The Sweet Science: Unwrapping the Health Benefits of Chocolate

The Sweet Science: Unwrapping the Health Benefits of Chocolate

A variety of protein powder and shakes.

Chocolate, often considered a delectable treat and indulgence, has been enjoyed for centuries. Beyond its irresistible taste, numerous studies suggest that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, comes with a host of health benefits that may surprise many. While moderation is key, let’s unwrap the goodness within and explore the various ways chocolate can contribute to our well-being.

Dark chocolate contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is a good source of essential minerals such as magnesium, copper, and iron. Magnesium is crucial for muscle and nerve function, copper supports the formation of red blood cells, and iron is essential for oxygen transport in the body needed for energy. Including chocolate in a balanced diet can contribute to meeting the body’s mineral requirements.

A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains

  • 11 grams of fiber
  • 66% of the DV for iron
  • 57% of the DV for magnesium
  • 196% of the DV for copper
  • 85% of the DV for manganese
  • In addition, it has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.

Of course, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) is a fairly large amount and not something you should be consuming daily but this does give you some idea of what nutrients go into these dark delectables. 

1. Rich in Antioxidants:

Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is a potent source of antioxidants. These compounds help combat oxidative stress in the body, neutralizing free radicals and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. The presence of flavonoids in cocoa, a key component of chocolate, has been linked to improved heart health and a reduced risk of cardiovascular issues. One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavanols than any other fruits tested, which included blueberries and acai berries (1)

2. Heart Health:

Several studies have shown that moderate consumption of dark chocolate may contribute to heart health. Dark chocolate has been associated with improvements in blood flow, reduced blood pressure, and enhanced cholesterol levels. (2) Flavonoids in chocolate are believed to have a positive impact on endothelial function, promoting healthy blood vessels and reducing the risk of heart disease. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others. According to research, the polyphenols in dark chocolate may help lower some forms of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol when combined with other foods like almonds and cocoa, which makes sense as who doesn’t love dark chocolate covered almonds. (3) 

A review of studies revealed that eating chocolate 3 times per week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 9%. (4) 

3. Mood Enhancement:

Chocolate contains various compounds that stimulate the production of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones in the brain. Additionally, chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine, which can provide a mild energy boost and enhance alertness. Phenylethylamine, another compound found in chocolate, is believed to mimic the mood-enhancing effects of endorphins and may contribute to an improved sense of love and well being. In one large study of 13,000 people, those who ate dark chocolate in the previous 24 hours were 70% less likely to report depression. And it didn’t take much, just 12 grams of dark chocolate was enough to elicit this effect. That’s just 2 or 3 of these treats! (5) 

4. Brain Function:

Cocoa, a primary ingredient in chocolate, contains flavonoids that may have neuroprotective effects. Research suggests that regular consumption of chocolate may improve cognitive function and protect against age-related decline. (6)  Cocoa contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine, which may be a key reason why it can improve brain function including enhanced memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.  (7) Studies show that eating high flavanol cocoa can improve blood flow to the brain in young adults. This may explain why eating cocoa daily appears to improve attention, verbal learning, and memory. (8) 

5. Stress Reduction:

Consuming chocolate may have stress-relieving effects. The combination of compounds like serotonin precursors, theobromine, and magnesium can contribute to relaxation and reduced stress levels. While chocolate is not a cure for stress, it can be a delightful and comforting treat that provides a momentary sense of relaxation.

Want a nice chocolate treat? 

You can just consume a coupe of pieces of dark chocolate 75% or more each day, grate it on your yogurt or oatmeal, or include it in your trail mix. But for some more options check out our chocolate almond butter cup or chocolate coffee shake recipes.  

While it’s important to consume chocolate in moderation, the health benefits associated with its consumption, especially dark chocolate, are increasingly supported by scientific research. From heart health to mood enhancement and cognitive function, chocolate contains a rich blend of compounds that can contribute positively to our overall well-being. So, the next time you savor a piece of chocolate, know that you may be indulging in more than just a delightful treat – you’re unwrapping a host of potential health benefits.

References

  1. https://bmcchem.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1752-153X-5-5
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22301923/
  3. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/jaha.116.005162#d3e3715
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537803/
  5. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/dark-chocolate-depression
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6571795/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4335269/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7760676/
Delightful Bites for the Holidays: Best Healthy Christmas Appetizers to Impress Your Guests

Delightful Bites for the Holidays: Best Healthy Christmas Appetizers to Impress Your Guests

A variety of protein powder and shakes.

