5 Proven Reasons You Should Be Eating More Dark Chocolate


Scientists have been investigating the mysteries of cocoa since at least 1200 B.C., and the jury’s still out on its exact health benefits. The good news is that more and more studies seem to suggest that dark chocolate, which is loaded with cocoa, need not be a guilty indulgence.

Here are five delicious reasons to chow down on the cocoa goodness:

1. Real Chocolate Isn’t Junk Food
There’s chocolate and then there’s chocolate. The former is a brown bar of sugary candy, the latter an antioxidant powerhouse.

The difference is what’s in each. Real chocolate is made mostly from cocoa, the mysterious substance responsible for most of the treat’s healthy benefits. Flavanols, one of cocoa’s key components, are antioxidants . Indulge in a chocolate treat, chocolate may contain added sugars, but if you’re eating dessert in moderation, you may as well enjoy some benefits, too.

To ensure you’re getting chocolate’s healthy perks, look for dark chocolates with high cocoa content. The more cocoa, the better. But be aware: the more cocoa, the more bitter, too.

Some experts swear by sprinkling pure cocoa powder on their morning oatmeal as it packs the most punch, but dark chocolate can still provide some of your daily dose. While there’s debate about what exactly constitutes “dark chocolate,” try to find bars with at least 70% cocoa.

But shop carefully — it’s easy to pick the wrong bar. A 2012 Australian review pointed out that flavanol content can vary depending on the manufacturing process, as well as the ripeness and variety of the parent cocoa beans. “A 70% cocoa containing chocolate bar from one company therefore might not contain the same amount of flavanols and flavanol composition as a 70% chocolate bar from another company,” the authors said.

2. Chocolate Feeds Your Body’s Good Bacteria
When scientists recently revealed how chocolate works in your body, the secret weapon was the body’s good bacteria. These bacteria feast on the chocolate, fermenting it into anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce cardiovascular disease.

3. Chocolate Is Associated With Lower Blood Pressure
Interest in the effect of cocoa on blood pressure began when it was discovered that the Kuna Indians, who live on a small island in Central America, seemed to maintain a low hypertension rate and low blood pressure, a 2012 review said. Their secret seemed to be the three to four cups of cocoa drinks they had every day.

Many studies have since linked the consumption of flavanols to lower blood pressure. In a review of 20 such studies, nine established a link between lower blood pressure and flavanol consumption. (Each of those studies lasted about two weeks; longer-duration studies did not show the same link for reasons that are still unclear.)

When all 20 trials were analyzed, the authors found that flavanol-rich chocolate was associated with a small but significant reduction of 2 mm to 3 mm Hg in blood pressure. “Even small reductions in blood pressure substantially reduce cardiovascular risk,” the authors of the review said. Still, more studies are needed to investigate the long-term effects of flavanols on blood pressure.

4. Chocolate Can Help Reduce That Iron Deficiency
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, iron deficiency is the leading national nutritional deficiency. While we wouldn’t recommend that you use any sugar-sweetened food as your primary source of nutrients, dark chocolate is a surprisingly rich source of iron.
One hundred grams of cooked spinach has 3.5 mg of iron. One hundred grams of dark chocolate made of 70-85% cocoa solids has more than three times that amount.

5. Chocolate May Ease Crankiness

Chocolate may be one of the most frequently craved foods. It is still unclear whether we enjoy it for its sweetness, its fattiness, its carbohydrates, its “optimal mouth feel,” or its psychoactive ingredients, according to a review published in October 2013.

Regardless, out of the eight studies included in the mood review, five showed that cocoa either eased bad moods or made good moods even better.
In a study released in May 2013, researchers gave 72 participants either a dark chocolate mix containing varying levels of polyphenols (antioxidants normally found in cocoa) or a placebo. They found that those taking a daily dose of the brew containing 500 mg of polyphenols (your average 40 g bar of dark chocolate has 400 mg to 800 mg of polyphenols, according to a Nestle study) showed improvements in self-reported calmness and contentedness after 30 days of drinking the brew.

Source: yahoo news


11 Fitness Foods to Help You Get in Shape Faster

Beet juice for stamina

Recent research shows that this ruby red root veggie may be more effective at boosting energy than caffeine, or nearly anything you’ll find in the supplement aisle. When UK researchers asked male athletes to down either 16 ounces of organic beetroot juice or a placebo, those who gulped the real thing cycled for up to 16% longer, an effect scientists say isn’t achievable by any other known means, including training. To bolster your performance, invest in a juicer and grab some fresh beets, which are in season year-round. Or look for bottled beet juice, which can be sipped straight or blended into a pre-workout smoothie.

