangerous arterial plaque buildup. Cinnamon oil also contains anti-inflammatory compounds that help reduce arterial inflammation, a major contributor to heart disease.

Cinnamon can treat indigestion: Cinnamon is a carminative, or herb that helps prevent gas from forming in your gastrointestinal tract-which can lead to the unpleasant sensation of indigestion.

Cinnamon is an ant repellent: The next time you have an ant invasion in your home, try sprinkling some cinnamon around the points of entry into your house. Ants possess a neurotransmitter which is disrupted by the oil in cinnamon. Cinnamon safely deters ants without causing harm to plants, pets or family members.

Take between one-half to one teaspoon of cinnamon daily (dissolved in tea or lightly sprinkled on or in food) to safely enjoy this sweet, savory spice. Cinnamon not only provides a wonderfully flavorful experience for your taste buds, it also offers many benefits to your health, along with a few other interesting uses. So add a little of this versatile spice to your day to boost your brain power, keep pesky picnic-crashers away, make your daily commute a bit safer, or to simply top off your favorite confection. All these fascinating facts, benefits and uses make it official: Just a dash of cinnamon will help spice up your life!

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Photo by Butterfly Psyche 

Originally posted 2013-11-13 12:40:49.

Fight Depression with Folic Acid

Sunflowers

What do sunflower seeds, okra and lentils have in common? They’re all good for you, and, in this writer’s opinion, downright delicious! But more specifically, these nutritious foods share a vitamin that offers some amazing benefits, including the reduction of depression. Due to its ability to help prevent birth defects, this power-packed nutrient, called folic acid, is often associated with prenatal health. However, folic acid (AKA folate) is often overlooked and undervalued, not only for pregnant women, but for the average person’s heart health, for reduced cancer risk, and for maintaining good mental health. In fact, folic acid intake has been directly linked to the most commonly diagnosed mental condition in America: depression. Depression, a condition that affects more than 9 million Americans each year, causes prolonged feelings of dejection and despondency, can be debilitating, and, in rare cases, result in suicide.

Treating Depression: Depression can be treated with prescription drugs, but these drugs are not always successful in treating the illness and can cause unpleasant and occasionally harmful side effects. As many as 50% of those who suffer from depression do not seek help, not wishing to suffer the stigma often associated with the condition. Fortunately, studies suggest that many mild cases of depression can be naturally alleviated with folic acid rather than with medication.

Fighting Depression with Folic Acid: Research has linked feelings of depression to serotonin, a neurotransmitter, or type of chemical, that occurs naturally in your brain. This chemical helps control specific functions of your brain, such as sleep, memory and mood. Low levels of serotonin can lead to feelings of severe sadness, and, in some cases, clinical depression. Drugs commonly used to fight depression, such as Prozac, contain SSRIs (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors), artificially raise serotonin levels to alleviate feelings of sadness. Studies have shown that people diagnosed with depression often suffer from low levels of folate, which is needed for the production of serotonin. In other words, folic acid can help naturally increase your serotonin levels to alleviate symptoms of depression.

Recommended Dosage of Folic Acid: Certain foods, such as those mentioned above, are rich in folic acid. Orange juice, beets, broccoli, mustard greens and avocados are just a few other food choices that provide .055 mg (milligrams) or more of this nutrient. If choosing to take folic acid supplements, be sure to consume only the recommended adult dose of 1 mg to reap the full benefits of this nutrient, while avoiding any negative side effects that can arise from an excessive buildup of certain vitamins in your body (toxicity).

Consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts on a daily basis doesn’t just keep your body healthy, it helps maintain good mental health as well. If you suffer from depression and want to avoid clinical drugs to treat the problem, consider folic acid in foods or supplements to help you naturally fight this condition and resume a healthy, happy lifestyle.

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Originally posted 2013-11-07 16:01:51.