‘Tis the season to indulge in festive flavors and share the joy of the holidays with family and friends. As you prepare for Christmas gatherings, don’t overlook the importance of delightful appetizers to kickstart the celebration. You can still be festive and fancy with healthy foods and avoid the carb heavy, sugar rich, fat loaded appetizers. Elevate your holiday entertaining with these mouthwatering visually appealing Christmas appetizers that are sure to leave a lasting impression on your guests with out requiring your pants to be loosened.

1. Shrimp Cocktail Christmas Trees: Ingredients: Large shrimp, cocktail sauce, and fresh rosemary
sprigs.

Take the classic shrimp cocktail to the next level by presenting it in the form of a festive Christmas tree. Arrange cooked shrimp on a platter in the shape of a tree, using fresh rosemary sprigs as branches. Serve with tangy cocktail sauce for a visually stunning and delicious appetizer.

2. Cranberry and Goat Cheese Crostini: Ingredients: pumpernickel or rye bread, goat cheese,
cranberry sauce, and fresh thyme and more.

Craft an elegant and flavorful appetizer by using creamy goat cheese and switch out the typical refined white baguettes and use toasted pumpernickel or rye bread. Top them with a spoonful of cranberry sauce. Garnish with fresh thyme for a burst of holiday color and taste. You could do other flavours such as strawberries and mint, grilled portobello mushrooms and thyme, grilled peppers and parsley, smoked salmon and dill or avocado and cilantro. Your tray will be colorful, flavourful and a great way to sneak in those vegetables when they are least expecting it.

3. Caprese Skewers with a Twist: Ingredients: Cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, basil leaves,
balsamic glaze.

Give the classic Caprese salad a festive twist by threading cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, and basil leaves onto skewers. Drizzle with balsamic glaze for a pop of flavor and a visually appealing appetizer that’s easy to enjoy.

4. Cheese and vegetable platter: Chesses, vegetables (carrots, broccoli, grape tomatoes, peppers),
olives, hummus, Tzatziki, cut up fruit.

This can be a great way to get your healthy foods out there when trying to look indulgent. Create a cheese platter but keep the cheese to a minimum and focus on fresh, cut up vegetables and berries for a great pop of colours. Use hummus and tzatziki as healthy dips. You can even arrange your vegetables in the shape of a Christmas tree and use the other vegetables as Christmas decorations. Don’t forget to add in olives for those good fats and you can even cut up cucumbers to use as a “cracker base” as a healthy alternative to crackers and breads.

Conclusion:
This Christmas, set the stage for a memorable celebration with appetizers that are as visually stunning as they are delicious and healthy. From the classic elegance of Cranberry, and goat cheese crostini to the playful presentation of Shrimp Cocktail Christmas Trees, these appetizers will add a touch of magic to your holiday festivities.

The Benefits of Implementing a Corporate Wellness Program in Your Office

The Benefits of Implementing a Corporate Wellness Program in Your Office

A variety of protein powder and shakes.
In today’s fast-paced and competitive business world, companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of investing in their most valuable asset—their employees. A healthy, happy, and engaged workforce can significantly contribute to a company’s success and productivity. One effective way to foster employee well-being and boost  organizational performance is by implementing a corporate wellness program. Such programs are gaining popularity across various industries due to the multitude of benefits they offer. In this article, we will explore the advantages of having a corporate wellness program in your office.

1. Improved Employee Health:

One of the primary objectives of a corporate wellness program is to promote better health among employees. By offering initiatives such as gym memberships, health screenings, exercise programs and nutrition counseling, companies can empower their employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. Regular exercise, balanced diets, and preventive care reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, resulting in decreased absenteeism, enhanced productivity, and reduced healthcare costs. The top five stress symptoms causing missed work days are constant fatigue (29%); sleeplessness (26%); aches and pains (24%); high anxiety (23%) and weight gain (18%). (“Do American Workers”, 2017) A healthy workforce also experiences improved mental well-being, leading to higher levels of job satisfaction and lower stress levels.

