Take A Different look At Chocolate, The Superfood Vegetable

Chocolate can be good for if it is the right kind of chocolate
Chocolate can be good for if it is the right kind of chocolate

Have you thought that your favourite vegetable might actually be chocolate? I have to admit it rates high on my list. Chocolate has been recognized as having health benefits for quite a while due to the wonderful antioxidants it contains, in fact more than any other fruit or vegetable. Raw cacao is an excellent source of antioxidants and has an extremely high ORAC score as one of the top antioxidant foods.

With Easter just around the corner I thought I would bring you a bit if happy news this week…Chocolate can be good for you! But only if it is the right kind.

 

Antioxidants In Chocolate

I’m pretty sure you have heard those media reports about how chocolate is a good source of flavonoids which have antioxidant activity. Well it is absolutely true, in particular epicatechin and resveratrol. But, there is quite a lot of confusion about just what makes good and bad chocolate so here are a few guidelines to help you make your Easter chocolate choices.

Chocolate comes from Theobroma Cacao beans which in their pure form are quite healthy. The name actually means “food of the Gods” and cacao is loaded with wonderful compounds, including magnesium which is a muscle relaxant that helps you feel calmer, and sulphur which helps build strong hair and nails.

Cacao pods
Cacao pods

Cocoa is made by grinding the cacao beans to a powder from which most of the fat is removed. Cocoa butter is the fat component of the seed, and chocolate is the sweet that is made from the roasted seeds. If the sweet is made from seeds that are not roasted then it is ‘raw chocolate’ and like most other vegetables, ‘raw’ chocolate is much healthier than the version made from roasted beans.

Chocolate has a long therapeutic history. Originating in South and Central America it was originally drunk as a bitter drink to bring energy and vitality and bore little resemblance to the sweet, sticky versions that we love today.

Chocolate when consumed in a way that is closer to the traditional ways still provides wonderful benefits. The Kuna people of Panama, for example, consume up to 40 cups of cocoa a week and have less than a ten percent risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. Compare this to the risk of developing these diseases here in Australia and other parts of the Western world where they are the most prevalent of diseases. There are a number of studies that have shown that eating chocolate can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke significantly, as well as lowering insulin resistance, reducing blood pressure and LDL’s.

However, this benefit only occurs if you eat the right amount – too little or too much leads to no benefit or even to problems. It seems that eating small amounts at frequent intervals gives the best result.

 

Benefits Of Chocolate

Here are some of the benefits chocolate can offer:

  • Anti-inflammatory action
  • Free radical protection
  • Decreases stress hormones
  • Improves the mood
  • Reduces cortisol levels
  • Heart health
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Help reduce blood clot formation
  • Liver protection
  • Eases PMS
  • May help control appetite & stop cravings
  • Improves insulin resistance
  • Improve gastrointestinal flora
  • Contribute to chelation
  • Reduces the risk of colon cancer
  • Neuroprotective
  • Boost memory and cognitive function & lower Alzheimers rise

 

WHAT MAKES A GOOD CHOCOLATE?

Most commercial chocolates are highly processed foods, which combine roasted cacao beans with various amounts of sugar, milk, fat and other ingredients. In many the flavonoids are removed because they taste bitter, but they are where the health benefits originate so removing them also drastically reduces the health benefits.

Basically, the higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the more bitter the flavor and the darker the color. A dark chocolate with at least 75% cacao is likely to offer most health benefits as the concentration of antioxidants will not be overwhelmed by the sweeteners and fats. Those Bittersweet chocolates are the way to go.

The sweeter the chocolate the less the health benefit….  

Organic raw cacao is the best way to eat your chocolate if you want all the antioxidants. So search out chocolate products that are both made from this and not heavily sweetened.

 

Unhealthy Chocolate

When you select your chocolate try and choose ones that avoid these ingredients:

  • Chocolates sweetened with cane sugar, fructose or high fructose corn syrup, and especially artificial sweeteners. Instead look for chocolate sweetened with honey or stevia which are much better choices. Coconut sugar is a low GI option if you do not have any problem with fructose.
  • Genetically engineered cocoa beans (GMO). If the chocolate is certified organic it won’t contain GMO ingredients, but most other chocolate does.
  • The right type of fat in chocolate is OK because it slows down sugar absorption. The best is cocoa butter, which is what occurs in the cacao plant. Coconut oil would be the next best fat. Make sure to avoid soy oil, vegetable oils and trans fats.

And by the way, WHITE chocolate is heavily sweetened and has NONE of the phytonutrients.

