Saturday, March 13, 2010

Adding Chocolate (Cacao) To Your Diet -- Get the Healthiest Form!

By Loise Harrison

We'll all cherish the day we learned chocolate was good for us. Maybe a few naysayers still remain skeptical, but study after study is proclaiming the health benefits, both mental and physical, of chocolate. Even the Life Extension Foundation includes chocolate extract in their flagship vitamin formulas. Many folks are switching from their daily dose of coffee to a cup of hot chocolate. It's an antidepressant, an antioxidant, its full of vitamins and minerals, it improves sex drive, AND it tastes good. Really good. So what is the best way to get the health benefits? Is it as simple as eating cases of your childhood favorite chocolates? As you might have thought, there are considerations when indulging in chocolate as a regular part of your diet. But it can be done! Let's see how...

Raw, unroasted chocolate IS A MUST to really reap the health benefits. Little of this fact is given weight in the mass-media's portrayal of chocolate's health benefits, but its the crucial point for anyone interested in bettering their health naturally. There's a big difference in the chemical composition of un-roasted, naturally-dried chocolate when compared to 99% of the chocolate products available today. Nearly every single chocolate bar or drink, even at the large-chain heath food markets, is made from chocolate that's been roasted at high temperatures. 'Organic' does not mean raw; chocolate powder is not raw unless it says its raw. High-end organic hot chocolate drinks are still roasted, and likely processed with alkali to make them dissolve more easily. Why the roasting and processing? Because we've become accustom to chocolate looking and tasting like it has since our childhoods. Working with raw chocolate (called Cacao - note this is different than Cocoa!), like so many things that are really good for you, is best prepared at home using carefully selected ingredients. It's easy to do, and we'll include some recipes at the end. But first back to the question of why raw is better.

For lots of folks, and, there's the question of caffeine. Many are sensitive to caffeine's effect on their nervous system. And many people find chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, has enough caffeine to make them uncomfortable or keep them awake. Yet research has shown a significant difference in the stimulating effects of chocolate depending on whether it's been roasted. A drink of roasted chocolate powder caused excitation of the nervous system whereas the raw chocolate powder drink did not. Scientists find that many molecules change shape when heat is applied, and roasting is a pretty hot, lengthy process. Alteration of chemical structure through heat is common, and very likely to occur in the case of chocolate. The roasting process involves heating the beans between two hundred fifty and three hundred fifty degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes to two hours. Anecdotal reports of individuals moving from coffee or yerba mate as their morning drink to a cup of hot chocolate report gentle stimulating effects without anxiety, as their other drinks had produced. Even very sensitive people who do not do well with any form of caffeine report positive results with raw chocolate; nothing at all like the effects produced by coffee or caffeinated teas.

Next the question of anti-oxidants. Chocolate has been discovered to have exceptionally high quantities of important polyphenols. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry was titled: "Cocoa Has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and Higher Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine." It's hard to argue with that. Here again the question of raw arises: One report notes that while roasted chocolate is made up of 5% antioxidants, raw chocolate contains twice as much at 10%. Another important note is the addition of milk to make milk chocolate. Research has shown that the addition of milk actually cancels-out the positive effects of chocolate's antioxidants. And milk may be one of the reasons many people seem to be allergic to chocolate, as lactose intolerance is fairly common. Another chocolate myth is some individuals break out when ingesting high amounts; reports indicate that raw chocolate does not cause this response, and that it may be the refined fats and sugars present in most chocolate products producing this effect.

Maybe the most intriguing constituents of chocolate are it's mood-altering chemicals besides its stimulation. Many users of raw chocolate find and even greater boost than from commercial chocolates. Like caffeine, some of the molecules attributed to mood-enhancement are also heat sensitive. Tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, is present in significant amounts and is known to be broken down by heat (and apparently it's not the Tryptophan in the turkey dinners that makes one tired, it's the three servings followed by pie and ice cream!). Other natural constituents are dopamine and precursors to dopamine, one molecule called the 'love chemical' and another called the 'bliss chemical'. Add to these monoamine oxidase inhibitors which actually enhance the activity of all of the above mood brighteners. Finally, there's lots of easily absorbed magnesium in raw chocolate, a mineral associated with serotonin production (many pharmaceutical antidepressants increase serotonin activity), and the ability to relax. Raw chocolate offers the healthiest and most effective means of adding these happy-making nutrients to your daily diet.

