Why Is Chocolate Good For You?

First, a little history lesson. The Latin name for chocolate, Theobroma cacao, was first named by the famous botanist Carl von Linné. Theobroma literally translates as food for the gods, while cacao is similar to the names the people of Mesoamerica were using, such as ka-kaw. According to anthropologists, cacao was first used about four thousand years ago. In fact, we can see how important the Mesoamerican natives considered this food by the way it was emphasized in ritualistic traditions.

When the Spanish crusaders came to Mesoamerica in the 15th Century, they were initially greeted as guests of the Mayan and Aztec emperors. The crusaders could observe how servants of the emperor whisked up a brown drink made of cacao with a range of spices added to it, which was then consumed by the emperor frequently throughout the day. The traditional cocoa drink was bitter, and resembled coffee. When the crusaders, Columbus included, tried to drink this, they were quite disgusted by the bitter and spicy taste. Nonetheless, they brought the strange cacao plant back to Spain and Portugal.

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Due to high taxes in Spain and Portugal, for a while, only nobility could afford to consume cacao, infused with cane sugar and honey to make it palatable. Later, it was sold as a medicinal drink, well-known for its aphrodisiac-like effect. Interestingly, Spain and Portugal managed to keep chocolate a secret from the rest of Europe for a long time. Only in late 17th century did chocolate become accessible to the rest of Europe, and its popularity quickly caught on.

Now, moving past the hitory of chocolate, and reflecting on culture and wellness today, we can ask – Is chocolate good for you? And is all chocolate created equal? When we go to the supermarket and stand in line to pay for our healthy organic vegetables and produce, we encounter rows upon rows of enticing packaging and varieties. Sometimes it requires a LOT of will power not to suddenly find your arm uncontrollably reaching out for that dark chocolate with caramel and chili.

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While cacao itself has a whole range of beneficial effects to our health, I would say eating a Mars bar, lathered in sugars and refined products is definitely not healthy. In contrast to the healthy natural cacao, chocolate bars contain foods that are both addictive and unhealthy. The refined sugar in such products will directly and indirectly trigger the dopamine surge, giving you a rewarding feeling, the feeling of wanting more, while the sugar and dairy will also increase inflammation. In this form, chocolate becomes a complex food, making it hard to digest, and therefore further promote gut dysbiosis and inflammation.

Now, we then come into the subject of quality. The better quality of chocolate, the better it is in general. So, having a chocolate bar that is comprised of raw cocoa, with little or no sugar and no dairy is generally a very healthy choice. What is interesting is how healthy chocolate bars are popping up in the grocery stores. I have also advised many patients to substitute the dairy chocolate, with healthier choices, which has many beneficial effects, including lower inflammation, and easier weight reduction.

Chocolate is considered to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, but what is most interesting about chocolate is that it contains particularly high amounts of antioxidants. Some research say that chocolate contain higher amounts of antioxidants than any other berry, including acai and blueberries. This was measured according to the ORAC score, measuring the capacity to mop up the inflammation promoting free radicals, thereby reduce inflammation.

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So, what are the health benefits of chocolate? Here is a list of the medicinal properties of good quality chocolate:

  • Improves blood flow, by relaxing the tension in the blood vessel walls through the production of nitric oxide.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Reduces oxidized LDL cholesterol and other free radicals (Due to its high antioxidant and ORAC score).
  • Helps prevent and manage insulin resistance, thereby balancing the blood sugar level.
  • Improves brain function, by boosting the circulation to the brain and enhancing the neural connections in the brain. Also, chocolate contain theobromine (a form of caffeine found in cocoa beans, only weaker), which then can stimulate the mind.
  • Improves the feel-good experience, by boosting dopamine and prevent breakdown of anadamide (also known as the “bliss chemical”). Some research say that some of this mood stimulating effect comes from the highly palatable taste of chocolate.
  • Lowers the risk of heart disease. Regular consumption of cacao has shown to lower risk of heart disease by 1/3.
  • Significantly lowers the risk of stroke.
  • Improves athletic performance, by boosting the blood circulation and lower the viscosity of the blood (meaning that blood flows more easily). Also, chocolate contain good amounts of magnesium, which is very important for muscle function and regeneration.
  • Treats obesity and make you stay slim.
  • Because it is bitter, it has a lot of beneficial effects for the gut flora and the digestion. (Bitter herbs are commonly used to treat gut related disorders.)

So, do not feel guilty about eating chocolate. Rather focus on getting good quality of chocolate. For chocolate bars, having cocoa content between 70- 85 % is generally the best. And if you feel particularly adventurous, you can attempt to make your own chocolate.

