Monday, 31 August 2015

Chocolate's Dark Secret

If you think chocolate is heavenly, you're not alone. Chocolate literally is the "food of the gods" -- that's what its botanical name, Theobroma cacao, means. But you needn't be divine to indulge. Mere mortals adore chocolate in all its forms, from the humble chocolate chip cookie to gourmet goodies, wintry hot chocolate, and decadent desserts. And to make chocolate even more drool-worthy, researchers are discovering this ancient treat may have some modern health benefits.

Q: When was chocolate first discovered?
A: Chocolate dates back centuries. The Mayans traded valuable cacao beans, from which chocolate is made, as a commodity. In 1519, the Aztecs discovered that they could make a delicious drink by adding water and sweeteners to roasted, ground-up cacao beans. The chocolate bar came along later in the 18th century, by mixing chocolate with milk.

Q: Are all chocolates good for you?
A: Chocolate lovers, rejoice -- but be savvy about chocolate's health perks. Chocolate really can be good for you, but not all chocolate is created equally. If you're after health benefits, forget the chewy, caramel, marshmallow or cream-covered chocolates and look for solid dark chocolate.

Q: Why is dark chocolate a better choice than white or milk chocolate?
A: The health benefits of chocolate come from flavonoids, a type of phytochemical found in the cacao bean. Dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa than white or milk chocolate. And the more cocoa a chocolate product contains, the richer its health-promoting content.

Q: What are the health benefits of dark chocolate?
A: Research has shown that when dark chocolate is part of a healthy lifestyle, it can improve heart healthblood pressure, reduce LDL "bad"cholesterol, and increase blood flow to the brain. It may also improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, reducing diabetes risk.

Q: How much chocolate should I eat to get the health benefits?
A: Limit the portion size because even though dark chocolate contains good-for-you flavonoids, it also has not-so-good-for-you fat, sugar, and calories. Overindulging in chocolate can undo any health benefits and lead to weight gain and related health problems.
A small portion of about an ounce should satisfy your taste buds -- especially if you eat it slowly -- and provide chocolate's health benefits without widening your waistline.
Here's an example. A standard-sized bar of Hershey's Dark Chocolate has 531 calories, compared with 150 calories from an ounce of dark chocolate or about six Hershey's Kisses.

Q: Why do some chocolates tout the percent of cocoa on the label?
A: The greater the percentage of cocoa, the higher the concentration of flavonoids. Most milk chocolate contains up to 50% cocoa, while some inexpensive chocolates contain as little as 7% cocoa. Look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa for the finest dark chocolate rich in healthy flavonoids.

Q:What is the difference in the calories in cocoa, baking chocolate, and chocolate candy?
A: Most chocolate we eat today is a combination of cocoa solids, fats, sugar, and, in the case of milk chocolate, milk. Here's the scoop on fat and calories:
  • Pure cocoa powder: (2 tablespoons): 40 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate (1 ounce):140 calories, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat.
  • Semisweet or milk chocolate (1 ounce): 135 calories, 8.5 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat.
  • Dark chocolate (1 ounce): 142 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 6 grams of saturated fat.

Q: What is the difference between cocoa powder, baking chocolate, dark, milk, and white chocolate?
A: It all boils down to how chocolate is made. Cocoa beans are roasted, graded, and ground to make a chocolate liquor, which also contains cocoa butter.
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate is chocolate liquor that's been solidified and pressed.
  • Cocoa powder is cocoa butter removed from chocolate liquor and dried into cocoa powder.
  • Dark chocolate is a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, and sometimes vanilla.
  • Milk chocolate is made by adding milk or milk powder to the dark chocolate formula.
  • White chocolate contains sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla. It has no chocolate liquor.
Emulsifying agents are usually added to chocolate candy to give it a smooth texture and mouth feel. More expensive chocolates are processed longer to enhance the mouth feel.

Q: Is chocolate really an aphrodisiac?
A: The Aztecs considered chocolate a royal aphrodisiac. The Mayans associated it with their fertility god. And today, Sarah McLachlan sings, "Your love is better than chocolate," a modern twist on the chocolate love connection.
Here are the scientific facts. Chocolate contains the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are thought to be mood boosters and mild sexual stimulants. Eating chocolate makes you feel good, even euphoric. But the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate are more about the sensual pleasure of how it melts in your mouth than as a sexual stimulus.