2. Enhanced Productivity:

Investing in employee wellness pays dividends when it comes to productivity. Numerous studies have shown that healthier employees are more focused, energetic, and motivated. Corporate wellness programs often include stress management workshops, meditation sessions, and resilience training, equipping employees with valuable tools to  cope with work-related pressures effectively. By reducing stress and improving mental resilience, companies can create a positive work environment conducive to creativity, collaboration, and innovation.

3. Increased Employee Engagement:

Employee engagement is a crucial factor in organizational success. When employees feel valued and supported by their employer, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. In fact 6 in 10 Canadians believe “their employer has some responsibility in ensuring their good health.” (“Strategic Does” 2012) Corporate wellness programs provide an opportunity for companies to demonstrate their commitment to employee well-being. These initiatives not only enhance physical health but also foster a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and mutual support among colleagues. Engaged employees are more likely to stay loyal to the organization, leading to reduced turnover rates and increased overall productivity.

4. Cost Savings:

While implementing a corporate wellness program requires an initial investment, it ultimately leads to long-term cost savings for companies. Lost productivity caused by workers’ depression and anxiety costs the Canadian economy almost $50 billion a year. (“Why Workplace”, n.d.) Given that depression and anxiety are on an increasingly all time high this makes it even more important to invest upfront.

The direct costs associated with absenteeism, medical expenses, and disability claims can be significantly reduced through preventive health measures and early intervention. Moreover, healthier employees tend to have fewer accidents and injuries, resulting in lower workers' compensation claims and insurance premiums. By prioritizing employee well-being, companies can achieve substantial cost savings and improve their bottom line.

5. Positive Company Culture:

A robust corporate wellness program can foster a positive company culture that values employee well-being. When employees witness their organization’s commitment to their health and happiness, it creates a sense of loyalty and satisfaction. Having a 7-day health challenges, step challenge, water challenge etc. can all create a more cohesive community within the work environment. The presence of wellness programs can also attract top talent during the recruitment process, as job seekers are increasingly prioritizing work-life balance and a supportive work environment. A positive company culture built around wellness encourages teamwork, collaboration, and a shared commitment toff
personal and professional growth.

Conclusion:

In today’s competitive business landscape, implementing a corporate wellness program is no longer a luxury but a necessity. By prioritizing employee health and well-being, companies can unlock a host of benefits, including improved employee health, enhanced productivity, increased engagement, cost savings, and a positive company culture.

Investing in a comprehensive wellness program demonstrates a company’s commitment to its employees’ overall well-being and sets the stage for long-term success. In an era where employees are seeking more than just a paycheck, a corporate wellness program can become a powerful tool to attract, retain, and nurture talent while reaping the rewards of a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce.

The Top 5 Foods That Fight Fibromyalgia

The Top 5 Foods That Fight Fibromyalgia

A variety of protein powder and shakes.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in specific areas of the body. While there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a well-balanced diet can help manage its symptoms. In this article, we will explore the top five foods that have shown promise in fighting fibromyalgia and providing relief to those affected by this condition.

1. Fatty Fish:

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with fibromyalgia. Omega-3 fatty acids also support brain health and may aid in reducing fatigue and improving cognitive function, which are common challenges for fibromyalgia patients. Check out our delicious and omega 3 rich salmon chowder.

2. Leafy Greens:

Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are packed with important nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like calcium and magnesium. These nutrients contribute to overall health and help combat the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Calcium and magnesium are especially beneficial for muscle relaxation and reducing muscle pain and stiffness. Check out this delicious broccoli and greens soup.

3. Turmeric:

Turmeric is a golden spice widely recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation. Adding turmeric to your diet, either in the form of a spice or a supplement, may help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Check out our anti-inflammatory turmeric latte loaded with pain boosting nutrients.

4. Berries:

Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, are rich in antioxidants, which help fight oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the body. Additionally, berries contain fiber and vitamin C, which support the immune system and overall well-being. Including a variety of berries in your diet can provide relief from the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Check out our acai berry smoothie bowl.

5. Ginger:

Ginger is a versatile spice known for its medicinal properties. It possesses anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, making it beneficial for individuals with fibromyalgia. Ginger can be consumed fresh, as a tea, or incorporated into meals to add flavor and potentially reduce pain and inflammation. Check out our delicious moon milk tea loaded in nutrients that help reduce inflammation and pain, and helps with sleep depression and anxiety.

