Category: News

4 Benefits of Dark Chocolate You May Not Know

Melissa Crispell, CNS, CNHP

It’s February: the month of Valentine’s Day and Heart Health.  Who doesn’t love a good chocolate gift?  The gift of dark chocolate will show how much you really care about your Valentine’s heart.

Let’s talk about chocolate. Once upon a time, chocolate was considered “the food of the gods”. For most of its 4,000-year history, it was used as a bitter drink, not the sweet treat that we’re all familiar with now. Mayan and Aztec civilizations found chocolate to be an aphrodisiac, a mood enhancer, and made an energizing drink from it. The Mayans reserved cacao for warriors, priests, and nobles during sacred ceremonies.

The Aztecs couldn’t grow cacao in central Mexico and began trading with the Mayans.  Cacao was so sought after and valuable, it was used as currency in some areas.  According to some accounts, Aztec ruler Montezuma drank upwards of 3 gallons (each day!) of the chocolate elixir to increase his libido.

In the 1500’s, the Spanish brought chocolate back from Mexico, instead of the gold and silver they were originally after. The Spanish added cane sugar and cinnamon to the bitter chocolate drink to make it more palatable. At that time, it was still so expensive that only the royals and elites could afford this delight.

Fast forward to modern day and it is said that the average American consumes 12 lbs. of chocolate each year, and that chocolate is a $75 billion industry worldwide.  That’s a lot of chocolate!  But is it “the good kind”? Chocolate is separated into 3 categories: white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate.  White chocolate can be eliminated because there are no cocoa solids in white chocolate – only cocoa butter, so it’s not technically “real chocolate”.  According to the FDA, milk chocolate only has to have 10% pure chocolate, 3.39% milk fat and 12% milk solids. If there is more pure chocolate, the milk causes a problem. An Oregon State University study showed that proteins in milk bound to the flavonoids in chocolate (and black tea) and weakened the antioxidant abilities. So, the milk in milk chocolate reduces the absorption of the polyphenols from cocoa (and black tea). Therefore, milk chocolate doesn’t have the same healing properties or benefits of dark chocolate.

There is no FDA standard scale for identifying dark chocolate. The general understanding is that dark chocolate is 70-90% pure cocoa.  Some say 60% is acceptable, but there is no set standard currently.  Personally, I prefer the 60-70% range but that’s just a palate thing.

Top 4 Benefits of Dark Chocolate:

  1. Antioxidant boost– As long as it’s not milk chocolate! One of the best things about dark chocolate is its high antioxidant content. Two main groups of antioxidants found in dark chocolate are flavonoids and polyphenols. Cocoa has shown to have more flavonoids and polyphenols than wine or tea. Flavonoids are the plants’ protection from environmental toxins and also help repair damage. Flavonoids are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Therefore, we receive the antioxidant benefits when we eat those foods.
  2. Better brain function– Research suggests that occasional and regular consumption of dark chocolate is associated with increased blood flow to the brain. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2009 showed the flavonoids in dark chocolate helped to improve cognitive function. More specifically, the study of a group of 2,000 participating 70-74-year-olds looked at the correlation of consuming chocolate (wine and tea as well) and cognitive performance. The conclusion of the study was “intake of flavonoid-rich food, including chocolate, wine and tea, is associated with better performance across several cognitive abilities and that the associations are dose dependent.”A scientific study presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in 2018points out that the “higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects.”
  3. Possible vision booster– It is too soon to list improvements to vision as an absolute benefit of dark chocolate. However, a 2018 study published in JAMA Ophthalmology concluded that “contrast sensitivity and visual acuity were significantly higher 2 hours after consumption of a dark chocolate bar compared with milk chocolate bar, but the duration of these effects and their influence in real-world performance await further testing.” One can hope that chocolate will eventually be proven to help your eyesight!
  4. Improved heart health– the cocoa bean, which isn’t really a bean but the seed of the cacao plant, is rich in flavonoids. According to the Cleveland Clinic, in addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows flavanols “have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.”

