Chocolate Improves Brain Function, Finds New Research

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Chocolate lovers over the world, rejoice!

Consuming chocolate regularly has been found to help the brain function, thanks to cocoa being a rich source of natural neuroprotective compounds.

The useful antioxidant abundant compounds found in cocoa beans are called cocoa flavanols. 

In a new review by Italian researchers, flavanol-rich cocoa consumption has been linked to improving memory, short-term cognitive function and counteracting cognitive decline.

“Acute administration of cocoa flavanols could result in immediate cognitive-enhancing effect, sustaining performance particularly in cognitively demanding conditions, including fatigue and sleep loss,” say authors Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara, from the University of L’Aquila, Italy.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis and found that the miracle flavanols have beneficial effects on the brain’s blood circulation and boost the speed of processing visual imagery. 

“This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols to protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving cognitive performance,” the authors say.

Having a chocolate-filled diet for a long period of time was also shown to improve the performance of older adults. For the elderly, long-term ingestion of cocoa has a pronounced effect on attention, verbal fluency and memory. The effects are even greater for elderly people who are already experiencing cognitive decline.

Cocoa flavanols have also been shown to improve blood flow to the heart, prevent blood clots and fight cell damage, according to Harvard Medical School. It should also be remembered that dark chocolate is a richer source of the beneficial flavanols than milk, with the amount ranging from 100-2,000 mg in 100 grams of dark chocolate. 

It won’t be difficult to follow the lead of the Italian experts: “Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanols. So we always eat some dark chocolate. Every day.”

Mothers will also be pleased to hear that eating chocolate after sleep deprivation improved cognitive function for women according to the study.

However the experts warn against the calorific side effects of indulging too much with chocolaty treats. We are well aware that while their high sugar and milk content may gratify the tastes, it isn’t responsible for cocoa’s brain nourishing properties.

Why MACA Should Be Your New Adaptogenic BFF


There are tons of reasons why maca is one of this year’s most buzzed-about superfoods: It increases libido, boosts energy levels, and regulates stress, for starters. (Call it an adaptogenic friend with benefits).

But confusion still reigns. After all, with its distinctly nutty-spicy-sweet flavor, this root (used in South America for thousands of years before it found its way to our smoothie bowls), isn’t an ingredient like kale or quinoa that can be easily thrown into any salad or bowl. And so, despite all of maca’s good press, many of us are left confused about how, exactly, to incorporate the powerhouse root into our diets.

That’s why we tapped three nutrition experts for their go-to maca recipes—treats and tonics they make at home that could, conceivably, serve as an everyday source of this potent food.

Scroll down for a crash course in Maca Consumption 101—no, you won’t be tested on this, but we won’t be surprised if you decide to study hard and ace your own kitchen-side exam.

Benefits of Maca;

1  Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
Maca is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids (20 different kinds — that’s just about all of them!), and antioxidants. Glucosinates are just one of those antioxidants — the same substances that make broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables so good for you.

2  Sexual function, libido, and fertility
Maca has long been used to promote sexual function of both men and women. It’s thought to boost libido and increase endurance. It has also been used to balance the hormones and increase fertility. Note the these benefits are anecdotal, though one of the more studied aspects of maca is its role in male fertility.

According to an article in Web MD, The Truth About Maca, professionals differ on the effectiveness of maca, especially for libido. Some are skeptical, believing that it’s little more than a placebo. Others strongly believe in its effectiveness. You can read the entire article here.

3  Menstrual issues and menopause
Maca has been used to relieve menstrual issues and the side effects of going through menopause. Some women have used it to alleviate cramps and hot flashes, much as it has been used by indigenous South American cultures for millennia. Outcomes in this area are largely anecdotal, and shouldn’t be used in place of consulting with a practitioner.

4  Physical and mental energy
Many regular users of maca experience an increase in energy level within days of beginning its use. It’s also known for increasing stamina and endurance, which is why some athletes take maca for peak performance. When used in conjunction with a good workout regime, supplementing with maca may help to preserve muscle mass. Maca is also used by those seeking to sharpen and expand mental activity and memory.

Maca has been used as a remedy for ongoing fatigue. If you find yourself tired much of the time, experiment with maca to see if it helps. Just a small amount could be exactly what you need for a boost! An increase in mental energy and focus has been reported as well.

5 General health and disease prevention
As an adaptogen and tonic, maca may boost your overall health in a number of ways. It supplies iron and helps restore red blood cells, which aids in avoiding anemia and cardiovascular diseases. Maca is also believed to promote prostate health. The nutrients in maca have long been valued for keeping bones and teeth healthy and help heal wounds more quickly. Bear in mind that most of these claims, while certainly not unfounded, have not been sufficiently studied.

