What So Sweet About Chocolate?

What So Sweet About Chocolate?

Maybe the reason it is the favorite flavor of America is because it tastes so good…chocolate, that is.

According to the National Day Calendar, the process of chocolate goes something like this:

Chocolate comes from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao, which has been cultivated for at least three millennia, is grown in Mexico, Central America and Northern South America. The earliest known documentation of using cacao seeds is from around 1100 BC.  The cacao tree seeds have a very intense, bitter taste that must be fermented to develop the flavor.

Once the seeds have been fermented, the beans are dried, cleaned and roasted.  After roasting, the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The cacao nibs are then ground into cocoa mass, which is pure chocolate in rough form.  The cocoa mass is usually liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients. At this point in the process, it is called chocolate liquor.  The chocolate liquor may then be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

But, here’s the sweetest part of it all – chocolate, in its purest form is actually good for you. Many think it’s an unhealthy guilty pleasure. However, if eaten without all of the additives that most manufacturers like to include in the ingredients, chocolate can actually be a health food. It’s high in iron, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, B, C and D.

Here are some facts:

Antioxidants: chocolate contains flavanol, a naturally occurring antioxidant with many heart healthy benefits including lowering blood pressure and reducing blood clotting. Besides flavanol, chocolate also contains many more powerful antioxidants, and according to health experts, may contain up to fifteen times more of these cell-protecting antioxidant compounds than blueberries!

Essential vitamins and minerals: Cacao beans are loaded with many essential vitamins and minerals the body needs to thrive. These include vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E along with magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.

When compared to other foods, cacao contains one of the highest amounts of magnesium—an essential mineral required by the body to maintain healthy muscle and nerve function, build strong bones, and keep our immune system strong.

Mood boosting propertiesThere’s a reason chocolate makes us smile. Resveratrol, an antioxidant found chocolate among other products contains mental health benefits including boosting levels of endorphins and serotonin in the brain helping to improve our mood.

So, this National Chocolate Day, you can have your chocolate and eat it, too! Go ahead…indulge. Just do me a favor…

Remember that it’s best to avoid overly processed chocolate that contains artificial flavoring and sweeteners. It’s easy to find them, especially around certain holidays of the year, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Opt for organic dark chocolate, whenever possible.

Cold and Flu-Fighting Breakfast…with a Twist

Cold and Flu-Fighting Breakfast…with a Twist

Maybe you are not sniffling, as yet, but cold and flu season is upon us. Just over 2 percent of Americans have had the flu so far this season and nearly 7 percent have caught a cold…typical numbers for October, according to Gallup. More like 8 to 10 percent of people will be sniffling come December and January.

However, you don’t have to be one of those Americans. Some extra-diligent hand washing and sufficient shut-eye can go a long way in keeping you healthy all season long. What’s more is an immunity-boosting diet. Simply start the morning off right with a tasty cold and flu-fighting breakfast.

First up…Citrus Fruit

Vitamin C is still a nutrient essential to staying healthy coming specifically from citrus fruits, such as the orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime. Papaya and kiwi pack even more of the crucial vitamin. You may even consider tossing in some cantaloupe, too.

Second…Red-Pepper Omelet

A cup of chopped red bell pepper contains 190 milligrams, which makes it a good source of vitamin C, as well – more than twice as much as an orange. They’re also rich in vitamin A, which aids the growth of mucosal cells, the first line of defense against bacteria trying to invade.

 

Last…Top It Off With Tea

Upping your liquid intake in general (although not from sugary drinks) can help thin mucus and a little steam is sure to bust congestion. Opt for a green variety of tea and you’ll have the added benefits of more concentrated antioxidants, in particular EGCG, which seems to fight off viruses for a stronger immune system.

4 Reasons to Celebrate Non-GMO Month

4 Reasons to Celebrate Non-GMO Month

Did you know that October is officially Non-GMO Month? For almost a decade this month, retail stores nationwide will celebrate the consumer’s right to be informed of foods and products that contain genetically modified organisms, aka GMOs.

What exactly are GMOs again?

GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are products of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE), which creates new combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes by combining DNA from one species with DNA from another. The result: new organisms that do not occur in nature.

GMOs are often not labeled as such. In many developed nations, GMO products are heavily restricted or banned altogether because they have yet to be proven safe for people’s health and the health of the environment. However, in the U.S. there is a dearth of public awareness of the potentially harmful repercussions of GMO products.

Here are four more reasons why you should celebrate Non-GMO Month this October and empower yourself to make the right decisions for you and your family.

1. Human Health

Currently, seed companies prohibit independent research with their products, leaving very little empirical data available.

2. Environmental and Animal Health

Genetically engineered crops can cause a variety of destructive problems on the surrounding environment. Farmers who use GMO crops can spray their fields to kill everything growing in the area except the specific GMO food crop. The increased use of pesticides and herbicides often leads to superweeds, which then become resistant to the same pesticides, creating the need for stronger, more toxic pesticides (that can leach into our food and water sources!).

3. Moral and Ethical Concerns

Some people question whether genetically altered crops and species threaten and violate the natural order of an environment. Also, genetic modification may involve the creation of foods that are prohibited by certain groups (e.g., the use of animal genes may conflict with some religions, as well as the diets of vegetarians and vegans).

4. Labeling Concerns

Whether you decide to limit or restrict your consumption of GMO products, the right to know what is in our food is important. Research has shown that many Americans would choose not to have GMO products if aware and given the choice.

When shopping for food, it’s a valuable practice to stop and ask yourself the basic question: Where does it all come from? It’s time for us to be food detectives.

Here are a few ways you may be able to consume fewer GMO products:

  • Buy produce and other food items from farmers’ markets.
  • Start conversations with the people selling your food to get more information.
  • Grow your own food in a garden at home or join a community garden.
  • Join a corporate garden or co-op to know where items are coming from.

To help you choose the right foods, look for the butterfly on your favorite products when you go shopping at your local grocery store. You may, also, download the Non-GMO Project Shopping Guide iPhone App.

How will you celebrate Non-GMO month?

Adapted by Joshua Rosenthal, IIN