So, there you have the short history of our beloved chocolate and even more reasons to love the antioxidant-rich, heart-healthy treat. Try to remember too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. In the words of Dr. Jaffe, “You’re sweet enough as you are”.  As with all foods, I highly recommend starting with the LRA by ELISA/ACT test to find out what your hidden immune triggers are.  Believe it or not, chocolate could be on that list. 😉

Try this recipe and let us know what you think!

Joyful Almond Treats

Ingredients:
1 ¼ C Coconut flakes
2/3 C coconut oil melted
½ C Almond butter
¼ C Almonds (chopped)
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Dark Chocolate bar (melted)

Process:
1. Mix all ingredients, except the dark chocolate, in a bowl
2. Melt dark chocolate in double boiler
3. Spoon on to parchment paper lined tray
4. Drizzle chocolate on top (You can do ½ dipped, top side dipped, get creative!)
5. Refrigerate until ready to serve

Healthy Weight: What You Eat Either Nurtures or Depletes You

Russell Jaffe, MD, Ph.D., CCN
Fellow, Health Studies Collegium

Health-conscious consumers often seek foods marketed as “healthy”. “Healthy” printed on its label or in its advertising, doesn’t mean that the food actuallypromotes health. Examine the nutrition label of every purchase carefully. Smarter consumers scrutinize labels to exclude empty calories, artificial ingredients, preservatives, and other red flags to determine whether it fits if you want to live well and long. Nature nurtures through wholeness. ‘Work-a-likes’ generally increase risk and are less healthy than standardized natural products and extracts.

Healthy weight is the product if healthy digestion, adequate essential nutrients and harmony between the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Gut Nervous System (GNS) whose communication is mediated by the Vagus nerve. In addition, if you want to reverse or avoid insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome X and diabetes then your health promoting diet is based on 60% complex carbs (fiber and nutrients from plants), 20% each of protein and fat. A whole foods diet from the healthiest people on the planet has these proportions from locally grown, mostly organic or biodynamic sources. Below are suggestions of how to add quality to your life now and for your lifetime.

When we choose convenience over wholeness; when we reach for quick solutions, we often pay a heavy price metabolically and digestively, physically and emotionally. It is healthy to eat when hungry; it is unhealthy to eat out of boredom, stress or social convention.

Mind and body are tuned up with as little as 20 minutes twice daily of mindfulness exploration of ‘inner space’ and a similar amount of time moving, stretching, ambling and working parts of the body so they are stimulated to repair and renew.

When we use the body as designed, renewal and regeneration are the natural results. Experience with my father and my mindfulness mentor provided me examples of how resilient their healthy bodies were despite being 83 and 100, respectively. In both cases they recovered remarkably from vascular events known medically as middle cerebral artery strokes.

The quality of the food and beverages that fuels you greatly influences your health in both the short and long run. Being mentally and physically active is encouraged. Being grateful and with appreciation for what we have promotes health while thinking about what we lack erodes out health. Optimism can be learned with practice. Rejoicing in our portion is wisdom of Biblical proportion.

Below are ‘packaged foods’ associated with healthyeating that are actually unhealthywhen consumed regularly. Please use this guidance when advising your clients on healthy eating habits or to personalize your own diet. While they often look like food, the more processing, packaging and synthetic ingredients, the more you want to avoid them. Aware consumers exclude them from a 21stcentury healthier lifestyle.

First, we address the difference between packaged goods and whole foods. Later, self-assessments and predictive biomarker tests are briefly discussed along with how to choose better quality and value in all aspects of your daily life.

Fat-free foods

Many foods promote themselves as “light”, fat-free, low-fat, or reduced-fat. These no- or reduced-fat options come at a high price to healthier digestion. Because fat-free foods can taste bland, fat is often replaced with sugar in various forms, resulting in higher calories. Remember that healthy fats are a necessary component of a human diet, so you don’t need to avoid whole food fat.