 

WHY WE LOVE CHOCOLATE SO MUCH

Have you wondered why eating some sorts of chocolate can make you feel so good? Cacao also contains the ‘bliss’ chemical anandamide which leads to feelings of excitement and alertness in our body, and improves your mood and reduces depression. Unlike caffeine, Anandamide is not addictive and does not have the side-effects of many drugs.

One compound in chocolate that may be a problem is theobromine which stimulates the central nervous system and dilates blood vessels. It has about 25% of the stimulating power of caffeine, and like caffeine it is a mild diuretic. But in some people theobromine can cause them to feel hyped-up which is then followed by lethargy. In others it causes headaches.

Hot Chocolate

An average cup of coffee contains up to 175milligrams of caffeine which is about what there is in a 50gram piece of dark chocolate. In comparison a cup of hot chocolate has only about 4-5 milligrams of caffeine, substantially lower than coffee. But some scientists believe that chocolate does not actually contain caffeine and that it is the theobromine that causes the caffeine-like responses. Theobromine is also the component that makes chocolate so dangerous for dogs, because they lack the enzymes needed to metabolize it.

I have a new favourite Raw cacao treat. It is Loving Earth’s ‘Organic Single Origin Drinking Chocolate’. It is made from raw cacao and raw chocolate, but it is sweetened, although it is with coconut sugar which is one of the better forms of sugar.

I heard of an awesome idea for this healthy breakfast for Chocoholics the other day from David Wolfe. How about a chocolate smoothie?

Superfood Smoothie

  • Fill your blender with water, coconut water, orange juice or tea (or a mix).
  • Blend in some spirulina powder and gogi berries.
  • If you live anywhere in the world other than Australia or New Zealand add some hemp seed protein powder (incredibly it is still illegal in both those countries) If you live in Australia or NZ you could add some ground flax, chia or pumpkin seeds instead.
  • Add some chocolate (raw cacao powder would be perfect) and some cacao nibs for extra yum.

And there you have it….A SUPERFOOD SMOOTHIE for chocoholics

One thing I used to love before I went Dairy-Free was Chocolate Mousse, so I was delighted when I first found this easy recipe (which is also vegan) that combines a few superfoods on the Australian Permaculture website.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

  • Scoop the flesh from 2-3 avocados into the blender
  • Add 1 heaped tablespoon of raw cacao, a small handful of cacao nibs (optional) and around ½ cup of coconut palm sugar (or substitute another sweetening agent of your liking.)
  • Add a splash of vanilla essence and pour in enough water to cover the ingredients
  • Blend in short bursts. Some more water may be needed to be added to ensure the mousse draws down and is properly blended.
  • Pour into a bowl or jug (depending on thickness, if it is thicker a bowl is better) and serve

 

FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE

In case you are wondering about why you should only ever buy Fair Trade Chocolate take a look at this film from The CNN Freedom Project about the slave trade that exists in the cacao industry.  Fair Trade chocolate isn’t perfect but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

So go ahead and indulge your love of Fair Trade chocolate, in small amounts, with a dark organic variety, preferably with no added sugar. Look for Raw Cacao in the ingredient list, and avoid all those sweet, milky varieties – they are not good at all!

What do you think, will you be adding this superfood to your eating plan?

Go ahead and enjoy some raw organic chocolate
Go ahead and enjoy some raw organic chocolate

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles:

http://www.naturalnews.com/022610_cacao_chocolate_raw.html

http://www.chocolate.org/health/chocprescribe.html

http://www.livestrong.com/dark-chocolate-health-benefits/

http://www.facts-about-chocolate.com/where-does-chocolate-come-from/

http://www.foodmatters.tv/articles-1/chocolate-can-be-good-for-you-at-the-right-dose

www.thesweetbeet.com/hemp-seeds

Why Tattoos Are A Health Risk (And How To Rectify The Damage)

Almost everyone has a tattoo these days, or has at the very least least considered getting one. We hear about the danger tattoos pose from infection and so on, but how many people ever consider the danger presented by toxic substances in the ink itself. Heavy metals, many of which are highly dangerous to humans, are used in many tattoo inks for colour. While we need small amounts of some like iron or zinc, in large quantities or under constant exposure even they are dangerous. Others like mercury, arsenic or cadmium are highly toxic in any amount and can lead to cancer, birth defects and many other health issues. When ink is left under the skin in a tattoos it basically means the body is exposed to these nasty toxins all the time.

This is a great article that was posted by Jess Ainscough on her blog, the Wellness Warrior , which I followed. Unfortunately the blog has now been taken down. Even though I like to write my own articles I think this is one that’s an absolute must to read.

tattoo ink toxins


I’m well aware that this post is probably going to make me pretty unpopular – especially among my tattoo-loving group of friends, but if I’m able to get just a few people to re-think getting inked, I’m doing my job.