Comment below what you think of the article. Make sure to understand that you must limit your portions of dark chocolate, otherwise you will see negative effect such as weight gain. So limit your portions and ENJOY!! have a wonderful day and I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback!!! :)

The Journal of the American Medical Association, July 6, 2005; vol 294: pp 97-104.
American Heart Association: "High Blood Pressure."
News release, American Heart Association.
American Society of Hypertension Nineteenth Annual Scientific Meeting and Exposition, New York, May 18-22, 2004.
Charalambos Vlachopoulos, MD, Athens, Greece.
Naomi Fisher, MD, associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston.
Taubert, D. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Aug. 27, 2003; vol 290: pp 1029-1030.
Grassi, D. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2005; vol 81: pp 611-614.
Taubert, D. The Journal of the American Medical Association, July 4, 2007; vol 298: pp 49-60.
News release, JAMA/Archives.
Reviewed on December 30, 2008

Food Cravings That Wreck Your Diet

The Truth About Food Cravings

Craving a big, fluffy hunk of warm bread does not mean your body is deprived of grains. Food cravings have little to do with nutrients and plenty to do with the brain chemistry of pleasure and reward. Cravings may center on texture (creamy, crunchy) or taste (sweet, salty) but they all have something in common -- overindulging can sabotage your diet.

Ice Cream

People who get cravings tend to have higher BMIs -- no surprise since fattening foods are often the object of desire. The combination of cool, creamy, and sweet makes ice cream an irresistible treat -- but a costly one in terms of calories. A typical serving of vanilla has 230 calories.
Better Bet: Half a cup of slow-churned ice cream has less fat and half the calories.

Potato Chips

It's the combination of salty and crunchy that gives potato chips their allure. Depending on the flavor, a 1-ounce snack bag has at least 150 calories. Munch your way through a large 8-ounce bag and you're looking at 1,230 calories -- not counting any dip.
Better Bet: Dip celery or carrot sticks in hummus. You'll get a satisfying crunch with fewer calories and more nutrients.


Almost half of American women crave chocolate on a regular basis. There have been many theories to explain why, ranging from magnesium deficiency to mood swings. But one thing is certain: Downing a candy bar is a quick way to add a couple hundred extra calories to your day.
Better Bet: Have a small square of high-cocoa dark chocolate. It has less fat than a typical candy bar and may be good for the heart.


Sometimes a setting can trigger a craving, like the desire for popcorn at the movies. Memory plays a big role in cravings -- you've enjoyed popcorn at the movies before, so you expect to again. Popcorn itself can be a healthy snack, but movie theaters tend to pop it in coconut oil and top it with buttery sauce. The result: 400 to 1,200 calories per tub!
Better Bet: Skip the butter sauce.


If you're dieting, doughnuts are like the forbidden fruit. That fact alone may be enough to trigger a craving. Research suggests that a yo-yo pattern of eating favorite foods one week and putting them off-limits the next can intensify cravings. If you are really having a craving, better to have just one bite than to put it off-limits completely. The trouble with doughnuts is they offer very little nutritional bang for the caloric buck.
Better Bet: Whole-grain bagel with peanut butter.

Ballpark Food

If the game's not the same without a corndog, you may be prone to another example of setting-induced cravings. Just seeing or smelling the concession stands can make it tough to resist. But consider these numbers:
  • 8 ounces of cheesy nachos - 900 calories
  • 8-ounce bag of raw peanuts - 800 calories
  • Corn dog on a stick - 400 calories
Better Bet: Corn on the cob with butter has about 150 calories. Some ballparks even now offer sushi, fish tacos, and paella. 

Red Meat

Do you feel like a meal is not a meal unless it involves a big hunk of meat? The good news is you don't have to give up meat to achieve a healthy weight -- just be choosy about your cuts. A typical flank steak has about 700 calories (more if you don't trim the fat).
Better Bet: One lean pork chop has 170 calories, so two chops have less than half the calories of a steak.


Pizza is America's favorite food, according to an Oxfam survey. It does have some health benefits: A typical slice has 12 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of fiber. But pizza also has about 280 calories a slice -- more if you add meat toppings – so the calories add up quickly.
Better Bet: Make pizza at home with a whole-wheat crust and a sprinkling of reduced-fat cheese. Top with fresh tomato slices, broccoli, or other vegetables.


Pasta ranks among the top five favorite foods in many countries. The trouble is most people eat white pasta, which is made with refined flour. White pasta has only a fifth the fiber of whole-grain pasta, which means it may take more to fill you up. Pasta sauces can be diet-killers, too. A large bowl of fettuccine Alfredo has 800 to 1,200 calories.
Better Bet: Eat whole-grain pasta with a vegetable-based sauce.

French Fries

Want some fries with that? This salty side is hard to turn down when ordering at the drive-thru. But a large order of fries can have as many calories as a burger -- about 500 at a typical fast food restaurant.
Better Bet: Opt for a side salad or fruit cup, if available. Or if you have willpower of steel, go ahead and order fries but limit yourself to five or six.


