Benefits of dark chocolate… Yes, the legends are true: They do exist!
But, before you go rummaging through year-old Halloween candy and stuffing your face with dark chocolates, Snicker’s and Tootsie Roll’s, there’s a few things you need to know.
First, and most importantly, true dark chocolate is usually considered anything at or above 65% Cacao.
You’re not going to find this percentage mixed in with the Skittles and Gummy Bears, and it does taste a bit different than the sugar-laden milk chocolate you’re probably used to, but most convenience and grocery stores do have a few high percentage options to at least take them for a test taste.
Don’t worry: Just like with wine, it’s an acquired taste for some, and your palette will adjust. I remember the first time I tried 65 percent, and I had to spit it out. I’ve since worked my way up the cocoa tree to being able to enjoy 80-85% thoroughly (I’m working on the 99, but that’s the extreme!).
The higher the percentage of cacao, the more benefits and better nutritional value the chocolate contains.
For example, an average 65% dark chocolate serving would look something like this (these are estimates, as actual numbers will vary, depending on brand, size, etc.): Total Fat 15 g, Sat. Fat 9 g, Sugars 16g, Protein 3g.
Comparatively, an average 99% dark chocolate serving would look something like this (these are estimates, as actual numbers will vary, depending on brand, size, etc.): Total Fat 22 g, Sat. Fat 14 g, Sugars 2g, Protein 5g.
As you can see, the higher up the percentage scale you go, the less sugar and more protein you’re going to get.
You may also notice the high fat content, but the majority of this comes from healthy fats (yes, there is such a thing!).
5 Benefits of Dark Chocolate
- Studies have shown dark chocolate to lower blood pressure
- Studies have also shown dark chocolate to lower bad cholesterol (LDL)
- It turns women on more than a passionate kissing session (no wonder they want it for Valentine’s Day!)
- Contains serotonin, a natural mood-boosting anti-depressant
- Stimulates pleasure-inducing endorphin production
Now, even though there are several benefits of dark chocolate, as with anything else, moderation is key. Make sure your chocolate delights fit into your daily caloric needs, and try to work your way up to the highest percentage dark chocolate you can enjoy.
Natural Peanut Butter: Better than the ‘real’ thing?
There’s no doubt that America’s fascination for butter as a sandwich spread is well-documented, apart from being a popular choice in the Netherlands. And if this isn’t enough, you’ll agree with me when I say that January 24 every year is celebrated as National Peanut Butter Day. Obviously, the United States (along with China – surprise, surprise!!!) are the largest exporters of butter.
And for those who are positively hooked, you have the ‘cereal man,’ John H. Kellogg, to thank for his patent ‘Process of preparing Nutmeal,’ which details the method he invented for preparing ‘nut-butter’.
However, one might wonder if there is more to what makes peanut butter so appealing other than the taste itself.
Peanut Butter – Nutritional Value & Benefits
It comes in two forms such as regular and natural, of which the former is prepared with hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, and sweeteners to enhance the flavor, which is either of the smooth or crunchy variety. At the same time, the latter is made of peanuts and oil.
But apart from its convenience of helping most people grab a quick bite, it is nutritious and thus beneficial to our health.
It contains protein, monounsaturated fats, resveratrol, dietary fiber, arginine, vitamins B3 and E, the antioxidant p-coumaric acid, folate, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorous, calcium, and magnesium. Interestingly, there is no alcohol, sodium, or caffeine, making it healthier than most other processed foods.
Even though peanut butter is high in calories, the common misconception is that one will gain weight. However, this is false, as the fats present in this butter are monounsaturated in nature.
Protection from cardiovascular disease and cancers (colorectal cancer, to be precise), regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of hypertension and muscle spasms while intriguingly enabling the proper secretion of sexual hormones.
And despite commercial peanut butter is healthy enough, the natural version has also caught on, and there are very few differences between the two.
Natural Vs. Regular Peanut Butter
The difference between the two is minimal, except that in the natural version, the contents are only made of salt and peanuts. In some cases of natural peanut butter, even the salt is taken away. One thing to remember is that natural butter must be refrigerated, as no preservatives are added.
The health benefits are almost the same, except that healthy fat (in liquid form at room temperature in natural peanut butter) is converted to its unhealthy form when produced commercially.
One very big reason why people prefer homemade to natural peanut butter is due to the salmonella outbreak that occurred in 2007 and off late in 2009 when butter-based products such as crackers, cookies, and dog treats when these products were recalled.
There’s no doubt that peanut butter is a nutritious food that has several benefits right from athletes to dieters as well as the common man. And the best part of it all is that all you need is two tablespoons of it… and you’re satisfied!
Choosing the Sugar Substitute That’s Best for You
According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average American adult should consume no more than 1.4 ounces of sugar per day. That adds up to 32 pounds per year which, if you’ve ever lifted a 32-pound bag of anything, is a considerable amount of food. The awful truth, though, is that the average American adult consumes 156 pounds of added sugar each year. With increasing warnings that link sugar consumption as contributing toward obesity, tooth decay, and possibly a laundry list of ailments, including heart disease, it’s no wonder so many people seek out sugar substitutes (alternative sweeteners), which contain fewer calories than refined sugar.