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So, how do you make your own chocolate version, you ask? Here is a suggestion – let´s make a delicious cup of hot chocolate.  Note that you will need either bars of good quality chocolate (like Valhrona) or chocolate powder (do not use cacao powder as the quality is much worse), a milk substitute (coconut milk or almond milk (unsweetened) and spices such as cinnamon, vanilla or nutmeg.

How to make a cup of hot chocolate:

  1. Heat up the nutmilk in a pot.
  2. Add the chocolate bars or chocolate powder, and stir until it has completely dissolved in the milk.
  3. Then stir in the spices, and heat up the milk again.
  4. If you want a frothier hot chocolate, you could try to add the liquid in the blender and pulse for a few seconds.
  5. Alternatively, you could try hot matcha chocolate. Here you put about ¼ – ½ tsp. high quality matcha powder in a cup, add a small amount of the hot nutmilk, and stir until dissolved, add in some more nutmilk and whisk until frothy. Add this to the hot chocolate.

The idea here is to experiment. There is no absolute rule, although if you use better quality chocolate, you will get a richer chocolate taste. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

10 Secrets To A Healthy Mind

Here are a few tips on how to generally have a healthier and more positive mind:

  1. Healthy gut = Healthy mind. Having a healthy gut increases the likelihood of having a healthy mind. This becomes clearer when we see that about 90 percent of the serotonin in the body is created in the intestines. Recent research has focused on the gut flora, and how this can affect the mind, but we are just at the brink of understanding how this works.
  2. Breathe! In our day and age we tend to surround ourselves with a lot of stimuli and keep ourselves very busy.. Too much of these stimuli can make us feel wary and overstressed. I therefore believe that it is important to balance this activity with stimulating the calming part of our nervous system. In technical terms this is to balance the sympathetic (activating) and the parasympathetic (calming) nervous system. Even though it’s good to have some stimulation to the activating nervous system, too much and chronic stimuli may cause significant stress. This can lead to a range of both mental and physical ailments, including anxiety, depression, fatigue and so on. A good preventative measure is to focus on the parasympathetic nervous system and keep this calming part of the nervous system in good shape. To achieve a better stimuli to the parasympathetic nervous system you should consider breathing exercises, meditation, or the practices of qi gong, tai chi, and yoga. Even getting a good nights sleep is very good to give a proper boost to the calming nervous system.Man nature
  3. Exercise consistently. Researchers at Duke University discovered that regular exercise is better that anti-depressants in treating anxiety and depression, and in fact, people who worked out encountered fewer relapses. It is speculated that one reason for this is that during exercise we see a controlled increase in the stress hormone cortisol, and enable the body to release locked up stress in the body. This will leave the body and mind more relaxed after a good workout.
  4. Be more social. A study at Harvard University showed that being more isolated increased the risk of depression, and consequently shrinkage of parts of the brain, primarily the hippocampus. Being more social further showed an increase in neuronal enrichment, and therefore increased the capacity for learning new things.play
  5. Eat less junk. Even though eating simple sugars have shown to increase insulin, and consequently serotonin, ingestion of refined sugar have shown an addictive behavior in the consumer (rodent study showed that they preferred sucrose water to cocaine), leading to higher intake of sugar and sweeteners. Bear in mind, alcohol is also considered a sugar, and can also have a detrimental effect on ones mind, if used excessively. An increase in the intake of simple sugars and refined starches leads to a range of negative effects on the body, primarily by leading to higher amount of inflammation. In the brain there may be an increased neurological inflammation, due to a buildup of free radicals (waste particles). There is now evidence that this can be linked with neurological conditions such as Alzheimers Disease, a debilitating disease where Amyloid plaques build up in the brain, leading to the number one reason for dementiafood clean
  6. Be positive. According to the Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto, being and thinking positive will have positive effects on ones surroundings. He discovered this though extensive research on how our water reacts to various words, by creating specific crystals for that particular word/emotion. I find the most interesting of his studies is the discovery that if you place two identical bowls of rice next to each other, and on one bowl have the word “Love” on it, and the other have “Hate” written on it, you will see something interesting after a few days. The bowl of rice with the word “Love” stays the same, but the bowl of rice with the word “Hate” will start to rot. I think this just sighifies how important it is to keep a positive attitude, as it affects both yourself and the ones you surround yourself with.
  7. Be kinder to yourself. By being kinder to yourself and allowing room for error you will generally be happier. We have a tendency to judge ourselves with negative criticism. By giving yourself a slack, and not be so hard on yourself, this will have a can good effect on your own happiness.girls-1487825_1920
  8. The healing sounds. Listening to music can have a profound and direct effect on your mind. Listening to that tune you just love, can make your endorphins going through the roof. Even just listening to nature sounds have a soothing effect on your mind.
  9. Get rid of the excess clutter. I believe that to have less clutter surrounding you will have a lightening effect on your mind. Marie Kondo has written a very good book on how to clear your environment of clutter, called “The Life-changing magic of tidying up”.
  10. Happiness. Even seeing images of happy people is in it self enough to lift your spirit. Also, to regularly laugh and smile is very good for your mental health.