Diet soda

There is no evidence that calorie-free alternatives result in weight loss or prevent other chronic health conditions, such as diabetes. Despite the artificial sweeteners and other chemicals used in diet soda, a little now and then will probably not harm most people. Artificial sweeteners each adversely affect taste perception, digestion and metabolism in different ways. However, it’s best to avoid drinking diet soda in favor of better alternatives such as spring water, herbal beverages, unsweetened tea, freshly made nut milks or organic coffee.

Sports drinks

Sports drinks are loaded with electrolytes and sugar. They are marketed as replenishment after exercise. While electrolytes are beneficial for athletes, most people don’t need the extra electrolytes or high sugar content as found in sports drinks. Instead of reaching for a Gatorade™ or Powerade™ after a workout, go for plain old spring water or an alkaline mineral water such as Pellegrino™ or Gerolsteiner™ or Appolinaris™.

Gluten-free foods

People with celiac syndrome and poor or weak digestion benefit from avoiding gluten, found in all grains. A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences(2017) found that in people without celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet did not significantly change their risk for heart disease or metabolic syndrome. Furthermore, in  2018 the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dieteticsreported that gluten-free foods are no healthier and more expensive than gluten containing alternatives. Further, refined starches used as a substitute for wheat lack nutrients, can be irritating to the intestines, can induce delayed immune responses that burden the immune defense and repair system and may result in blood sugar spikes. Bottom line: Gluten-free is good only for people who can’t tolerate the gluten in wheat products.

Granola

While the dried fruits and nuts in granola are good for you in small amounts, there is usually too much fat and sugar hidden in the granola you buy at the store. Granola can be packed with empty, nutrient depleted calories. Use granola as a condiment. Use it as a topping on plain yogurt, fruit, or salad for an added tasty crunch. You can also mix granola into lower-calorie cereal made of whole grains or grasses.

Vegan foods

People are being tempted to think that the word “vegan” automatically implies healthier. Vegan foods are made only of plants and can be very high in added sugar, calories, fats, sodium, and artificial preservatives. Examples of vegan foods to avoid include imitation meats, vegan pastas, veggie chips, and seitan (which, in excess, promotes maldigestion and dysbiosis.

Agave nectar

Agave is a plant from the hot, arid regions of Latin America and the United States. It is often processed into a high fructose syrup devoid of nutrients. While this sweetener isn’t glucose and therefore is often marketed as natural, healthy, and diabetes-friendly, fructose converts into fat in the liver and contributes to obesity and insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Dried fruits

In limited amounts, dried organic or biodynamic fruit can be good for you. It can have up to 3.5 times the fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants of fresh fruit when most of the water is removed. Most dried fruits however tend to be high in calories and often with sugar added during the drying. We suggest that dried whole organic or biodynamic fruit with no sugar added is healthier and better tasting.

Processed fruit juices

While the word “fruit” sounds healthy, processed fruit juice is mostly just sugar-water with a dash of antioxidants and vitamins. Fruit juice lacks fiber that helps digestion and slows the uptake of sugar into the body. Fruit juices that are labeled “not from concentrate” or “100% pure” usually contain added sugar and flavors. For example, a 12-oz serving of apple juice can have even more calories than a comparable serving of Coke or Pepsi. Spring water and herbal beverages are better choices.

Store-bought smoothies

Smoothies sound healthy. While they may be delicious, store-bought smoothies can be high in artificial sweeteners, sugars, processed fat, and sweetened dairy products. Better choice is to make your own smoothies at home where you can control the quality and quantity of ingredients used. Home-made smoothies are less expensive and better for you.

Edible Oils

On a final note, remember that many of these foods touted as “healthy” do contain some nutrients. Although limited intake of these items can be part of a balanced diet, regular consumption is unhealthy. When advising your clients, remember to stress moderation not deprivation.