Whether at a bar or party, it's easy to keep dipping your hand into the nut bowl, but all those handfuls add up. A cupful of roasted mixed nuts packs more than 800 calories.
Better Bet: Stick to nuts with the shells on. Peeling them will slow you down.


Coffee cravings may go beyond your typical food craving, thanks to the addictive powers of caffeine. You may feel you can't fully wake up without your morning dose. Fortunately, coffee has very few calories -- until you load it up with cream and sugary syrups. Large flavored lattes and mochas can have more than 400 calories.
Better Bet: Opt for non-fat milk or soy milk and skip the flavors.

3:00 Snack Attack

If the snack machine always calls to you in the mid-afternoon, you may be experiencing a between-meals drop in blood sugar. Unfortunately, a pack of chocolate chip cookies is just a short-term fix, and a high-calorie one at that.
Better Bet: Eat snacks that combine a protein with a whole grain, such as reduced-fat cheese on whole-wheat crackers. Healthy snacks can actually ward off food cravings and help you stick to your diet.

Nervous Nibbles

Do you find yourself reaching for the cookie jar before a visit from the in-laws or a presentation at work? Sometimes food cravings are not triggered by hunger but by unpleasant emotions, including stress and anxiety. This is called emotional eating, and if you do it regularly, it's likely to undermine your diet.
Better Bet: Replace nibbling with stress management techniques -- take a vigorous walk, do yoga, or relax in a hot bath.

Bad Day Binge

Emotional eating is also common at the end of a bad day. You may use "comfort foods" to soothe feelings of anger or sadness. In extreme cases, emotional food cravings can lead to bingeing -- eating large amounts of food without stopping when you’re full.
Better Bet: Look for emotional comfort outside the fridge. Phone a friend, listen to some favorite music, or write in a journal.

Control Cravings: Eat Snacks

If cravings mainly strike when you're hungry, try eating healthy snacks between meals. Carefully planning your snacks can help you keep hunger -- and cravings -- at bay. Portion control is vital -- each snack should be less than 200 calories. Good choices include yogurt with fresh fruit, a hard-boiled egg, a fruit smoothie, or peppers and bean dip.

Control Cravings: Take a Walk

You already know that exercise can help you lose weight by burning calories. But now there's evidence that brisk walking can help you eat fewer sweets. In a study published in the journal Appetite, participants who took a 15-minute walk were half as likely to eat chocolate at their desks compared with those who took a 15-minute rest.

Control Cravings: Low-Carb Diet
Putting favorite foods off-limits can make you crave them in the short-term, but the opposite may be true down the road. That's the conclusion of a study in the journal Obesity. After sticking to a low-carb diet for two years, a group of overweight adults craved carbohydrates and starchy foods less. A second group following a low-fat diet reported fewer cravings for fatty foods.

Control Cravings: Indulge a Little

A taste in time saves nine! Resisting sweets when you're at a party can be tough. Rather than depriving yourself until you cave, try indulging in a small serving of the desired food. You may find that just a taste will satisfy your craving.

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on April 16, 2014

Healthy Weight

What's your ideal weight? Learn how many calories you need, how much your BMI matters, and more.

Wondering how much you should weigh? You can be healthy and happy by eating well and exercising often, even if you aren’t at your 'perfect' weight.
See how many calories you need each day to maintain weight, lose weight or gain weight.
Do you need to lose weight? Measuring your waist circumference is a good way to tell.

Check out:

>> Does Alcohol Prevent Weight Loss, or Cause Fat Gain?

>> What is Weight Watchers? What are the benefits of Weight Watchers?

>> How to Tighten Skin After Weight Loss



Soy milk is made by soaking soybeans, grinding them with water. The fluid which results after straining is called soy milk. The health benefits of soy milk are controversial, because like milk, soy is a common food allergen. The milk industries ad campaigns boast about how low fat milk, fat free milk and soy milk are accepted healthy by the medical industry.Unlike milk from a cow, soy milk has no lactose, which makes it a viable alternative to cow’s milk for those suffering from lactose intolerance. Soy milk is promoted as a healthier alternative to cows milk and people have begun to replace many foods in their diet with soy products. There are alot of recent studies to prove that consuming soy can be harmful to your health.


When soy is processed it does not guarantee filtering for toxin elimination. Soy milk has to be heated at high temperatures, it will result in a break down of the protein which is found in soy. When the soy has been consumed the body can have trouble breaking it down causing side effects that can range from diarrhea, cramps and headaches. Preservatives are added to the soy so they can have a longer shelf life, these preservatives can too cause side effects within the body. Phytates are found in soy, these decrease the amounts of nutrients that are absorbed in our body such as iron and zinc. 

