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Monday, September 6, 2010

Foods with Health Benefits

Everyday I see articles online and on the news about foods with antioxidants. Sometimes I feel skeptical and wonder if these are true since it seems like some foods are fads: you hear good things about certain foods and next thing you know, there are bad reviews and are told to limit consumption of certain foods.

There are certain things in the human diet that I have believed for a long time that they are beneficial to us. Some of these foods are European traditions in my family, but for the most part I do believe for personal reasons that certain foods and spices are good for you.



Cocoa


I truly believe that cocoa and dark chocolate are good for you. Not only because I personally feel happy after consuming chocolatey goodness, but I believe that cocoa has great health benefits. Cocoa has a chemical called phenylethylamine which has a mood elevating effect somewhat akin to amphetamine type substances.

Cocoa has health benefits from flavonoids, which are plant pigments capable of acting as antioxidants to counteract some of the cellular damage that can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Cocoa powder has also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow in humans. Studies have shown that a cup of cocoa has almost three times the antioxidants of a cup of green tea.

Things to consider: cocoa is best 100% natural with no additives. Also when buying dark chocolate, you need to look at the ingredients and buy chocolate with little to no sugar and as natural as possible.



Green Tea


I love green tea. Warms me up and I feel good after I drink it. Green tea has helped settle my stomach for years now and I have been known to drink a large pot per day. Researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol. Just another reason to drink up!

Also, researchers believe that green tea helps with weight loss. I am a little skeptical of this, but I can see why it can work because of the caffeine.

Things to consider: if you are sensitive to caffeine, this might not be the drink for you. Even though I am sensitive to coffee, I can still drink green tea and never had a problem drinking a lot.



Cinnamon


I love cinnamon! I have used it for years in my foods like oatmeal and apple sauce. Back in the day I had no idea that cinnamon had great health benefits. My mother has used cinnamon for years in her baking :)

Cinnamon is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium. It has also been shown to decrease bad cholesterol and has an anti-clotting affect on the blood. In a study published by researchers in the U.S., cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. Several studies suggest that cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.

This makes me happy that I have always used this spice most of my life!

Things to consider: if you are not used to this spice, it can be very strong so use sparingly.



Red Wine


I have grown up with red wine always at the table. It is not uncommon for Europeans to pour a little red wine for their children. It is a normal event at almost every European family household. When I was in France, it was very common to have a small glass of red wine at lunch and dinner and I never noticed anyone in my family to ever go overboard with their consumption.

One of the well-known and most studied benefits of red wine is its heart protective effect. Light consumption of red wine on a regular basis may be a preventative against coronary heart disease. Scientists believe the red wine reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and boosting high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Red wine produces an anticlotting action by thinning out the blood and light to moderate consumers of wine have lower levels of protein fibrinogen which promotes blood clot formation.

There is also evidence that red wine consumption helps lower blood pressure for people with hypertension. Also researchers found that resveratrol, a red wine polyphenol, produces neuroprotective effects.

Things to consider: remember, this is NOT a good reason to go out and drink every night. These studies have been shown with small amounts of consumption. Binge drinking can lead to weight gain due to empty calories, liver damage, depression, cancer of the liver and stomach just to name a few.

So try these yourself if you have not done so. There is no harm in trying new things that may be beneficial to our health!




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