Be very cautious if you have a cancer related to hormones, like testicular and ovarian, among others. If you have these cancers, liver issues, or high blood pressure, you should consult with a professional before taking maca.

6  Skin health
Maca has been used for skin issues. For some users, it helps to clear acne and blemishes. Another benefit that some users have experienced is that it decreases skin sensitivity. In hot or cold weather, maca may help skin withstand extreme temperatures.

7  Mood and hormone balance
For those struggling with anxiety, stress, depression, or mood swings, maca may help alleviate these symptoms, though the evidence for this is anecdotal and its use shouldn’t replace professional treatment.

Hormone balance is key to regulating sexual function, mood regulation, disease prevention, and much more. Maca’s ability to balance hormones is often credited to its stimulation of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. It may be the phytonutrients contained in maca that work to balance the endocrine system.

Eat Seafood to Fight Inflammation

Pistachio Crusted SalmonPistachio Encrusted Salmon

Ordering off the seafood menu may help ease the aches and pains of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a new study in Arthritis Care & Research. People with RA who ate fish at least twice a week reported less joint swelling and tenderness than those who rarely or never did—and the findings suggest that the more fish they ate, the less active their disease.

The study involved 176 people with RA who answered questions about their diet over the past year. Specifically, the authors looked at responses to questions about how often people ate tuna, salmon, sardines and other fish prepared raw, broiled, steamed or baked.

They did not look at how often people ate fried fish, shellfish or fish in mixed dishes (like shrimp stir-fry, for example), because these meals tend to be lower in omega-3 fatty acids—a type of fat with anti-inflammatory properties. Previous studies have shown that taking fish-oil supplements (which are rich in omega-3s) may benefit people with RA, but this is among the first studies to look at the consumption of actual fish.

The researchers also looked at the patients’ disease-activity scores, a measure that takes into account the number of swollen and tender joints they have, as well as a blood marker of inflammation.

Disease-activity scores were an average of half a point lower for people who ate the most fish (twice a week or more) compared to those who ate the least (once a month or never). This was found after researchers adjusted for a number of factors that may otherwise affect the results, including age, sex, body mass index, depression, marital status, medication use and fish-oil consumption.

That may not sound like much. But for the scale used in the study, a score of less than 2.6 indicates remission, while a score greater than 5.1 indicates active disease. A half-point reduction is clinically significant, say the researchers; it’s about one-third the amount of improvement reported in clinical trials for methotrexate drugs, which are considered the standard of care for RA.

“With that type of improvement, we would generally expect that a patient would feel noticeably better,” says lead author Dr. Sara Tedeschi, associate physician in rheumatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The study also suggests that people don’t have to eat fish twice a week to get some benefit, and they don’t have to stop at twice a week, either. Each serving of fish per week was linked to lower disease activity.

The authors concluded that higher intake of fish may be associated with lower disease activity in people with RA, although they caution that the study—which only looked at fish consumption and disease activity at one point in time—could not show a cause-and-effect relationship. While Tedeschi can’t say whether eating fish might have anti-inflammatory benefits for people without RA, she does point to previous research that has suggested a small protective effect.

“If our findings can be replicated in other populations and over longer periods of time, we may be able to show one specific reason for people with RA to eat more fish,” says Tedeschi. That’s in addition to plenty of other reasons that eating fish is a smart choice, she adds, whether you have arthritis or not.

How And Why We Should Be Eating More Vegetables For Breakfast

We’re here with a friendly reminder: the average person is supposed to eat two and a half to three cups of vegetables a day, according to My Plate.  

For some people, that’s an easy feat. For others, hitting that goal can be little trickier. Here’s the easiest way to reach that vegetable recommendation without any trouble: start first thing in the morning.

Most American breakfast options are loaded with sugar ― like our beloved maple-syrup topped pancakes and even our breakfast cereals. And sugar, as most of us know, does not provide us with any nutritional value. In fact, it can cause or contribute to anxiety. Who wants to start the day off like that?

The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 100 calories daily from refined sugar, 150 calories for men. If you drink one medium Caramel Swirl Frozen Dunkin’ Coffee with Cream, which has 129g sugar, you’re already getting about 32 calories from sugar. So if you’re starting your day that way, you’re already off to a bad start.

Considering the fact that only nine percent of Americans eat enough vegetables, it’s time we all got serious about upping our veggie intake. If you add vegetables to your breakfast, you can get a jumpstart on the day. And it’s easy enough to do, too, not to mention absolutely delicious.