Once upon a time I was desperate to get a tattoo. All of my friends started getting them when we were in high school and I thought it was tantrum-worthy unfair that my parents wouldn’t let me join them. I felt so inadequate with my bare lower back. Turns out my folks were right. I still think that the right kind of tattoo can look great, but these days I put my health above the temporary glee of such aesthetics.

This post isn’t about the horror stories associated with dodgy tattoos. I’m not concerned with writing about damage done by unqualified artists, infections, or allergic reactions. I’m more interested in filling you on just what you’re putting into your body when you get a tattoo, and what this does for your health.

Our skin is our largest organ, and anything that you apply to your skin is absorbed straight into your blood stream. So, everything found in a tattoo ends up in your system.


Toxins In Tattoo Ink

Way back in the day, traditional tribal tattoo marks were made using dyes from the natural environment. This is certainly not the case any more. While it’s near impossible to say what’s in all tattoo inks (they are all different, and disclosure of ingredients is not actually enforced), it’s safe to say that most colours of standard tattoo ink are derived from heavy metals.

Mercury = red ink
Lead = yellow, green, white ink
Cadmium = red, orange, yellow ink
Nickel = black ink
Zinc= yellow, white ink
Chromium = green ink
Cobalt = blue ink
Aluminium = green, violet ink
Titanium = white ink
Copper = blue, green ink
Iron = brown, red, black ink
Barium = white ink

Other compounds used as pigments include antimony, arsenic, beryllium, calcium, lithium, selenium, and sulphur.

Tattoo ink manufacturers typically blend the heavy metal pigments and/or use lightening agents (such as lead or titanium) to reduce production costs.

 

Danger Of Heavy Metals 

Heavy Metals bind in our bodies and are incredibly difficult to remove. They cause damage on a cellular level and contribute to cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and diseases of the kidneys, circulatory system, and nervous system.

Then there’s the carrier solution, which most likely contains harmful substances such as denatured alcohols, methanol, rubbing alcohol, antifreeze, detergents, or formaldehyde and other highly toxic aldehydes.

 

Avoid Tattoo Ink Toxins

1. Stop getting tattoos.
2. If you’re a tattoo lover, ask to be decorated in high-quality vegan, organic inks and quiz the tattoo artist about the ingredients in the ink. Be adamant that you do not want ink containing heavy metals. Do your research first!
3. Start detoxifying those heavy metals.

I’m working on a more thorough blog post about heavy metal detoxification soon (this is something both my mum and I have had to do), but for now, here are some tips:

+ Add chlorella to your green smoothies.
+ Eat clay every morning.
+ Eat and juice coriander (aka cilantro).
+ Eat chia seeds.
+ Eat aloe vera.
+ Sweat on a daily basis – far infrared saunas are great for this.

So, there you go. I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Does this info make you think twice about getting a tattoo? Or is your love of ink just too strong? Tell me in the comments below – just please be nice. I’m simply the messenger, so put down that rifle.

Before you go, take a look at my friend and her amazing, beautiful “non-tattooed” body art…

Gorgeous Body Art
Gorgeous Body Art

 

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

 

Plastic Bombastic – Not Fantastic

The new school year is here and thousands of children are heading off to school each day with packed lunches
The new school year is here and thousands of children are heading off to school each day with packed lunches

Making school lunches can be a bit of a nightmare. Every mother wants to send their children off to school with a healthy lunch (even if occasionally they succumb to outside pressure and include unhealthy snacks such as potato chips). Lots of children are now known to have reactions to certain foods and many schools impose limitations on the inclusion of certain foods, and of course this limits choices. There is lots of advice and suggestions around about school lunches and it is very easy to find ideas for healthy lunch boxes.

But in addition to what the children actually eat there is also the question of how to package it. With the new school year beginning this week and thousands of children heading off to school each day with lunches packed into plastic boxes and wrapped tightly in plastic cling film now is again the right time to revisit the question of the dangers on the kids health of chemicals leaching out of the plastic and into the food.

The issue is not whether chemicals will leach from the packaging into the food, but how much

Over the last few years the media has widely covered the impact on babies of Bisphenol A, or BPA as it is commonly known, used in the production of babies bottles with the result that there are now BPA-free baby bot

tles available. But not much is said about the danger of other plastics, even though research has made the dangers well known.

Plastics deserve their bad name! There have been numerous studies showing the adverse effects of plastics – in particular PVC, polycarbonate and polystyrene which contain the chemicals DEHP, Bisphenol A (BPA) and nonylphenol, all xeno-oestrogens.

