Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chocolate May Be Good For the Heart

This is music to my ears!!


Small, dark Easter eggs may be good for your heart
9:44am EDT
By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Easter eggs may be good for you, but only if you eat small ones made from cocoa-rich dark chocolate, according to the latest in a string of scientific studies to show potential health benefits of chocolate.

German researchers studied more than 19,300 people over a decade and found those who ate the most chocolate -- an average of 7.5 grams a day -- had lower blood pressure and a 39 percent lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke than those who ate the least amount of chocolate -- an average of 1.7 grams a day.

But, the difference between the two groups was just under six grams (6g) of chocolate a day, less than one small square of an average 100g bar, they wrote in a study in the European Heart Journal to be published on Wednesday.

Brian Buijsse of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal, who led the study, said people should not use his work as an excuse to stuff themselves with chocolate.

"Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable," he said.

Although they said more work needed to be done to be sure, the researchers think the flavanols in cocoa may be the reason why chocolate seems to be good for blood pressure and heart health -- and since there is more cocoa in dark chocolate, dark chocolate may have a greater effect.

VEGETABLES, WINE AND COCOA

Flavanols are a class of the antioxidant flavonoids that are found in many vegetables, cocoa and red wine.

"Flavanols appear to be ... responsible for improving the bioavailability of nitric oxide from the cells that line the inner wall of blood vessels," said Buijsse.

Nitric oxide is a gas that, once released, causes the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen, he said, adding that this may contribute to lower blood pressure.

For their chocolate study, the researchers used data from participants of a larger study called European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC).

They followed more than 19,300 over more than 10 years during which time their blood pressure, height and weight measurements as well as details of their diet, lifestyle and health were recorded.

Buijsse said put in terms of absolute risk, the findings showed that if people in the group eating the least amount of chocolate increased their chocolate intake by six grams a day, 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people could be expected to occur over a period of about 10 years.

Commenting on the study on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology, Frank Ruschitzka of Switzerland's University Hospital Zurich said basic science had now demonstrated "quite convincingly" that dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70 percent reduces some kinds of stress and can improve blood flow and blood pressure.

But he said: "Before you rush to add dark chocolate to your diet, be aware that 100 grams ... contains roughly 500 calories.

"You may want to subtract an equivalent amount of calories by cutting back on other foods to avoid weight gain."

Chocolate May Be Good For the Heart

This is music to my ears!!


Small, dark Easter eggs may be good for your heart
9:44am EDT
By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Easter eggs may be good for you, but only if you eat small ones made from cocoa-rich dark chocolate, according to the latest in a string of scientific studies to show potential health benefits of chocolate.

German researchers studied more than 19,300 people over a decade and found those who ate the most chocolate -- an average of 7.5 grams a day -- had lower blood pressure and a 39 percent lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke than those who ate the least amount of chocolate -- an average of 1.7 grams a day.

But, the difference between the two groups was just under six grams (6g) of chocolate a day, less than one small square of an average 100g bar, they wrote in a study in the European Heart Journal to be published on Wednesday.

Brian Buijsse of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal, who led the study, said people should not use his work as an excuse to stuff themselves with chocolate.

"Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable," he said.

Although they said more work needed to be done to be sure, the researchers think the flavanols in cocoa may be the reason why chocolate seems to be good for blood pressure and heart health -- and since there is more cocoa in dark chocolate, dark chocolate may have a greater effect.

VEGETABLES, WINE AND COCOA

Flavanols are a class of the antioxidant flavonoids that are found in many vegetables, cocoa and red wine.

"Flavanols appear to be ... responsible for improving the bioavailability of nitric oxide from the cells that line the inner wall of blood vessels," said Buijsse.

Nitric oxide is a gas that, once released, causes the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen, he said, adding that this may contribute to lower blood pressure.

For their chocolate study, the researchers used data from participants of a larger study called European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC).

They followed more than 19,300 over more than 10 years during which time their blood pressure, height and weight measurements as well as details of their diet, lifestyle and health were recorded.

Buijsse said put in terms of absolute risk, the findings showed that if people in the group eating the least amount of chocolate increased their chocolate intake by six grams a day, 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people could be expected to occur over a period of about 10 years.