Honey for endurance
Research conducted at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory found that consuming honey before exercise provides “time-released” fuel to give athletes steady blood sugar and insulin levels over a longer duration. This natural sweetener also boosted power, speed, and endurance in competitive cyclists who downed it prior to and at 10-mile intervals throughout a 40-mile race. For quality and purity, I recommend USDA Certified Organic raw honey. Enjoy it straight off a spoon, or mix it into a pre-workout snack like oatmeal.

Pea protein to delay muscle fatigue
Pea protein powder has been generating serious buzz in the sports nutrition community for some time now. The reason: it’s rich in branched chain amino acids, compounds that have been shown to delay fatigue during exercise. The arginine in this powder (which is made from yellow peas) has also been shown to enhance immunity, while the lysine boosts calcium absorption and decreases calcium losses to help maintain strong bones. One scoop can pack more than 25 grams of lean protein, which can be whipped into a smoothie along with almond milk, a dollop of almond butter, cinnamon, and frozen cherries or berries.

Blueberries to reduce inflammation
To test the anti-inflammatory and recovery effects of blueberries, researchers at Appalachian State University recruited well-trained athletes and fed them about 9 ounces of blueberries daily for six weeks, plus another 13 ounces an hour before a two-and a-half-hour run. The results were impressive. In addition to a reduction in inflammation, blueberry eaters experienced a boost in natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in immunity. When fresh blueberries aren’t practical, reach for dried or freeze dried options to stash in your gym bag.

Tart cherries to fight pain and regain strength
At the University of Vermont’s Human Performance Laboratory, researchers asked men to drink either 12 ounces of a tart cherry juice blend or a placebo twice daily for eight days. On the fourth day of the study, the athletes completed a strenuous strength-training routine. Two weeks later, the opposite beverage was provided, and the training was repeated. Scientists found that the cherry juice had a significant effect on pain reduction. In addition, strength loss averaged 22% in the placebo group compared to just 4% in the cherry group. Fresh tart cherries are only in season in late summer, but frozen and dried options are becoming easier to find, as is 100% tart cherry juice.

Salmon to build muscle
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon have been linked to a laundry list of benefits, from fighting heart disease to staving off type 2 diabetes. But animal research shows it may also be a potent muscle booster. Compared to steers fed cottonseed and olive oils, those that consumed fish oil showed improved muscle development: their bodies used twice the amount of amino acids to build new protein tissues, especially skeletal muscles. Include wild salmon in meals a few times a week, or try salmon jerky as a portable snack. If you can’t or don’t eat seafood, look for an algae-based source of omega-3s.

Watermelon to reduce muscle soreness
Recently, Spanish sports medicine scientists discovered that watermelon juice helped relieve muscle soreness when about 16 ounces were consumed an hour before exercise. The effect is likely due to citrulline, a natural substance found in watermelon that’s been tied to improved artery function and lowered blood pressure (it’s even been dubbed “nature’s Viagra”). I’m starting to see bottled watermelon juice popping up all over the place. And when you eat it fresh, be sure to bite into the white rind a bit—that’s where citrulline is found in higher concentrations.

Pomegranate for muscle strength recovery
The antioxidants in pomegranate have been linked to enhanced memory and brain activity, and now researchers at the University of Texas at Austin report that pomegranate juice helps improve muscle recovery. Researchers recruited volunteers who were randomly assigned to maintain their normal diets and add 4 ounces of either pomegranate juice or a placebo twice a day. Both groups performed resistance-training exercises, but those who gulped pom experienced significantly less muscle soreness and reduced muscle weakness for up to 7 days. Pomegranate is a winter fruit, but you can find frozen options year-round. Just thaw and add to oatmeal, parfaits, or garden salads. Small shots of 100% juice are also a good option.

Coffee for next-day energy
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that glycogen, the body’s storage form of carbohydrates, is replenished more rapidly when athletes consume both carbs and caffeine following exhaustive exercise. Compared to carbs alone, the combo resulted in a 66% increase in muscle glycogen 4 hours after intense exercise. That’s significant because packing more fuel into the energy “piggy banks” within your muscles means that the next time you train or perform, you’ve upped your ability to exercise harder or longer.

Watercress to reduce DNA damage
A recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that watercress, a peppery green from the mustard family, effectively countered the “wear and tear” effects of exercise. Healthy young men were given about 3 ounces of watercress daily for eight weeks, and asked to participate in treadmill workouts that included short bursts of intense exercise. Another exercise group did the workouts without watercress as a control. The men who missed out on watercress experienced more exercise-induced DNA damage, and the benefits were seen after just one dose. In other words, those who ate the green for the first time just two hours before hitting the treadmill experienced the same benefits as those who had munched on it daily for two months. Watercress makes a wonderful salad base and, like spinach and kale, it can be whipped into a smoothie.

