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Dietitians Reveal the Healthiest Chocolate Choice for Your Sweet Tooth

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The list of pleasures in life would be incomplete without the mention of chocolate. Its irresistible, indulgent flavor makes it a crowd favorite, loved all year round. It’s no surprise that average Americans consume approximately 10 pounds of chocolate annually according to Forbes. But did you know that this delectable treat, when chosen wisely, could actually hold significant health benefits?

Here’s the extraordinary truth: chocolate, derived from the seed of a fruit tree, the cocoa bean, could be more than just a sweet indulgence.

Of the three variations of chocolate – dark, milk and white – dietitians endorse one as the healthiest choice. Whitney English, a registered dietitian at Whitney E. RD in Palo Alto, California, reveals,

“The health benefits of chocolate products are all thanks to the cocoa bean, which contains numerous phytochemicals shown to have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antihypertensive properties. The more cocoa solids a product contains, the more nutritious it is. Dark chocolate contains the most cocoa bean solids and therefore is the most nutrient-dense.”

Similarly, Elisabetta Politi, a registered dietitian from the Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center in Durham, North Carolina, signals the high flavonoid content in dark chocolate. Acting like antioxidants, flavonoids help thwart the damaging effects of free radicals which are associated with diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Politi adds,
“Additionally, flavonols, a type of flavonoids in dark chocolate, may affect the function of the immune system by reducing inflammation.”

To reap the maximum benefits, both English and Politi advise choosing chocolates with 70% or more cocoa content as they contain less added sugar and more beneficial phytochemicals.

Amazingly, apart from the antioxidant properties, cocoa beans are also a valuable source of minerals such as iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. Furthermore, every 1 ounce of dark chocolate offers you about 3 grams of fiber, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

The health benefits of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, are supported by multiple studies. For instance, one published in the Journal Heart found an association between higher chocolate intake and a lower risk of future heart problems.

Another study in Scientific Reports observed that cocoa flavanols have a protective effect against vascular disease and improve blood flow to the brain.

And the goodness doesn’t stop at physical health; chocolate has been found to benefit mental health as well.

Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian in New York, notes,
“Dark chocolate contributes to producing the feel-good hormone serotonin and contains magnesium, which is linked to reducing anxiety” and relieving stress.

Moreover, consumption of 85% cocoa dark chocolate could boost mood through the gut-brain connection, as it has a prebiotic effect on healthy gut bacteria and improves negative emotions, as one study suggested.

But remember, while dark chocolate holds numerous health benefits, it also contains caffeine and calories. Thus, moderation is key.

Dietitian Politi recommends a daily intake of 1 ounce of dark chocolate, equivalent to the size of a dental floss case.

To enjoy the full flavor of dark chocolate without finding it too bitter, let two small pieces melt in your mouth slowly, allowing your palate to explore the complexity of the flavors. A dark chocolate bar with added sea salt, dried fruit, or a pairing with fresh berries or yogurt can also enhance the less-bitter taste.

As per English, as long as it’s consumed in moderation, the benefits of consuming dark chocolate are likely to outweigh the potential downsides.

“If someone loves a treat at the end of a meal, I think a small amount of dark chocolate is a guiltless choice, which has been shown to provide health benefits,” says Politi.

So, the next time you reach for a sweet treat, why not make it a piece of dark chocolate?

Let us know what you think, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Nutrition

Unlock the Secret Perks of Echinacea From Immune Support to Skin Care

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Introducing the multifaceted supplement that’s been revered for centuries for its potential health benefits: Echinacea. Once employed as a versatile medicinal herb to fight off diseases like scarlet fever and diphtheria, echinacea is now classified as a dietary supplement meant to enhance your overall well-being, not cure ailments. Many tout echinacea as a formidable immune booster, but the benefits don’t stop there. So, let’s delve into six surprising health benefits that echinacea supplements can provide.

Potential Anti-Inflammatory Properties

“Echinacea’s potential to reduce inflammation in the body is intriguing. It could help with minor skin irritation or sore throats by calming the body’s inflammatory response,” shares Raj Dasgupta, MD, a medical reviewer for NCOA. While research is underway to confirm the extent of these benefits, the initial anecdotal evidence is promising.

Speeding Up Wound Recovery

Echinacea isn’t just potentially beneficial internally, but externally as well. A 2023 study in the Molecules journal revealed echinacea’s antimicrobial and aseptic effects, which can aid in faster wound healing by warding off infections.

“It works by stimulating the immune system to send healing cells to the injured area,” explains Dasgupta. Nonetheless, he emphasizes that further research is needed and that echinacea should not substitute proper medical treatment for wounds.

Dermatological Effects

Your skin might love echinacea, too! A 2010 study identified echinacea purpurea as beneficial for protecting skin from oxidative stress and improving its hydration.

“Studies suggest it may be helpful for chronic conditions like eczema,” Dasgupta adds. Still, a call for more research to confirm this has been echoed.

Immune System Booster

Perhaps the most well-known potential benefit of echinacea is an immune system boost. Despite traditional use, Dasgupta urges caution, saying, “While traditionally used for colds, the evidence for its effectiveness is mixed. Some studies show a slight reduction in cold duration.”

Anxiety Alleviation

Could echinacea play a role in managing anxiety? A 2021 study found anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects in subjects who took echinacea supplements for six weeks. Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, a fitness and nutrition advisor, explains, “It has potential anti-inflammatory properties, and chronic inflammation is linked to anxiety.” He does stress that it shouldn’t be used as a first-line anxiety treatment, however.