Why Ghee Is Good For You

If you love Indian food, like I do, I am sure you have heard about ghee, or clarified butter. Many tend to consider this to be unhealthy, but I dare to challenge that.

In this time and age, we have become very afraid of everything that contains fat, and fat reduced foods are reckoned to be the healthier option. The problem occurs when you remove the (tasty) fats from the foods, you are left with a very bland food, and therefore have to substitute with even more sugar and refined starches to make it edible.

I dare say that fats are good for you. Saturated fats contain good amounts of energy. Problems arises when you ingest too much of it, and especially with large amounts of refined starches and sugars. If you look at epidemiological studies, and compare it with our food trends, you will see that after we started eating less fats and more starches, the obesity rate went up. There are many reasons for obesity, but what I will say is that solely reducing saturated fats is not the way to go to cure people from this epidemic that is causing so many health issues down the line.

So what is Ghee? In short, ghee is butter that has been clarified, meaning you remove the dairy proteins and lactose, and are left with only fat. What is interesting about the fat in ghee and butter is that it is the richest food source of small chain (saturated) fatty acids you can get hold of. This fat is the main fuel for intestinal cells, primarily in the colon. Granted, this can also be produced from bacteria breaking down starches called Fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS), from foods such as Jerusalem artichokes and Chicory, but still I consider ingesting good amounts of small chain fatty acids to be very good to preserve good intestinal health.

Ghee also contain great amounts of medium chain fatty acids, almost to the same extent as coconut oil. You may have heard about all the health benefits of coconut oil, but I think it is less commonly known that ghee have many similar health benefits. Medium chain fatty acids are considered to give the body, muscles and mind a great boost of energy.

Ghee and butter contain quite a bit of cholesterol, but studies have shown that the cholesterol we ingest doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in cholesterol in the blood, but rather work as fuel, and conversion to other essential hormones in the body including cortisol and the sexual hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Too low ingestion of cholesterol could also be a health risk.

I am not saying that you should start eating huge amounts of ghee from now on, just that this food is in many ways considered a healthy option. Also, for people suffering from lactose intolerance and dairy protein intolerance (make sure there are no traces of dairy protein in the ghee) this clarified butter can be a great food source in your cuisine. Besides, when cooking with ghee, the amount of saturated fats renders this fat very stable, and is from my point of view the best oil you can use for high heating.

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There are many ways to make ghee. The easiest is to just take a block of butter (preferably from grass fed cows) in a pot, heat it up slowly, and after a few minutes when the butter has melted the fat goes up and the dairy protein and lactose falls as sediment to the bottom of the pot. It is now safe to pour the oil over in another container, careful not to get any of the sediment with you. If you want a ghee with a smoother texture, you can try to add olive oil to it. Otherwise, it works perfect on itself.

Enjoy!

Tips To Improve Your Eating Habbits

Here are some simple tips I generally advice patients so that they have a better and healthier diet:

  • Start the day with a fresh lemon/limewater. Simply squeeze 1/2 a lemon/lime in a glass of cold to lukewarm water, and drink this on an empty stomach. For those suffering from lack of energy, adding 1/2-1 teaspoon of raw, unprocessed honey is also good.
  • Drink some fresh juice on an empty stomach for an extra cleanse and energy boost. Any fresh vegetables will do, including cucumber, celery, wheatgrass.
  • Drink plenty of clean water, about 2 liters daily. Try to substitute some of the coffee/tea and other beverages with drinking clean water. Your body will thank you for it!

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  • Chew your food thoroughly, and do not stress when you are eating.
  • For a poor digestion it is wise to add some bitter herbs/vegetables in the beginning of a meal. Simply eat a fresh salad, with the additions of herbs such as rucola, dandelion, watercress and many more.