Commenting on the study on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology, Frank Ruschitzka of Switzerland's University Hospital Zurich said basic science had now demonstrated "quite convincingly" that dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70 percent reduces some kinds of stress and can improve blood flow and blood pressure.

But he said: "Before you rush to add dark chocolate to your diet, be aware that 100 grams ... contains roughly 500 calories.

"You may want to subtract an equivalent amount of calories by cutting back on other foods to avoid weight gain."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nuts and Butter Spreads Keep Cholesterol in Check

Love this quickie article from the Irish Independent on lowering your cholesterol. Nuts are a great way to stave off hunger, ad healthy fats to the diet and possible, lower your cholesterol. Soft margarine products (also known as "buttery spreads") can help too!


Health bits: Nuts can help crack cholesterol
High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease but regular consumption of nuts can help, according to a study, although the results are modest.

Walnuts and almonds seem beneficial. But nuts are high in calories, so limit yourself to a handful a day, experts say.

Also, recent years have seen the introduction of margarine-like spreads and other foods fortified with cholesterol-lowering plant compounds. Exercise and medications are also key to controlling cholesterol.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Fit Zone

I just found this awesome new exercise tool from MSN.com that allows you to select a body part you would like to tone, and the tool gives you a list of exercises that target that body part.

I chose to start with my glutes because let's just say I have a little more weight on my backside than I deem necessary. It give me a list of at least 15 exercises, complete with a description on how to do the move and pictures breaking down the sequence. This rocks!

The Fit Zone

Friday, March 12, 2010

In Honor of My Cajun Honey

Great news - I got engaged on Wednesday! It's all still kind of a shock and I'll post details at a later date but in honor of my Cajun soon-to-be husband, who's from Homa, LA, I'm posting this yummy Creole Jambalaya recipe. It's devine!


Ingredients
2 tablespoons margarine
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups cubed fully cooked ham,
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium beef broth
3/4 cup water
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Instructions
1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven. Add onion, celery, green pepper, parsley and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent. Add ham, tomatoes, broth, water, rice, sugar, thyme, chili powder and pepper. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Add shrimp, and simmer until shrimp are thoroughly cooked, about 5 minutes. Serves 8.

Tips From Our Test Kitchen:
This recipe can be seasoned according to taste. Hot sauce can be added to make it fiery. Smoked sausage can substitute for the ham if desired.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

How to Ensure a Healthy Heart

Larry King, Jr., President of the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, offers tips to ensure a healthy heart

Friday, March 05, 2010

Avoiding Weekend Weight Gain

I don't know about you but my diet stinks like a dirty sock on the weekend. After five days of exercising, shoving as many fruits and vegetables down my throat as possible and chugging gallons of water, by Friday evening I'm ready for some indulgences.

Here are a few tips from About.com on how to eat healthy during the weekend. TGIF!!!

Oh, and one tip from me: make the switch from butter to margarine for an easy way to make your meals healthier.


Plan ahead
Don't load up your kitchen with lots of tempting, high-calorie snacks. Keep fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers and your favorite cheese on-hand for nutritious snacking.

Don't skip breakfast
Start Saturday and Sunday mornings with a healthy breakfast with plenty of protein and fiber. Good choices include eggs, whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, or whole-wheat toast with peanut butter.

Use a food diary every day
A great way to stay motivated to eat a healthy diet is to keep track of the foods you eat. Print out your own food diary, or use Calorie Count, a free online tool that can help you track your eating and activity (you can even look up food labels).

Give yourself a small treat or two during the week
Any diet that leaves you feeling deprived will ultimately fail. Enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate or one scoop of ice cream during the week.

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
They are low in calories, and high in nutrients and fiber. Fiber is key -- it will keep you feeling full.

Eat less at restaurants
Going out for dinner? Most restaurants serve very large portions. Choose a soup and a salad, or a salad and an appetizer for your meal. If you order a large meal, take half of it home for a delicious lunch the next day.

Be careful with shopping trips
Eat a healthy lunch before you go to the mall. If you go hungry, you are much more likely to give in to the temptation of unhealthy foods at the food court.

Get some exercise each day
Go for a walk. Not only will you burn calories, the exercise will improve your mood and may distract you from your cravings.