Regulating Blood Sugar Levels

There’s preliminary research suggesting that echinacea might assist blood sugar regulation, although this data is based on animal studies and has not been replicated in humans yet.

“If data do emerge to support the animal studies, this could be beneficial for those with prediabetes or those who need to manage blood sugar as part of a larger health plan,” proposes Mohr.

Echoing what might be the golden rule of dietary supplementation, our health journey is as unique as we are. What works for one may not work for all. So always be sure to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you have chronic diseases or autoimmune conditions, before incorporating echinacea or any new supplement into your diet. From potentially reducing inflammation to possibly boosting your immune system, the old yet new echinacea might just be the versatile dietary supplement your health routine needs.

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Nutrition

Savoring Dolly Parton’s Famous Stampede Soup: A Hearty, Healthful Dish for Cozy Autumn Evenings

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Immerse yourself in the culinary world of iconic songstress Dolly Parton, specifically her renowned Stampede Soup from Parton’s Dinner Show in Branson, Missouri. This creamy, vegetable-based soup has been making waves with its comforting and satisfying flavors, perfect for a cozy, healthful autumn meal. The tantalizing aroma and delightful taste have captured the hearts of many who attend the show, but it’s not just the experience that has fans talking; the array of ingredients used in this soup offers a medley of health benefits that are especially advantageous for seniors.

Let us glean some inspiration from Parton’s role in our lives as a beloved singer and actress, by exploring the potential health benefits of this heartwarming soup. The vegetable base offers a rich source of vitamins and minerals that are essential for maintaining good health. Not to mention, the high fiber content in vegetables can contribute to improving digestive health. The creamy texture is not only satisfying but also a good source of calcium and vitamin D, essential for bone health.

Now let’s delve into the specifics of re-creating this culinary masterpiece at home. Here are the ingredients and steps you need to follow:

Ingredients:
– Butter (for a tastier roux)
– Flour
– Onion powder
– Garlic powder
– White pepper
– Stock (choose low-sodium chicken broth for better flavor control)
– Cooked vegetables
– Heavy cream (decrease to 1 cup for a lighter option)
– Salt (to your liking)
– Parsley (for garnish)
– Lemon wedge

Preparation Method:
1. In a large pot set over medium heat, melt the butter.
2. Whisk in the flour, creating a smooth combination and cook it for at least 4 or 5 minutes to fully cook the flour, thereby building flavor.
3. Add onion powder, garlic powder, and white pepper, whisking until combined.
4. Pour your chosen stock into the mixture and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking slowly and constantly.
5. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a simmer; cook, while occasionally whisking, until slightly thickened. This should be about 10 minutes.
6. Stir in the cooked vegetables and heavy cream.
7. Season to taste with salt.
8. Portion the completed soup into bowls, garnish with parsley, and serve with a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top. This will add a touch of zesty brightness to the creamy soup.

For an even more flavorful twist, consider replacing the onion and garlic powders with finely chopped onion and minced garlic, cooking them in the butter before making the roux.

In conclusion, Dolly Parton’s Stampede Soup not only provides a delicious meal but also offers a number of health benefits that are conducive to senior wellness. It’s indeed a testament to how Parton, on and off the stage, continues to serve up comforting experiences that resonate with people all over the world. It’s a recipe that not only warms the stomach but the heart as well.

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Steer Clear of These Foods to Prevent Food Poisoning, Recommends CDC

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This listicle is your handy guide to ensuring that you live your golden years in the best health possible, by avoiding certain foods that pose a risk of food poisoning. As per the CDC, here are eight foods that are most likely to cause food-borne illnesses. Let’s dive in and see which foods made the list.

1. Raw or Rare Meat

According to the CDC, “Raw or undercooked meat can contain harmful bacteria.” So, it’s recommended to avoid rare steaks or undercooked burgers.

“Harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria can live in uncooked meat and poultry.”

2. Raw Shellfish

Seafood enthusiasts, particularly those fond of raw dishes, need to remain cautious.

“Raw shellfish, including oysters, clams and mussels, can carry a risk of food poisoning,” the CDC warns.

3. Raw or Unwashed Produce

Even fruits and veggies can pose a risk if not properly cleaned or cooked.

“Raw or unwashed produce can contain E. coli or other harmful bacteria,” states the CDC.

4. Unpasteurized Milk and Cheese

When it comes to dairy, the CDC recommends opting for pasteurized products.

“Raw milk and cheese can contain E. coli or other bacteria.”

5. Raw or Lightly Cooked Eggs

Similar to meat, eggs can also harbor dangerous bacteria if not cooked thoroughly.

“Raw eggs can contain Salmonella, especially if they’re not pasteurized.”

6. Sprouts

Even healthy foods like sprouts are not without their risks.

“Sprouts can carry E. coli or Salmonella,” according to the CDC.

7. Deli Meats

Deli meats might seem safe, but the CDC says otherwise.

“Deli meats, including hot dogs, can become contaminated after processing with Listeria.”

8. Uncooked Flour

Even flour isn’t safe from potential contamination.

“Flour is typically a raw product and can contain bacteria that cause disease,” the CDC warns.

Embracing your golden years means making conscious choices about what you eat. By avoiding these eight foods that have been identified by the CDC as the most likely to cause food poisoning, you’re taking an important step towards safeguarding your health. Remember, when it comes to food, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Don’t let a potential risk of food poisoning disrupt your lively, healthy, and happy lifestyle.

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