Soy has high levels of phytoestrogens which are plant derived compounds, these mimic the hormone estrogen which is found in our body. When we consume phytoestrogens they upset the endocrine functions within our body which can disrupt thyroid functioning in women. This is unhealthy for women who have hypothyroidism as soy can slow down the function of the thyroid gland.  The plant compounds in soy milk which mimic estrogen can block normal estrogen in the human body, this can cause infertility and increase your risk for breast cancer.

When men consume soy the phytoestrogens can reduce testosterone, which may lead to a lowered sperm count making it harder to conceive. 

One of the worst problems with soy comes from the fact that 90 to 95 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified (GM), and these are used to create soy protein isolate. Genetically modified soybeans are designed to be ‘Roundup ready’, which means they are created to withstand heavy doses of herbicides without killing the plant. The active ingredient in Roundup herbicide is called glyphosate, which is responsible for the disruption of the delicate hormonal balance of the female reproductive cycle. Pregnant women should avoid soy milk as glyphosate is toxic to the placenta. If the placenta has been damaged the result can be miscarriage or birth defects. Feeding your infant soy-based formula can cause a host of health problems including behavioral problems, food allergies and digestive distress, early puberty and fertility problems, asthma and cancer.
If you are going to drink soy milk always buy organic. Other alternatives are almond milk, rice milk or organic and raw cows milk.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?

How to keep the world's woes from weighing you down

Your job is hanging by a thread, and the credit-card bills are mounting. Your teenager wants to quit school and become a professional snowboarder. Or maybe it's the increasing tensions in the world, brought to you 24 hours a day on your TV screen, getting you down.
Regardless of the reason, stress is a way of life in the 21st century. And for some people, the effects go beyond feelings of anxiety and discomfort. For these people, stress can mean facing each day ravenously hungry -- and adding weight gain to their list of worries.
"While the immediate . . . response to acute stress can be a temporary loss of appetite, more and more we are coming to recognize that for some people, chronic stress can be tied to an increase in appetite -- and stress-induced weight gain," says Elissa Epel, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco.
The problem, she says, lies within our neuroendocrine system -- a brain-to-body connection that harkens back to evolutionary times and which helped our distant ancestors to survive. Though today the source of the stress is more likely to be an unpaid bill than a saber-toothed tiger, this system still activates a series of hormones whenever we feel threatened.
"These hormones give us the biochemical strength we need to fight or flee our stressors," Epel tells WebMD.
The hormones released when we're stressed include adrenalin -- which gives us instant energy -- along with corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol. While high levels of adrenalin and CRH decrease appetite at first, the effects usually don't last long.
And cortisol works on a different timetable. Its job is to help us replenish our body after the stress has passed, and it hangs around a lot longer. "It can remain elevated, increasing your appetite and ultimately driving you to eat more," says Epel.

'Fight or flee' -- or chow down

While this system works fine when our stress comes in the form of physical danger -- when we really need to "fight or flee", and then replenish -- it doesn't serve the same purpose for today's garden-variety stressors.
"Often, our response to stress today is to sit and stew in our frustration and anger, without expending any of the calories or food stores that we would if we were physically fighting our way out of stress or danger," says Shawn Talbott, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Utah and author of The Cortisol Connection.
"Often, eating becomes the activity that relieves the stress"

In other words, since your neuro-endocrine system doesn't know you didn't fight or flee, it still responds to stress with the hormonal signal to replenish nutritional stores -- which may make you feel hungry.
Following those stress signals can lead not only to weight gain, but also the tendency to store what is called "visceral fat" around the midsection. These fat cells that lie deep within the abdomen have been linked to an increase in both diabetes and heart disease.
To further complicate matters, the "fuel" our muscles need during "fight or flight " is sugar -- one reason we crave carbohydrates when we are stressed, says endocrinologist Riccardo Perfetti, MD, PhD.
"To move the sugar from our blood to our muscles requires insulin, the hormone that opens the gates to the cells and lets the sugar in," says Perfetti, who directs the outpatient diabetes program at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. And high levels of sugar and insulin set the stage for the body to store fat.
"So people who are under stress, metabolically speaking, will gain weight for that very reason," Perfetti tells WebMD.