Natural Supplements as an Alternative Treatment for ADHD

Boy Doing HomeworkIt’s a disorder that’s probably more common than you realize. It affects children and adults alike, and it has no certain cause and no known cure. ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), a condition that causes hyperactivity, inattention and impulsive behavior, affects up to 9% of American children and can drastically impact a child’s ability to learn, along with his quality of life, well into adulthood. Treatment for ADHD often involves medication in the form of a stimulant, or a type of chemical agent that artificially boosts physiological activity to enhance the ADHD sufferer’s focus and help him control impulsive and/or hyperactive behavior. However, like most medications, stimulants come with a myriad of possible side effects, such as: suppressed appetite, headaches, abdominal pain, sleep disturbances and, in some cases, suppressed growth in children, nervous “tics” or other movements, and heightened anxiety or apathy. 

Fortunately, a number of safe and natural supplements have also been shown to reduce ADHD symptoms. Before turning to a prescription stimulant or other form of medication for help, consider these natural supplements as a safe, alternative treatment for ADHD:

Zinc: Zinc is a mineral in your body that plays a vital role in your immune system function. Some studies have found that children suffering from ADHD have low levels of zinc, and that zinc supplements can help reduce the symptoms and improve the behavior of patients with the disorder.

Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids: Some studies suggest that omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, or unsaturated fats, can improve the overall mental function of children suffering from ADHD, as well as help enhance their attentiveness and ability to focus.

Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral and electrolyte that influences your muscle control, heart health, protein production, mood and more. Studies indicate that many children diagnosed with ADHD also have a magnesium deficiency, and that many symptoms of ADHD, such as confusion, irritability and inattentiveness, can be alleviated with magnesium supplements.

Vitamin B6: Studies suggest that abnormal levels of certain brain chemicals, such as norepinephrine and dopamine (both of which play a role in your ability to focus), may be linked to ADHD. Vitamin B6 helps produce and maintain proper levels of these chemicals, and may reduce ADHD symptoms.

 L-carnitine: Daily intake of L-carnitine, a type of compound used in energy production in cells, has been linked to a decrease in ADHD symptoms. One study showed a 54 percent improvement in a group of boys with ADHD who were given L-carnitine supplements.

Certain supplements can be harmful in high doses, so take care to limit your supplement intake to the recommended daily amount. Maintaining proper levels of these vitamins and minerals will not only help keep your mind and body healthy, it may also help you safely and naturally ease ADHD symptoms in yourself or a loved one.

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Originally posted 2013-11-06 09:59:22.

Melatonin – The Jet Lag Fighter!

melatonin jet lagMany of us look forward to the fall version of daylight savings time, when we get to crank back our clocks and watches and savor an extra 60-minute block of sleep. But you may be surprised to learn that your body has a time-monitoring mechanism of its own, and that lost hour of daylight in the evening can throw off your body’s biological rhythms, which can have some pretty widespread effects on your health. The same thing occurs after you fly across three or more time zones: you lose or gain hours of daylight, causing possible fatigue, sluggishness, dizziness, irritability and mood swings upon reaching your destination. This phenomenon is commonly known as jet lag. Let’s explore what happens to your body when you lose or gain an hour or more of daylight, and how a hormone you naturally produce can fight this disorder.

What causes jet lag? Your body possesses a kind of “master clock,” centered in a part of your brain called the hypothalamus. This biological clock controls your circadian rhythms, or daily activity cycles that are based on 24-hour rhythms within your body. When light hits certain receptors located in your retina (a part of your eye), those receptors send a signal to the master clock in your brain. Changes in your environment, such as light and darkness, affect your master clock and disrupt your circadian rhythms. Even an extra hour or more (or less) of daylight can interrupt your normal circadian rhythms, which in turn can affect your sleep patterns and mood. Flying through time zones extends or shortens the amount of daylight you experience within a 24 hour period, which causes interruptions in your circadian rhythms, resulting in the condition known as jet lag.

How melatonin fights jet lag: After your retina perceives daylight, your master clock triggers a gland in your brain called the pineal gland to stop production of the hormone: melatonin. Melatonin levels increase when your retina photoreceptors experience darkness (at nightfall), which promotes a feeling of drowsiness and helps you sleep.  Therefore, an extra two or three hours of daylight, as can be experienced on a long-distance flight, can result in less melatonin production and thus lead to restlessness, insomnia and mood swings. Fortunately, taking a melatonin supplement can help you readjust your circadian rhythms and resume your normal sleeping cycle. 