Conclusion:

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing fibromyalgia, adopting a healthy diet can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with this condition. Incorporating the top five foods mentioned above, including fatty fish, leafy greens, turmeric, berries, and ginger, can provide valuable nutrients and potentially help reduce pain, inflammation, and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. As always, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet, especially if you have specific dietary requirements or are taking medication.

Remember, a well-balanced diet, combined with regular exercise and other lifestyle modifications, can play a crucial role in managing fibromyalgia symptoms and promoting overall health and well-being.

 

The Top 5 Things to Support a Healthy Brain

The Top 5 Things to Support a Healthy Brain

A variety of protein powder and shakes.

The human brain is a remarkable organ that plays a vital role in our daily functioning, cognition, and overall well-being. It requires proper care and nourishment to function optimally and maintain long-term health. Fortunately, there are several simple and effective ways to support a healthy brain. In this article, we will explore the top five things you can do to promote brain health and enhance your cognitive abilities.

1. Regular Exercise:

Exercise is not only beneficial for our physical fitness but also has a significant positive impact on brain health. Engaging in regular physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, promoting the growth of new blood vessels and enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Exercise also stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that improve mood, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive function. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with strength training exercises to reap the maximum brain-boosting benefits.

2. Balanced Diet:

A well-balanced diet is crucial for maintaining optimal brain health. Include nutrient-rich foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Foods such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins should be an integral part of your diet. For top 10 brain boosting foods check out this article.

These nutrients help reduce inflammation, protect against oxidative stress, and support the growth and maintenance of brain cells. Additionally, staying hydrated is important for brain function, so remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. For more on the best foods to consume and avoid please check out our article.

3. Mental Stimulation:

Keeping your brain active and engaged is vital for its health and longevity. Regular mental stimulation and cognitive challenges can help improve memory, enhance problem-solving skills, and promote overall brain function. Engage in activities that require mental effort, such as reading, puzzles, learning a new skill or language, playing musical instruments, or engaging in strategic games like chess. These activities stimulate the formation of new connections between brain cells, improving cognitive reserve and reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline.

4. Quality Sleep:

Adequate sleep is crucial for brain health and cognitive function. During sleep, the brain performs essential processes like memory consolidation and toxin removal. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline, memory problems, and mood disorders. (1) Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Establish a consistent sleep routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, limit screen time before bed, and practice relaxation techniques to improve the quality and duration of your sleep. For strategies on how to get a better sleep check out our article.

5. Social Connections:

Maintaining strong social connections and engaging in meaningful relationships is not only good for your emotional well-being but also for your brain health. Social interaction and engagement have been shown to lower the risk of cognitive decline and contribute to better mental health. Regular socialization helps stimulate the brain, enhance memory, and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. (2) Make an effort to spend time with friends, join community groups, volunteer, or participate in activities that foster social connections.

Conclusion:

Supporting a healthy brain is within your reach with these five simple but powerful lifestyle choices. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, mental stimulation, quality sleep, and social connections all contribute to optimal brain health and cognitive function. By incorporating these habits into your daily routine, you can promote brain longevity, enhance memory and learning, and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Remember, it’s never too late to start taking care of your brain, so prioritize your brain health today for a better tomorrow.

References

  1. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation/lack-of-sleep-and-cognitive-impairment
  2. https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.3399889
What Is Leaky Gut And Do I Have It?

What Is Leaky Gut And Do I Have It?

A variety of protein powder and shakes.

What is leaky gut?

The purpose of the lining of our gut wall is to act as a barrier to bacteria and other infectious agents. This barrier is an important agent in your immune system. Our intestine wall is also designed to absorb water and nutrients broken down from our food into our bloodstream. Everyone’s guts are semi-permeable. But some people have increased intestinal permeability or hyperpermeability. That means the holes in their gut are much larger than normal and this lets unwanted substances such as toxins, unwanted pathogens such as virus’s and bacteria and undigested food particles through in to our blood stream, so basically they have “leaked through out gut wall”. 

Although well recognised with natural health professional Leaky gut syndrome is not currently recognized as a medical diagnosis.

What Causes Leaky Gut?

Common everyday factors such as diet and stress increases inflammation in our body and gut and may cumulatively wear down your intestinal lining creating holes in your gut and making it more permeable. When this happens the body sets off a immune response which creates inflammation and that over time this can cause food sensitives, nutrient deficiencies and even autoimmune problems.