The problem with xeno-oestrogens, such as BPA, is that they alter hormones. They have been linked to breast and testicular cancer, infertility, early puberty, reproductive delays, obesity and diabetes, as well as being found to lower the ability of your immune system to respond to inflammation. BPA has even been found to be linked to behavioural and emotional problems in pre-schoolers. The danger from BPA is even greater for babies and children because they seem to be sensitive to even tiny amounts. Boys in particular are susceptible to the hormone altering effects.

These toxic chemicals not only occur in plastics. They are present across our environment and are found everywhere from the lining of metal food cans, to the detergents in cleaning products, dental sealants and composites, pesticides and even baby bottles.

Let’s break it down a bit

  • Many chemicals found in plastics alter hormones in the body and lead to illness of the reproductive system and other diseases.
  • Harmful chemicals are found in all manner of plastic products and are more likely to be there than not. Some plastics are not so dangerous
  • There is lots of evidence of BPA leaching from the epoxy lining of cans holding food and beverage. Even cans certified “organic” leach BPA.
  • Chemicals leach out of plastics faster when they are in contact with fatty, salty or acidic foods like meat, milk or tomatoes.
  • Chemicals leach out faster when the plastic is heated. NEVER heat food or drinks in plastic, and be very wary of unintentional heating like water bottles left in a warm car.
  • Some plastics are safer than others. The number of the type of plastic will be on the bottom of the container. The ones to avoid are #1 (PET or PETE polyethylene terephthalate), #3 (PVC polyvinyl chloride), #6 (PS polystyrene), #7 (all other types of plastics). Some labeled with #7 are safe and some unsafe but you can’t be sure which it is. One of the unsafe ones is polycarbonate (PC) which is used in baby bottles.

What plastics are safer?

Some safer plastics to use are:

#2 HDPE (high density polyethylene) – a hard plastic used for many food containers as well as some toys,

shopping bags packaging, plus lots more. It is more stable than most other plastics and does not leach out endocrine disrupting chemicals. It is also easy to recycle.

#4 LDPE (low density polyethylene) – a soft plastic used in bags, squeezable bottles, cling films. It is safer but not recyclable, unlike #2

#5 Polypropylene (PP) – used for rigid containers like ice-cream containers, plus many other items. It is thought to be free from known hazards but again, is not recyclable.

These do not give you a huge choice and also need to be balanced up with the damage that non-recyclable plastics do to our environment.

It is really safer and more responsible to avoid using plastic .

Paper bags - an alternative to plastic lunch boxes
Paper bags – an alternative to plastic lunch boxes

Simple ways to make changes

  • Use paper bags for school lunches – safe and recyclable
  • School lunch can be wrapped in greaseproof paper (at your supermarket) or one of the re-useable wraps now available. Look for them at Onya or 4MyEarth
  • Store food in glass, unglazed ceramics and stainless steel which are the safest containers for food storage. .
  • Get a good quality stainless steel drink bottle for you and your children and avoid plastic water bottles or juice boxes
  • Avoid lunch boxes made from PVC (#3) and polycarbonate (#7) as food left sitting in these could be harming your kids
  • Never heat food or liquids in plastic containers (not even if they are made of safer plastics)
  • Take your own containers for take-away foods and avoid having hot food sitting in plastic containers
  • Don’t use cling wrap in the microwave – harmful chemicals leach out
  • If you need to store food and drinks in plastic then choose one of the safer ones
  • Only use plastics if they have a recycling symbol on the bottom so you know it is not harmful, or else you could call the manufacturer to find out what type of plastic it is
  • Glass is the only safe option for baby bottles
  • Don’t store foods like meat, tomato-based meals or cheese wrapped in cling wrap or any plastic.
  • Avoid canned foods wherever you can – look for glass instead.

If you do make the change away from plastic containers and food wraps, not only will you be protecting your family’s health you will also be making a significant contribution towards a cleaner planet, where vast quantities of plastics in landfill and our oceans pose a huge problem.

Vast quantities of plastics in landfill and our oceans pose a huge problem
Vast quantities of plastics pose a huge problem to our health as well as in landfill and our oceans

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles:

http://www.naturalnews.com/041912_BPA_fetal_exposure_contamination.html#ixzz2dxplBmpG

http://www.buildingbiology.com.au/index.php/Biology/Plastics.html http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/16/practical-options-to-store-your-food-without-contaminating-them-with-plastics.aspx

http://welladjustedbabies.com/the-wrap-on-plastic-food-wrap

http://www.emagazine.com/blog/bpa-free

http://www.ecolife.com/blog/food-health/plastic-food-wrap.html