Suggested dosage of melatonin to fight jet lag: Studies indicate that taking .5 to 5 mg (milligrams) of melatonin after reaching your final destination, and one hour before bedtime, may effectively treat the symptoms of jet lag. You may be sensitive to melatonin supplements, so consider taking the lowest dose (.5 mg) the first time you try this supplement to ensure you will not suffer any ill effects.

Jet lag can be an unpleasant side effect of a long flight. Fortunately, you can fight this condition naturally with melatonin, and help get your master clock, sleep cycle and circadian rhythms all back on track and running like clockwork again.

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Originally posted 2013-11-06 09:50:54.

Nuts to Lose Weight and Gain Life

health-benefits-nuts

Nuts to Lose Weight and Gain Life

When was the last time you enjoyed one of those hard-shelled, edible fruit kernels we commonly know as the nut? Do you chomp a handful daily, or eschew them due to their intimidating high fat content? If you aren’t consuming a moderate amount of nuts on a regular basis, you may want to reconsider your diet. Research shows that you can reap a wealth of benefits from munching this crunchy, savory whole food. Read on to discover why you should be eating nuts-for your overall health, your waistline and even to possibly prolong your life. 

Nuts for nutrition: Let’s look at some of the basic nuts and bolts of nut health. Nuts come in a wide variety of shapes, tastes and sizes, and each type offers up a different serving of health benefits. However, most nuts offer the same nutrients, namely: Vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, fiber, potassium, copper, folic acid, unsaturated fats, Omega-3 fatty acids and phytosterols (plant sterols or compounds), all of which help keep your body running properly, not to mention play a vital role in heart health by helping to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, keeping your arteries healthy and reducing the risk of heart arrhythmias that can lead to heart attack. The nutrients in nuts also help to reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of type-2 diabetes and some cancers. 

Nuts for weight loss: Some folk may fear that consuming nuts will only add flab to their waistline. However, recent studies suggest that nuts can actually help you lose weight, due to their high fiber and protein density. Protein helps you preserve lean muscle mass, and fiber and protein both give you a higher level of satiety (help you feel fuller longer), thus encouraging you to eat less overall. The key is portion control. About 1.5 ounces of nuts daily is enough to benefit from the nutrient-packed goodness of this crunchy snack!

Nuts for longevity: To review, nuts can contribute to a lower risk of diabetes and some cancers, help enhance your heart health, help you maintain a healthy weight and give you a major boost of nutrients-all of which spell greater overall health and a better chance at a longer life. In fact, a recent trial conducted in Spain suggested that people who consume nuts on a regular basis enjoyed a 39% lower mortality risk than those who did not eat nuts regularly.

For a snack with a lot of appetizing goodness, pop open a can or crack open a shell of your favorite variety of nuts. Don’t be afraid to mix up your nut choices to enjoy the flavorful benefits of each kind. You’ll not only add some extra health to your life, you might add on a few years also!

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Originally posted 2013-10-31 11:23:52.

The Health Boosting Benefits of Pumpkins

pumpkins-health-benefits-vitaminA

Many people know the pumpkin as that spooky-faced symbol of Halloween, not to mention the delicious filling of their favorite pie on Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special occasions. But pumpkins are far more than a holiday-themed decoration or dessert. This big member of the gourd family offers a whole lot of health boosting benefits, including nutrients that help you fight cancer, boost your immunity and more!

Here are some of the great  health benefits of the great pumpkin:

Pumpkins for better eyes: Pumpkins contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant and pigment that is responsible for the fruit’s bright orange color. In clinical trials, patients who were given doses of beta-carotene showed a reduced risk of developing cataracts, along with decreased macular degeneration-or degeneration of the eye retina as a result of aging.

Pumpkins for better skin: Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A, also known as retinol, in the body. Retinol helps to nourish skin cells and keep them moisturized and healthy.