Mind Over Matter

As much as we would like to blame all our weight gain on stress, experts say that eating in response to stress can also be a learned habit -- one that's merely encouraged by brain chemistry.
"Under stress, there's an impulse to do something, to move, and often, eating becomes the activity that relieves the stress. It's easy to do and it's comforting," says David Ginsberg, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Behavioral Health Program at New York University Medical Center.
In fact, it may be our bodies' initial response to rising levels of cortisol that teaches us there is comfort in sugary or starchy foods.
"During the first couple of days following a stressful event, cortisol is giving you a clue to eat high-carbohydrate foods," Perfetti tells WebMD. "Once you comply, you quickly learn a behavioral response that you can feel almost destined to repeat anytime you feel stressed."
Now for the good news: Whether your urge to eat is driven by hormones or habits or a combination of both, research shows there are ways to interrupt the cycle, break the stress and stop the weight gain.
Here's what the experts recommend:
1. Exercise. This is the best stress-buster -- and also happens to be good for you in lots of other ways. "It not only burns calories, when you move your body, even with a simple activity such as walking, you begin to produce a cascade of biochemicals, at least some of which counter the negative effects of stress hormones -- as well as control insulin and sugar levels," says Talbott.
At the same time, Ginsburg notes that exercising too hard for too long can raise cortisol levels and actually increase stress. The answer, he says is to choose an activity you reallyenjoy doing -- be it an aerobic sport like running or a calmer activity such as Pilates -- and then keep workouts to a length that doesn't exhaust you (this could be as little as 20 minutes a day, three to five days a week).
2. Eat a balanced diet -- and never skip a meal. "Eat breakfast -- and try to consume six small rather than three huge meals a day, with foods from all the food groups," Ginsberg tells WebMD. This helps keep blood sugar levels steady, which in turn put a damper on insulin production and eventually reduce cortisol levels -- all helping to control appetite and weight.
3. Don't lose sleep, over your weight problems or your stress -- When we don't get enough rest, cortisol levels rise, making us feel hungry and less satisfied with the food we do eat, Ginsberg says.
4. Devote time to relaxation -- Because it works much like exercise to produce brain chemicals that counter the effects of stress, Ginsburg suggests finding the activities that make you feel relaxed and calm. For some, he says, yoga can do the trick. Others may prefer meditation techniques or deep breathing.
And don't overlook the relaxing power of cuddling up on a sofa with a good book or magazine, or even playing your favorite movie on the VCR. "Anything that makes you feel calm and relaxed will help counter the biochemical effects of stress," says Talbott.
5. Snack on whole grain, high fiber foods. If you just can't ignore those stress-related hunger pangs, try filling your tummy with foods high in fiber and low in sugar, like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, or fruits such as pears or plums.
According to Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, author of Fight Fat After Forty, foods that are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates -- like white flour, cookies, cake, white rice, or pasta -- cause insulin levels to rise, which in turn increases stress hormones and ultimately makes you feel more hungry. But high-fiber, whole-grain foods -- particularly cereals like oatmeal or multi-grain flakes, as well as fruits -- help keep insulin levels on a even keel, which can help control blood sugar levels, and ultimately, hunger, according to Peeke.
6. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol -- According to the American Institute of Stress, cigarettes, as well as caffeine-laden soft drinks, coffee, tea, and even chocolate, can cause cortisol levels to rise, stress to increase, blood sugar to drop and hunger to prevail. The institute also cautions against drinking too much alcohol, which can affect blood sugar and insulin levels.
7. Take your vitamins -- A number of medical studies have shown that stress can deplete important nutrients -- particularly the B complex and C vitamins, and sometimes the minerals calcium and magnesium.
Because these nutrients are needed to balance the effects of stress hormones like cortisol, and may even play a role in helping us burn fat, it's important to keep levels high, Talbott says. While a good diet will help, he says, taking a high potency multi-vitamin supplement can insure you give your body what it needs to not only deal with the stress, but also burn fat and lose weight.
And speaking of losing weight, here's one bit of news you may be happy to hear: Experts say you shouldn't try to go on a strict diet when you're under extreme or chronic stress.
In one study, published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2001, researchers from the University of British Columbia found that severely limiting calorie intake could kick off a series of biochemical events that ultimately not only increased stress levels, but could make people feel more hungry.
The researchers followed 62 women for three days. Of this group, 33 were on a diet of no more than about 1,500 calories a day, while the other 29 consumed up to about 2,200 calories daily.
After analyzing urine samples, researchers found that the women who had consumed the least food had the highest levels of cortisol. Not surprisingly, these same women also reported more stress during what researchers called "daily food-related experiences." In short, the more they restricted food intake, the greater their levels of stress hormones, and, ultimately, the more they wanted to eat.
If you find yourself chronically stressed out, the experts say, you should do what you can to decrease your stress levels, then follow a reduced-calorie, yet balanced, diet to stop the weight gain and lose the extra pounds.