Other cultures around the world incorporate vegetables as a regular part of their morning meal. Turkey regularly eats cucumbers, tomatoes and olives in the morning. And Israel has a chopped vegetable salad at the breakfast table. There’s no reason America shouldn’t do the same.

Here are the recipes you need to get started:

Get the 15-Minute Spinach Burrata Omelet With Avocado Salad recipe from How Sweet It IsPhoto by: How Sweet It Is


Get the Green Shakshuka recipe from The Healthy MavenPhoto by: The Healthy Maven



Get the Sweet Potato Hash Egg Skillet recipe from Naturally EllaPhoto by: Naturally Ella

Get the Veggie Fajita Stuffed Sweet Potato recipe from How Sweet It IsPhoto by: How Sweet It Is

Get the Sesame Roasted Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad recipe from Half Baked Harvest

8 Superfoods That Help Slow Aging

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Tomatoes-  Eating these veggies may ward off UV-induced damage like wrinkles, thanks to lycopene, the pigment that gives them their rich red color. And cooked tomatoes are good for your skin, too. In fact, studies show that our bodies absorb lycopene more easily from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes.

Turmeric- A main spice in curry, turmeric could keep your mind young. A potential cause of Alzheimer’s Disease is a build-up of plaque in the brain. “Early research shows that curcumin, the active component in turmeric, may bind that plaque and prevent the disease from developing,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York City.Sprinkle turmeric onto scrambled eggs, or cook veggies in curry sauce to get the full benefit.

Eggs- To protect your eyesight, eat the yolk! It contains nutrients that lower your risk of cataracts and age-related eye degeneration.

Garlic- Add it to your stir-fry, and you just might boost your heart health. Garlic is said to prevent heart disease and strokes by slowing the hardening of the

Strawberries- These red gems boast flavonoids (healthy chemicals that give fruits and veggies their vivid color) with antioxidant powers that could keep your heart young. Regularly eating them and other flavonoid-rich foods like apples and pears could also reduce risk of heart disease.

Blueberries- These tiny berries have one of the highest antioxidant contents of all fruits. Eating them “has been shown to fight against age-related cognitive decline,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies

Mixed Nuts-  In one study, regular nut intake was connected with a lower risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Make a to-go mix of peanuts, almonds, pistachios and walnuts for an easy way to avoid hunger.

Pomegranates- A half cup of pomegranate seeds have 15% of your daily need for vitamin C, an antioxidant that may fend off skin damage and premature aging. “They also contain the nutrient punicalagin, which might fight against the breakdown of collagen, helping to preserve joint health,” says Palinski-Wade. So, get snacking.

Why Growing Microgreens Should Be Your New Favorite Year-round Activity


Homegrown microgreens could very easily be the most nutrition-per-unit-cost we can get for our money.

A 2012 UDSA study assessing the nutrition content of 25 different microgreens concluded that microgreens possess significantly higher nutrient densities than mature leaves of the same plant. As an example, red cabbage microgreens have six times the vitamin C than mature red cabbage. Adding microgreens to your diet is an easy way to not only add freshness to winter meals, but also add a big punch of nutrients right when we typically eat less fresh foods, like in winter.

Buying microgreens from the market can be expensive. Instead, grow your own microgreens. It’s fairly easy to do, doesn’t require a lot of space, and produces tasty and highly nutritious food. Don’t have access to a garden? Good news, you don’t need one! Microgreens are easy to grow in a jar or a box. Here’s how to create your very own microgarden out of containers you might have laying around the house.

1. Choose the Seeds

Some common varieties of seeds to use are: amaranth, basil, beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, chard, chervil, coriander/cilantro, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, parsley, peas, radish, rocket/arugula, spinach, and sorrel. But of course, these are just a few to choose from- experiment with seeds to find one based on your own taste preferences. To ensure that you are avoiding food that may have been fumigated or treated with a fungicide, choose only organic seeds.

2. Choose the Container

You’ll need a container that is a few inches deep at minimum. Garden centers sell special containers for sprouting seeds, but you can make a planter out of almost anything- as long there is proper drainage. Old vegetable or berry containers are perfect for sprouting seeds, as are prepackaged salad boxes and mason jars. Do you have an old metal cooking pan or muffin tin you don’t use any more? Simply drill a few drainage holes and it becomes a microgarden that is both functional and free.

