“Chocolate is nature’s way of making up for Mondays.” -Anonymous.
In recent years you might have heard rumours that chocolate is good for you. And promptly dismissed said rumours as being way too good to be true.
Well, lend me your ears, darlings. Because it’s so very true.
Much like coffee, chocolate is surprisingly full of phytonutrients like flavonoids, healthy fatty acids, polyphenols and other antioxidants.
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Translation? Health benefits for you and your loved ones. Let me count the ways:
1. Chocolate can lower your blood pressure. Several studies have demonstrated small, but significant, reductions in blood pressure when people eat chocolate regularly. In fact, when The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition pooled the results of several studies, they found that chocolate was better at lowering blood pressure than soy protein and tea (two other flavonoid-rich “superfoods”).
2. Chocolate can reduce your cholesterol. Cocoa butter contains a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which is the same heart-healthy stuff found in olive oil. Research has shown that chocolate consumption can lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise your HDL (good cholesterol).
3. Chocolate can help prevent cancer. It’s because of all those antioxidants, particularly in dark chocolate.They're known to fight free radicals and chronic inflammation, processes that are linked to cancer. Some early research is showing chocolate’s promise in the cancer-fighting department, but more studies are planned to fully figure this out.
4. Chocolate can improve your vision. Who needs carrots when you’ve got chocolate? British researchers performed a small study on healthy adults, and found that subjects’ performance on vision tests improved after eating a dark chocolate bar, as compared to a white chocolate bar. The theory: flavonoids improve blood flow to the retina and brain.
5. Chocolate can prevent heart disease: This is the biggie, the benefit that has the most solid research to back it up. Several studies have demonstrated chocolate’s heart-healthy actions: it appears to have antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, and anti-thrombotic effects, and to improve coronary blood flow. Plus, a meta-analysis published recently in the British Medical Journal concluded that regular chocolate consumption was associated with a 37% reduction in the risk of heart disease. Seriously, it’s like the people who first linked chocolate and Valentine’s Day knew something...
6. Chocolate can prevent strokes. A Swedish study last year, of over 30,000 women, observed that women who ate the most chocolate (an average of 2.3 ounces per week) had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke than those virtuous women who never or rarely ate chocolate.
So, we can prevent heart disease, cancer, and strokes...all with a little medicinal application of chocolate? Me likey.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
The darker the chocolate the better—dark chocolate has a higher concentration of antioxidants and flavonoids than milk chocolate.
Also, you can easily overdo it on chocolate. Obviously. Chocolate does contains lots of good stuff, but it also packs a lot of calories, fat, and sugar. Read: no scarfing down an entire box of chocolate in one sitting. My advice is to be a chocolate snob. Channel your inner French woman and savour small doses of the best quality, most delicious chocolate you can find.
And remember the immortal words of Lucy (via Charles M. Schulz):
"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."
Ghrelin is a hormone you may not have heard of, but you really should get to know. And take charge of the little bugger. That’s because ghrelin is your hunger hormone.
Ghrelin was discovered by researchers in Japan about 10 years ago—it was originally identified as a growth hormone. Only later did its role in stimulating appetite become understood.
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It's a hormone secreted by the lining of your stomach. It goes up when your tummy is empty, essentially sending a FEED ME signal to your brain. Ghrelin levels then decrease for about three hours after a meal, give or take. At which point it starts to spike again, prompting hunter-gatherer type behaviour. Like rooting through the back of your cupboard for a box of Oreos.
But ghrelin is nasty in another way, too. Not only does it make you eat more, it also stimulates the accumulation of fat in your visceral organs, in the abdominal zone. In other words: it promotes belly fat. See what I mean? Nasty.
So the question is: how can you control your hunger hormone?
Personally, I am a big fan of sleep. I haven't been getting as much of it, lately, as I'd like (my 18-month-old only recently started sleeping through the night)...and, frankly, it sucks.
Sleep deprivation not only feels awful, it carries major health consequences. A multitude of studies show the health dangers of insufficient or poor quality sleep. A sampling of said consequences: heart disease, hypertension, depression, and diabetes.
Also, sleep deprivation: not your best look. A study recently showed that people who had a crappy night's sleep the night before are rated less attractive, compared to when they had a solid night's rest. But things get worse: it can make you fat. Lack of sleep increases ghrelin, your hunger hormone, triggering those somebody-find-me-a-cheesecake type feelings.
But...what if you have trouble sleeping? And not because a baby is keeping you up. What if you just flat can't get to sleep? Well, you’re not alone. One third of Canadians report periodic sleeplessness, and 1 in 10 of us suffer chronic insomnia. Patients come to me with this issue all. The. Time.
Whether it’s difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakening, or all-around crummy sleep...the good news is this: there are lots of things you can do.
Here’s your toolbox for better sleep:
Now...what if your insomnia is caused by a baby waking you up? Is sleep an unattainable dream for you? Not necessarily. Here are my thoughts on that....