Alternatives to sucrose (refined sugar, table sugar) include natural and artificial sweeteners, ones that are best limited to sweetening coffee and tea, some that work well in baking, and even a few products that have been in use for centuries. Which one–if any–is right for you? Here are some popular choices:
Choosing the Sugar Substitute
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol derived from corn, beets, and other produce. It helps prevent plaque-causing bacteria from sticking to teeth, making it a good choice for sugar-free gum. While much sweeter than sugar, xylitol is only partially absorbed by the body, so it provides fewer calories than sugar. Beware: The more you eat, the more you risk gastrointestinal distress. For baking, it is recommended that you use half as much xylitol as you would sugar.
Stevia has grown enormously popular in the US in a short amount of time. This now-ubiquitous substance is extracted from a South American herb and is sold under the trade names Sweetleaf and Truvia. It is 40 times sweeter than sugar but has zero calories and will not cause a spike in blood sugar levels. It is not recommended for baking.
Sucralose, sold as Splenda, is created by chemically altering sugar molecules so the body does not metabolize it. It looks and feels like sugar, and it is ideal for adding to coffee and using it for baking.
Aspartame, sold as Equal and Nutrasweet, is popular in desserts. It denatures under heat, so do not use it for baking.
Agave Nectar, made from the same plant that gives us tequila, contains more calories than refined sugar, but it is much sweeter, so less is needed. Agave nectar has a high fructose content, which may make it a greater obesity risk than table sugar.
When researching a sugar substitute, keep in mind that the manufacturers themselves have funded some published studies on the subject, while competitors have published others. Even government studies are not free from corporate influence; food lobbyists influence those who legislate food safety. If we are to be truly certain that we are making the safest choice in a sweetener, there is only one way to go.
The Best Sugar Substitute
The best way to cut down on sugar in your diet is to cut down on sugar simply. Our bodies are not meant to be as sedentary as the average American’s has become over the past few decades. We don’t get the endorphin rush from working our muscles toiling in fields of grain or hunting down our entrees that our forbearers did. One reason we consume more sugar is to stimulate our brain’s pleasure centers, and this contributes toward a downward spiral of poor health.
When we try to fool our bodies that we are eating sugar, we aren’t doing them much good in the long run, regardless of whether we use substitutes for weight loss or to enjoy a varied diet within the limitations imposed by disease or health risk.
Rather than mimic unhealthy eating choices, we should adopt healthy choices. When you are thirsty, drink water; make soda an occasional treat. If you’re feeling low in energy, exercise: Walk with a loved one, take barefoot running, or hike in the woods. The benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise extend to every aspect of life.
Celiac Children and their Nourishment: What Parents Should Look Out For
Parenting is tough. Period. Trust me, in this day and age, with so many pressures; it isn’t easy at all. Teaching two kids to increase their scores (a privilege that I’ve enjoyed for some time) will take you down a road that only tells you how much responsibility the parents have to shoulder apart from the payments, work-life balance, and so on and so forth.
Kids are wilting under pressure, too – the competition they have to deal with is far more than most of us had to cope with when we were their age.
Now imagine what the situation might be if a child is sick. What would the parents have to do to ensure things don’t get out of hand?
A lot, you think.
While the common cold or the flu might cause parents to be concerned, children with celiac disease would have their parents on edge, thanks to the million precautions that must be taken regarding food, and their kids are not necessarily prone to make mature choices.
Welcome to the World of Celiac Children
Adults are not the only people who suffer from celiac disease kids too. It’s bad enough that the only way to live a healthy life is by avoiding foods that contain gluten, and this gets worse as there are several situations in which you’ll have to sacrifice your desire to eat as a child.
It’s not easy for adults to pass up on food, so imagine how difficult it might be for celiac children…
Statistically, the number of children suffering from celiac disease might not be many – about 1 in 300 but that doesn’t make the condition any less significant for each and every child going through a life of abstinence.
For those of you who don’t know what celiac disease is, it is when the immune system causes damage to the inner lining of the small intestine due to the presence of gluten. Further complications can and often do occur not unless the patient remains on a gluten-free diet for life. There is no accepted celiac treatment.
And with kids finding it harder to express themselves, you can imagine how difficult it becomes for parents who have celiac children to keep track of their diet – God forbid, if anything could happen.
If your child has been diagnosed with celiac disease, just remember that it will take some time for the small intestine to heal, and from there on, a gluten-free diet will help the child experience normalcy when it comes to their health.
Precautions for Celiac Children
As with any disease diagnosed by a doctor, it is a good idea to get a second opinion on whether your child has celiac disease. Once this is confirmed, you’ll no doubt have to take some precautions:
Precaution #1: A gluten-free diet for the entire family
You just can’t have gluten-based foods around the house and expect your child not to touch them. If your child needs to be on a gluten-free diet, then the whole family will have to cooperate and choose the same. Case closed!
Precaution #2: Instruct the child to say ‘no’ to gluten-based foods
While you might be able to monitor your child’s diet at home, there are circumstances in which you can’t. Instruct your child to say ‘no’ when offered these foods at their friends’ homes, school, or birthday parties. It’s probably a good idea to explain what they’re dealing with at length. But for heaven’s sake, don’t stop them from going out.
Precaution #3: They’re not sickly; they just have different preferences
The inability to eat foods like everyone else can mean the child feels isolated and sickly. Ensure they don’t feel this way by telling them they’re different from other kids. Because they are.
It’s tough to handle celiac children but trust me, when you see them happy, it lights up your life.
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