3. Choose the Soil

It’s important to use a quality growing medium for the seeds because they contain the proper ingredients that boost seed germination. The better nutrition going into the plant also means you’ll be eating the most nutrient-dense food possible. Seeds love loose, crumbly soil full of organic matter. Choose an organic potting mix, or make your own.

4. Pre-Soak Larger Seeds

Pre-soaking will help your seeds germinate more quickly. Pre-soak larger seeds such as mung beans or peas in warm water for a few hours or overnight. This step isn’t necessary for smaller seeds.

5. Plant

If your container has drainage holes, lay a moistened paper towel on the bottom to stop the potting soil to fall through. Fill the container roughly 3/4 full of growing medium, about one inch deep. Sprinkle the seeds over the dirt, then cover with an additional 1/8 inches of soil. Lightly spray the entire soil with a misting spray bottle to water without disturbing the seeds. Make sure the dirt is moist, but not soaked. You don’t want the soil so wet that the seed either rots or drowns. If you don’t have a misting spray bottle just be careful watering the seeds to prevent them from dislodging.

6. Grow

Place your newly planted seeds in the sun. The seeds will need a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight every day. Don’t have access to a sunny windowsill? Try grow microgreens under gardeners grow lamps. The seeds will start to sprout within a few days, but you’ll want to wait ten days to two weeks to harvest when you see the the first set of leaves.

7. Harvest

Begin harvesting microgreens once the seeds have produced its first set of true leaves. Depending on the variety, the seedlings should be 1-3 inches tall. Simply take scissors and cut the stems just above the soil. Once the microgreens have all been harvested, begin a new crop using the same mix. Because the previous plants had been grown so quickly, the mix will still be full of nutrients- you’ll be able to sow 3-4 crops with each batch of growing medium. To ensure a continuous supply of microgreens, sow seeds every week or two.

Two Thirds of Adults Eat Three or Fewer Portions of Fruit and Veg Each Day Raising Risk of Diabetes, Warn Experts

Three our of five cases of diabetes could be avoided if people made lifestyle changes 

By Sarah Knapton, science editor

12 JUNE 2017 • 12:01AM

Two thirds of adults eat three or fewer portions of fruit and vegetables each day, with nearly 12 million at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, health experts have warned.

Diabetes UK said the five-a-day message was still not getting across and warned that the lack of healthy eating in Britain was a ‘huge cause for concern.’

A survey commissioned by the charity found that 66 per cent of adults only eat three or fewer portions of fruit and veg each day, with three quarters still confused about what constitutes a ‘portion.’

Nearly half of people do not eat fruit at least three days of the week.

There are 3.6 million people already living with diabetes in Britain, 90 per cent of whom have Type 2. The charity has warned that 11.9 million people are at increased risk of developing the condition, but three in five cases of diabetes could be avoided if people changed their lifestyles.


Three our of five cases of diabetes could be avoided if people made lifestyle changes  CREDIT:  ANTHONY DEVLIN

Helen Dickens, Head of Prevention at Diabetes UK, said: “Everybody knows they should be eating ‘five a day’ and yet this survey suggests that this message simply isn’t getting through.

“It’s alarming to learn that the vast majority of people are still a long way off eating enough fruit and vegetables.

“Not only that, but people don’t know how much fruit and vegetables they should be eating“Three in five cases of Type 2 diabetes can be avoided or delayed by making simple lifestyle changes, and a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle play a big part in this.  Healthy eating is equally important for people living with diabetes as well as preventing Type 2.”

The survey, which was commissioned ahead of Diabetes Week which runs until Saturday June 17, also showed that people are unaware of the hidden sugars in many staple foods. Two thirds of people did not know that a tin of baked beans can contain up to five teaspoons of sugar.

Nearly one third of people add salt to food before even tasting it, even though too much salt is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Nearly six in ten people said they wanted to eat more vegetables but 23 per cent thought they were too expensive, while 16 per cent said they tend to go off too quickly and nearly one in 10 people say it took too long to prepare.  

The charity called on the government to do more to prevent junk food being marketed to children.

One in three children are overweight or obese by the time they get to year 11

A record percentage of children now have weight problems with one in three overweight or obese, by the time they leave primary school at the age of 10 or 11, increasing the risk of diabetes.

Emma Elvin, Clinical Advisor for Diabetes UK, added, “These survey results are a huge cause for concern.

“Simple lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, eating more fruit and vegetables and getting more exercise are an important part of managing all types of diabetes and can

reduce the risk of serious of long term complications such as blindness, amputations and even early death.”

Diabetes UK has embarked on a new ‘Food you love’ campaign which is providing healthier recipes of favourite dishes to inspire people to make small changes.