Convinced? Ready for a little raw chocolate power? First its critical to find a good source; make sure the chocolate you're buying is raw - it will be most likely labeled 'Cacao', the name for the raw chocolate beans and the tree on which they grow. Cacao nibs are small pieces of pure raw chocolate that can be eaten straight, or mixed with other healthy snacks like Gogi berries. But the best-loved raw chocolate preparation is the original chocolate drink: hot chocolate. Now it won't be hot enough for long enough to convert any chemicals or to cook the chocolate, just to make it a warm comforting drink - and of course, heating the water isn't necessary at all (though in recipes calling for Coconut oil, it helps to blend the oil into the drink). So to make a cup, use powdered raw chocolate (grinding the nibs or beans in a coffee grinder can work, though you'll find this challenging as the natural oils in the chocolate will heat up and liquefy before the grinding is complete, leaving little crunchy bits). Put one or two tablespoons powdered chocolate, 1 to 2 teaspoons raw dark agave nectar (a low-glycemic index natural sweetner) and 1 to 2 teaspoons of Coconut oil in a blender. Add 8 to 12 ounces almost-boiling water and blend for 10 seconds. That's it! You'll find your personal favorite formula after a few preparations - more or less chocolate, oil, sweetener or water.

There are lots and lots of recipes out there, and great reading on raw chocolate's health benefits and preparation. You'll cacao powder often combined with other super nutritious foods in smoothies and good-for-you deserts. Natural organic candies start with the same ingredients as the drinks, but without the liquid. Just make a paste, adding pecans, coconut shavings or whatever you like, and chill to harden. As you're not baking anything, there's little to go awry, and really, so many possibilities. By using raw chocolate, you'll open up a whole new world of cooking for yourself and your family -- and if you hadn't before, you might just find yourself really motivated to treat yourself to natural health and wellness.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Tips For Gluten Free Cooking

By Wendy Mackerson

A disorder in the digestive system that affects children and adults is celiac disease. Any food that contains gluten will damage the small intestine and it interferes with the absorption of the nutrients in the food. The protein in the certain grains is disastrous to a person's condition. Gluten in the smallest form can cause health problems. Gluten is found in barley, wheat, and rye and someone living with celiac disease cannot eat foods containing those ingredients. They will have to learn gluten free cooking and begin new eating habits.

Celiac disease is hard to diagnose and many times something causes the symptoms to appear. Many times surgeries or pregnancies may cause the symptoms to be noticed so they seek medical attention, doctors will run tests and there is a diagnosis. In some cases, a family member may be diagnosed so other relatives are tested "just in case." Overall, your eating habits need to be changed.

Doctors will advise someone that is diagnosed with celiac disease to change their eating habits. Staying away from certain products is necessary to stay healthy. It seems rather difficult to keep away from foods like cake, pizza, dressings and sauces. The more someone practices and lives this new way of gluten free cooking, it will become easier.

Dieting is hard enough but now there are more limitations. However, this way of eating is not difficult once you get use to gluten free cooking. It is best to keep meal making simple, it is the best way when you start learning the ins and outs of gluten free food.

Now that you have to alter the way you eat in order to help your condition, you might want to learn about the grains and starches you are allowed to eat and the ones you have to stay away from. One thing you will start doing is substituting wheat, rye and barley. For instance, someone dealing with this condition will want to always have some gluten-free baking and pancake mix in your home. You can use it to make meals such as pizza and thicken soups and sauces.

Those living with celiac disease should pay special attention when grocery shopping to the labels on the food products. They should also stay away from processed food. With all the food that contains gluten ingredients, so contacting the manufacturing company is in your best interest if you are not sure about foods being gluten free.

When learning gluten free cooking, keeping a cookbook on hand for some ideas when making meals can help you find new meals you like. A local library should have books available. Going online is another way to find some recipes, be sure however, the website is reputable.

Having celiac is not a life-changing condition. You are just substituting one ingredient for another. There may be fewer selections when eating at a restaurant but there will be selections and you will just choose from that menu. As soon as you stop eating gluten, your body starts to heal and changing to gluten free cooking is worth the results.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tips To Create A Quick And Healthy Weight Loss Diet Plan

By Ricardo D Argence

If you want an effective rapid weight loss diet, you should establish a plan that encompasses the factors and activities associated with such diet. This is to ensure you are doing things the right way; otherwise, you can be led to serious health problems when your method of dieting is inappropriate to your body capabilities. The following are factors that should be considered when creating a rapid weight loss diet plan.

Make sure you incorporate a varied diet. This means you have to eat different varieties of food in each food group to ensure that you still get all the nutrients your body needs even if you are dieting.