We suggest avoiding edible oils as much as possible. Whole seeds and nuts protect the oil within. This protection is lost when the oils are extracted. Eat foods cooked with broth, water and wine. Healthier oils come from whole foods. Edible oils tend to have too much Omega 6 (linoleic acid [LA] and arachidonic acid [AA]) fat and lack Omega 3 (Eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]). A balance of both is needed for brain and body health. Fish oil supplements can help balance Omega 6 and Omega 3, Use care in selecting safer supplements based on value more than price. Damaged, oxidized or toxic mineral containing fish oils are to be avoided. Fish oils mustbe distilled under nitrogen to remove toxins and protect the delicate essential fats from air oxidation damage. When EPA and DHA are micellized in softgels, their integrity is maintained and their uptake is enhanced.

A few drops of clarified butter or organic peanut or grape seed oil to make a soufflé or stir fry or in baking make food more delicious and nutritious especially when you eat in harmony with your nature and the season of your life.

Many choices are made into habits of daily living. Now and in the future there are opportunities to be more wise and healthier about what we eat, drink, think and do.

Many common medications interfere with stomach and intestinal digestion. This can result in depletion of essential and helpful dietary nutrients. For example, all stomach acid modifiers are linked to reduced B vitamin (especially B12) and magnesium (the essential mineral electrolyte that balances calcium). Statin medications lower CoEnzyme Q10 levels needed by the mitochondria, the batteries inside cells. Antibiotics lay waste to the microbiome and their use calls for months of intensive probiotics, prebiotics and symbiotics to restore the digestive microbiome.

Investigate if you are taking any medications linked to needed nutrient loss. Add a high quality, fully bioavailable supplement composed of all natural and no synthetic ingredients. Advanced supplements do not need binders, fillers, flowing agents, and other constituents that reduce bioavailability and take up space that could contain active ingredients.

To restore and to maintain healthier digestion, include prebiotic fiber (40-100 grams/day), probiotic digestive organisms (40-100 billion/day) and symbiotics (1.5 grams recycled glutamine 2-3 times daily). Eat foods you can digest assimilate and eliminate based on results from Lymphocyte Response Assays (LRA) cell culture tests of both T and B cell sensitization. You may want to take in essentially all your calories within six hours, letting digestion ‘rest’ for 18 hours each day. It is a habit that many find helpful. You may want to start each meal with something liquid and warm, from a beverage to a broth or soup.

Self-Assessments and Predictive Biomarker Tests

You can assess your health status using the following self-assessments:

  1. Hydration Assessment
  2. Urine pH after rest– Assessment of magnesium need
  3. Transit timeAssessment of digestive efficiency
  4. C Cleanse Assessmentof oxidative burden and antioxidant need

You may also want to have your epigenetics fully assessed by just eight tests:

1. Hemoglobin A1c (Hgb A1c)
2. C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP)
3. Homocysteine (HCY)
4. Lymphocyte Response Assay (LRA)
5. Urine pH after rest
6. Vitamin D level (25-OH cholecalciferol)
7. Omega 3 Index
8. 8-Oxo Guanine

Epigenetics subsumes 92% of your lifetime health and well-being. This includes your habits of daily living. Epigenetics assessed and measured as suggested above provides opportunities to better understand our biochemical individuality and to modify both diet and supplements in light of identified needs. Genetics accounts for just 8% of your quality of life. More information about these tests and their interpretation is available from www.ELISAACT.com.

Summary

Personalized, proactive, predictive, primary prevention practices add life to years and years to life. Healthy weight is a reflection of harmony within the microbiomes and metabolomes. Know yourself well enough to eat and supplement in harmony with your needs. Reducing exposure to anti-nutrient toxins from diet and environment is possible. Indeed, about 80% of the toxins in your body are from recent and often avoidable exposure. This allows you to have hormonal balance, neurochemical resilience, immune tolerance, dense bones, flexible joints, efficient organs and strong muscles. What we use we renew. What we do not use atrophies.

More information about what to do and what not to do is included in The Joy of Living the Alkaline Way. This is available as an e-book available to download here. We also invite you watch the short video below, “Classic Wisdom for Healthy Weight”.