Some of the Key factors that can cause leaky gut include:

  • Stress and other negative emotions such as fear and anxiety causes stress hormones such as cortisol to be released. These stress hormones can break down out gut lining. For more information on gut health and emotions check out our article
  • Toxins such foods with arsenic, phytoestrogens, trans fats, pesticides and herbicides etc.
  • Difficult to diets food particles such as gluten
  • Certain drugs and medications especially prescription antibiotic drugs, birth control drugs and NSAIDs
  • Pathogens such as virus, candida, bacteria, fungus can eat away at the gut lining.

Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut

Biggest warning signs that you may have leaky gut.

  1. Loose stools
  2. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  3. Small intestine Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO)
  4. Celiac disease
  5. Food allergies/sensitivities
  6. Chronic inflammatory conditions
  7. Thyroid problems and diseases
  8. Autoimmune problems
  9. Depression or Anxiety
  10. Easily gain weight
  11. Migraine headaches
  12. Skin issues such as rosacea and eczema

It is important to note that you may have leaky gut but have no signs and symptoms and as identified above the health problem that you might be experiencing could be a direct result of your leaky gut. This is why getting to the root cause of the problem is so important as this can help provide the information that you need to put in an effective treatment approach.

Can you Test for Leaky Gut?

A health professional such as a naturopath doctor or nutritionist can reviewing your health issues and symptoms it can be identified that there is a high possibility that you have leaky gut however the only way you can test for leaky gut is by a Naturopathic doctor completing the test for the leaky gut marker called zonulin. If zonulin levels are high that means you have leaky gut.

How do you Treat Leaky Gut?

Here are 12 nutrition strategies to help provide your gut with the nutrients to help reduce inflammation,
support healthy gut flora and improve tissue healing of your gut lining.

  1. Eat lost of fruits and vegetables as this helps with feeding the healthy gut bacteria, that help to protect and nourish the cell walls of our gut.
  2. Fiber also helps with intestinal gut bacteria. So when people ate a large amounts of fruits and vegetables, legumes, lentils and whole grains research has shown that it can significantly reduce zonulin which is the marker to determine if you have leaky gut.
  3. Curcumin, the active component in turmeric can help reduce inflammation and intestinal damage. Check out our delicious turmeric hummus recipe which is a great way to enjoy eating more vegetables which also getting the benefits to turmeric.
  4. Reduce alcohol consumption as alcohol can wreak havoc on your gut wall.
  5. Consume zinc rich foods (cooked lentils, mushrooms, nuts) and zinc supplementation 3mg (protection) ca help protect and help heal intestinal lining.
  6. Consume bone broth as bone broth contains certain amino acids such as proline and glysine (both help to produce collagen which helps to repair tissue cells) and L Glutamine which also helps with tissue repair. Bone broth contains a variety of minerals to help support tissue repair of the gut lining. Do 8 ounces of bone broth twice a day. For more information about the health benefits of bone broth please check out this awesome article.
  7. Kefir or home-made yoghurt is rich in probiotics which help to crowd out pathogens such as yeast or bad bacteria, allowing a better environment for tissue repair to occur.
  8. Fermented vegetables such as coconut kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, contains a variety of probiotics (different from those in dairy yogurt and kefir) which help to support gut lining.
  9. Coconut oil contains certain acids such as capric, lauric and caprylic acid. These are medium chain triglycerides that help to kill off bad bacteria in the gut and are very easy to digest.
  10. Wild caught fish are loaded with omega 3 fats which is crucial for cooling down the inflammation in the gut. It is recommended that you consume oily fish such as salmon, tuna, pickerel and mackerel three times a week.
  11. Sprouted flax seeds are loaded with soluble fiber which helps to grow good bacteria in the gut. If you have a sensitive gut this might not be the greatest to start off with but if tolerated, you can put it in your smoothie or oatmeal or with unsweetened apple sauce. Consume 1 tablespoon a day.
  12. Avoid gluten found in many grains such as wheat, rye, and processed foods.


SUMMARY

Leaky gut has been well recognised in functional medicine and can be a root cause of many health problems. However, it is often overlooked in conventional medicine making treatment of certain health conditions more problematic since the root cause is not being addressed.

If you suspect that you have leaky gut, then please incorporate the nutrient strategies above. Adhering to a gut healing protocol with a supplementation program and incorporating stress management techniques will all help to support a healthy gut.