Make sure you eat breakfast every day. The breakfast you eat should be something you enjoy, but it should be healthy so that it fills you up and fuels you throughout your day. If you eat breakfast, you're much less likely to overeat later. Having a good breakfast is going to help with quick weight loss, too, because you're going to have the energy to make it through your day, and you'll boost your metabolism at the same time; that boost is going to stick with you throughout the day and help you burn even more calories.

Be careful when you cut your calorie intake. When you cut calories extensively, you cut your metabolism down as well, which is actually going to sabotage your weight loss in the long run. You might lose a lot of weight at first, but don't let that fool you; that weight loss is muscle mass and water, not fat. And because you lose muscle mass when you do that, your metabolism is going to be lowered even further, which means you're going even have less ability than previously to lose weight.

Make sure you drink enough water when you diet. Aim for at least six to eight glasses worth a day, which will aid in weight loss, because it's going to help fill you up so that you eat less; there's also some evidence that drinking more water when you lose weight is going to make your metabolism work better, which can also help you lose weight.

Eat more fiber. Get fiber from healthy sources like beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals, and legumes.

Nix the diet pills. Diet pills are potentially dangerous, and will also slow your metabolism down by cutting your appetite, which is going to have you cutting calories drastically; that is going to slow your metabolism down markedly, which is going to make it much harder for you to lose weight. Again, as with the earlier point about cutting calories, you certainly will lose weight at first if you do cut your calories to a great extent, but in the long run, this is only going to hurt you, not help you. Moreover, diet pills can also be damaging to your health.

Finally, make sure you exercise at least three times a week. The exercise does not have to be overly strenuous, but you do have to do it three times a week and do it with gusto, so that you pick up your metabolic pace and build muscle mass, too. Both of these things can promise quick weight loss.

There's no magic diet plan out there that's going to help you with quick weight loss unless you make other changes besides. With the right knowledge, though, you can lose weight quickly and be healthy at the same time if you do things properly and don't try fad diets. Make sure the diet plan you follow is healthy, and remember that health is first and foremost when it comes to losing weight. Your diet plan should be focused on health in addition to quick weight loss, so that you can be healthy and fit for a lifetime.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Should You Invest in a Copper Cookware Set?

By Rahmah Maqsood

If you glance at any home decorating magazine, you might see quite a few pictures of gorgeous designer kitchens that all show one item in common: copper cookware. Copper is solidly made, refined, and absolutely gorgeous when nicely polished, so copper clad cooking pots are normally displayed in kitchens which are built to impress. Copper pots and pans additionally make state of the art cooking quick and easy. We can tell you many reasons to rely on copper for your kitchen, so enjoy ther rest of this article and find out if there is a copper pot waiting for you. Another must see is the Calphalon One Infused Anodized 10 Piece Cookware Set.

First impressions mean a lot, and copper makes a very good first impression. The finish on its own is beautiful, and seeing as copper pans have almost no ornamentation they can compliment a remarkable range of kitchen themes. Even the larger pans are pretty lightweight, and therefore they are perfect for hanging pot racks where they can merely sit and look stunning.

When employed on your stove, copper is as utilitarian as it is beautiful. Copper is well-known for its even dispersion of heat, with the results that your pans will never contain cold spots, and your dinner will be evenly heated all the time. Temperature control inside a copper pot is instantaneous and precise. If you increase the heat, the pan will simultaneously transfer that temperatue to your food, so you may sear foods to perfection. Another must see is the Swiss Diamond 6 Piece Cast Aluminum Cookware Set.

Because copper doesn't play well with most foods, copper pans will be lined with stainless steel. The heat transfer capabilities of the copper will remain there, yet the metal up against your food isn't going to introduce discoloration or weird flavors. If you get to decide between tin and stainless steel lining, choose pans that incorporate stainless steel: they will be faster to scrub up and last longer.

There are a few drawbacks to copper cookware, and they concern the amount of time and money you really want to invest in your cookware. Copper cookware cannot be cleaned in a dishwasher; they must be hand-washed and thoroughly dried prior to being put away. If you would like to prevent tarnished metal, your copper pans have to be polished regularly; whether or not they have been used. If you have already figured out that copper is worth the extra polishing, then you doubtless won't mind the additional cost. With one or two exceptions, copper is the most expensive cookware material you can buy and therefore a copper pot will be definitely more expensive than a comparable product created from steel or ceramic.

Some of the highest quality home cookware on the market is made using copper. Copper's attractiveness and helpfulness is esteemed among restaurant chefs in addition to homemakers. If you have the time to care for them, and the extra dollars to invest, you'll be hard pressed to get your hands on a better type of cookware for sale today.

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