Dark chocolate to curb exercise-induced stress
Numerous studies support the myriad benefits of dark chocolate and new research published in the European Journal of Nutrition adds exercise protection to the list. In the study, healthy men were asked to eat 3.5 ounces of 70% dark chocolate two hours before a two-and-a-half-hour bout of cycling. Compared to a control group, the chocolate eaters experienced higher blood antioxidant levels and reduced markers of exercise-induced cell stress. Enjoy a few individually wrapped squares of dark chocolate daily, melt and drizzle it over fresh fruit, or mix it into oatmeal, smoothies, or parfaits.

Source: health

Study to Test If Chocolate Pills Can Prevent Heart Attacks

For those who believe in the power of chocolate comes the start of a new study. Researchers will look into whether certain ingredients in dark chocolate can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

But before you start digging into your stash of chocolate, know that researchers won’t be handing out thousands of candy bars to participants.

The study, which will include 18,000 men and women, will focus on bio-active nutrients found in the cocoa bean, without all the extra ingredients such as sugar, found in chocolate candies.

Testers will be given dark chocolate pills that contain 750 milligrams of cocoa flavanols, naturally occurring plant-based nutrients found in chocolate. And unfortunately for them, the pills won’t actually taste like candy.

According to Dr. JoAnn Manson, one of the study’s lead researchers, in previous studies, cocoa flavanols have been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

Participants at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research in Seattle will be given two capsules a day of the cocoa flavanols or dummy pills for four years.

The study is sponsored by Mars Inc., the company behind M&M’s and Milkyway bars and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Mars Inc. has been researching cocoa flavanols for the past 20 years and already sells CocoaVia cocoa extract capsules containing 250 mg of flavanols.

The company claims that to get the same amount of CocoaVia flavanols, you’d have to eat one and a half bars of dark chocolate containing 300 calories, 22 grams of fat and 24 grams of sugar.

Source: Los Angeles times

8 foods for better sex life!

foods for sex

We can’t live without food, and we can’t love without food. Eating the right foods can improve your romantic life in a variety of ways – it can make your skin glow, it can improve blood circulation in your body and infuse you with happiness and energy. Here are some foods that you should eat in order to give your sex life a boost.

1. Walnuts
A new study has shown that walnuts could keep the fertility specialist at bay. According to scientists at the University of California, their research has found eating 75 gm of the nuts each day can increase a man’s virility and the health of his sperm.

2. Banana
Bananas are not only one of the most suggestive fruits of all times due to their phallic shape, they are also rich in nutrients that help produce sexual hormones. They contain male libido enhancing minerals and enzymes, and regulate secretion of serotonin which is known to be responsible for the euphoric feeling after intercourse. They also help replenish low levels of glucose in the body giving you an instant kick of energy after you’ve eaten it.

3. Blueberries
Eating a cupfull of blueberries once a day may help spice up your love life. According to nutritionist Dora Walsh, the berries contain proanthocyanidins, a plant chemicals that is believed to keep blood vessels flexible and blood flowing around the body that could work wonders in your romantic life.

4. Dark Chocolates
Filled with antioxidants, dark chocolate has health as well as sexual benefits. It has been associated with lowering the risk of heart disease and turning on the pleasure sensors in the brain. They contain feel-good chemicals and the ‘love chemical’ PEA (phenylethylamine). PEA peaks during orgasm and induces feelings of attraction and euphoria by releasing dopamine in the brain.

5. Basil
A symbol of love since the Roman era, basil has been regarded as an aphrodisiac for centuries now. Its leaves consist of various nutrients that enhance libido and are a rich source of vitamin A, C, magnesium and potassium.

6. Red Wine
Not only does red wine keep you looking young, it boosts sexual desire in both men and women. A research done at the University of Florence concluded that women who drank a glass of red wine regularly had better libido than others who did not. What’s more, flavonoids present in red wine reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases when consumed in moderation. Red wine is also known to release stress and make you happier.

7. Pomegranate
According to a research conducted by researchers from Queen Margaret University, a glass of pomegranate juice consumed daily helped boost testosterone levels in both men and women. This makes pomegranate a natural aphrodisiac that is great for your sex life.

8. Jeera

Yes, it’s true. The humble seed can up your sexual quotient. Packed with zinc that is important for sperm production and potassium that maintains a healthy heart rate and blood pressure, jeera is an all-rounder when it comes to upping your game in the bedroom. It takes care of fertility issues and helps avoid conditions like ED (erectile dysfunction), PE (premature ejaculation), low sperm count and virility of the sperm. Drink jeera tea on a regular basis on an empty stomach and watch things steam up between the sheets, naturally!

Source: The Health Site