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  • In between meal snack I would advice eating nuts and seeds. For even better effect it is best to soak the nuts in water overnight. Then digestion of the nuts will be far better, and you get more out of eating them. Also, cutting up some vegetables and have it with a nice dip is a good snack in the middle of the day.
  • Skip the snacks that are overtly processed, salty, greasy such as chips and cookies. Focus on less processed foods. Rule of thumb is that what is fresh or home made is much better that what has been pre-packaged.
  • Limit intake of refined sugar since ingestion of pure white sugar have shown detrimental effects on peoples health, primarily linked to increased inflammation. Rather substitute refined sugar with some honey, maple syrup, stevia, yacon syrup, lucuma or dried fruits such as dates and figs. Remember, less is more in terms of these sugars!
  • If you really want to boost you gut functioning I would recommend adding fermented foods such as sauerkraut to your diet. This is great to help assimilate and absorb the food you eat even better.

Bon apetit!

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The Secret Power of Honey

Honey can be considered the edible gold, due to all its medicinal properties. Honey have been part of peoples diet since the ancient times. While excavating the great pyramids in Egypt, archaeologists recently discovered jars of honey in an old tomb dating back 3000 years, and the honey was still perfectly edible.  That means that due to many of the medicinal properties in honey, it can virtually last forever.

Honey comes from the laborious process of bees assimilating pollen from the flowers in the area. To make one pound of honey,  it is estimated that around 60.000 bees have collected pollen from about 2 million flowers! That is a lot of hard work, which I think is also good to be mindful of when consuming honey.

 

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In this article we will discuss the various healing benefits of honey, which are:

  • Reduce allergy symptoms to pollen. By eating a daily dose of honey, you also ingest trace amounts of pollen. Therefore ingesting honey on a regular basis, and at least several months before the pollen season starts, can be an effective way to reduce allergy symptoms to pollen. Additional tip: I would recommend using honey from your region for optimal effect, as the pollen in the honey comes from where you live.
  • Treat wounds to speed up the healing. Honey has long been considered a good remedy to treat woulds, dating back to the teachings of Aristotle. When you cut your skin, I would advice to put a bit of honey in the wound. This will speed up the recovery time of the healing. Recent discovery have found even better effect upon using a particular honey called Manuka Honey for this purpose. Further research have also found a healing factor, and the reason why this is so effective in treating wounds. At the time I am writing this, it is uncertain what this ingredient is, so it is simply called the “Unique Manuka Factor” (UMF).
  • Treatment of stomach ulcers. Here also Manuka Honey comes out as the most effective, as it has shown effect in killing the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, which are commonly causing stomach ulcers. Honey in general is good for the stomach lining, so therefore all honey is beneficial. Honey can therefore also help treating gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD) and soothe acid reflux and heartburn.
  • Treat herpes breakouts. If honey is applied directly on sores, it can have a healing effect. The reason for this healing effect is as with wounds, that it heals the mucosal lining and helps treating microorganism. Also, honey contain a bit of hydrogen peroxide, which further cleanses the wound.
  • Energy enhancer. Honey can be used to boost ones vitality. Honey is useful to give a boost when one feels fatigued. Ingestion of honey right before, during or right after a workout session can increase athletic performance.
  • Cough suppressant and treat sinusitis problems
  • Sleep inducer. The simple sugars in honey causes your insulin level to rise, which then elevates the neurotransmitter serotonin. This, in turn, converts to melatonin (also called the sleep-inducing hormone)honey-823614_1280
  • Treats a dry and itchy scalp. Honey has anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties, and therefore works well for an itchy scalp. To help with these matters, apply a diluted solution of honey and water to the hair and scalp, and leave for a few hours, before rinsing it out. Honey can also be great as a conditioner, as it moisturizes your hair.
  • Anti-fungal and digestive aid. Evidence have shown that honey have anti-fungal properties. Therefore, daily consumption of honey can be a great supplement as a digestive aid
  • Treat acne. Honey contain humectants that acts as moisturizer on your skin, and at the same time kills bacteria that causes acne. For best effect, leave raw, unprocessed honey on the skin affected with acne, and rinse off after 30 minutes.
  • Hangover cure. Honey helps to speed up the oxidation of alcohol in the liver, and at the same time gives you an energy boost. Try adding turmeric and lots of fresh water, and you will get back in shape in no time.
  • Boost libido. Honey is a natural aphrodisiac, and therefore good to boost ones desires in the bedroom. According to Hippocrates, intake of honey will increase your sex drive.

To boost ones energy, I recommend as a morning routine of lemonwater with honey.  In Ayurveda there is also a healing elixir called Golden Milk, a healing tea that is made by adding turmeric, honey, almond milk, and pepper to hot water and let it simmer for 10 minutes. This has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties for a good night’s sleep.

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