Pumpkins for heart health: Pumpkins are rich in potassium, an electrolyte and mineral that’s vital for healthy heart function. In fact, inadequate potassium intake has been linked to heart arrythmias and, in severe cases, death. The antioxidant beta-carotene also fights free radicals, which damage cells and can contribute to heart disease.

Pumpkins for better bones: The potassium in pumpkins contributes to greater bone mineral density, which means stronger bones that are less likely to become brittle or break as you age.

Pumpkins for reduced cancer risk: Those free radicals that can harm your heart also contribute to your risk of cancer. Beta-carotene helps combat those free radicals and reduces your chances of developing cancer. 

Pumpkins for a healthy immune system: Pumpkins serve up a healthy dose of Vitamin C, which can help improve immune system function. Vitamin C also contributes to collagen production, which is necessary for tissue growth and repair. According to some studies, Vitamin C may help with wound healing, allergy treatment and even help keep your gums healthy.

Pumpkin seeds for added nutrition: Think that the health boost from pumpkins stops at the sweet, mushy meat? Think again! Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrients, including: zinc, iron, magnesium, protein and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Protein provides energy that helps keep you feeling full. The iron in the seeds aids in the production of red blood cells. Zinc assists your physical growth, digestion and immune system function. Magnesium plays a role in muscle function and the production of energy in your body, and omega fatty acids reduce the risk of heart disease, inflammation and some cancers.

The next time you carve open a pumpkin, consider the wealth of health benefits to be found in those delicious innards-seeds and all. Any time of year is a good time to enjoy this great-for-you fruit, so go find your favorite pumpkin-filled recipe and cook up a dinner, snack or dessert with a major boost of nutrients and good health!

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Originally posted 2013-10-31 11:11:38.

Dark Chocolate, the Decadent Treat that can Make You Smarter

dark-chocolate-smarter-brain

If you’re like me, the mere mention of dark chocolate is enough to make your mouth water. With a sweet, smooth flavor that pairs well with virtually any desert dish, chocolate may just rein supreme in the world of treats. Milk chocolate certainly has its merit, but its purity (and positive health impact!) is greatly diluted by the sugar, cream and milk solids commonly added to the chocolate to give it a milder, sweeter flavor. If you want to partake of a purer cocoa with a serious kick of good health and smarts, along with some extra decadence, opt for the richer choice of dark chocolate. You’ve likely heard that dark chocolate is good for your heart. What you may not know is that this delicious treat is also good for your brain.

Dark chocolate’s health benefits comes mostly from its main ingredient: the cocoa bean. This amazing bean is packed with antioxidants, which fight free radicals that can harm cells and have a serious negative impact on your health. Cocoa beans are rich in a particular type of antioxidant known as flavonoids. Flavonoids help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and have been linked to greater vascular health and less overall risk of cardiovascular disease. So flavonoids positively impact your heart health. A recent study suggests that flavonoids also have a positive impact on your brain.            

The study on dark chocolate was conducted by the University of Nottingham. Patients consumed a chocolate drink containing the same flavanols found in dark chocolate.  The results? Patients experienced increased blood flow to certain areas of the brain for up to three hours. More blood to the brain means more oxygen to the brain, which heightens cognitive ability.  The study also went on to suggest that these dark chocolate flavanols may improve cognitive function in those with sleep deprivation and fatigue, and they flavanols may enhance brain function in adults over 50 as well.

Dark chocolate has earned its place among the ranks of superfoods for its myriad of health benefits. Indulge in about an ounce daily for a boost of good health and a sweet, satisfying treat. Bear in mind that the higher the cocoa content in your chocolate, the darker the chocolate, and the more flavonoids you can benefit from. Check the ingredients on your dark chocolate product for a high cacao content (at least 60%) with no unneeded-and unhealthy-fillers like hydrogenated oils, to ensure you are getting the most health benefit. The satisfaction of treating yourself to dark chocolate has never been sweeter, for your taste buds, your heart health and your brain power.

References: http://www.medsci.org/press/cocoa.htmlhttp://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.htm

Originally posted 2013-10-28 13:02:38.