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5 Surprising Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

December 28, 2013

dark chocolate 4In study after study research is showing that dark chocolate has a whole host of health benefits. For example, you’ve undoubtedly  heard how dark chocolate can give you energy, and improve your mood.

Here are five health benefits of dark chocolate that just might surprise you.

Dark chocolate:

1. Makes you slim

Even though chocolate is loaded with calories, it contains ingredients that may favor weight loss rather than fat synthesis. Researchers have discovered that adults who consumed chocolate frequently had a lower BMI than those who didn’t. And, the number of calories decreases as the percentage of raw cacao in the dark chocolate increases.

2.  Makes you smarter

Dark chocolate is rich in chemical compounds called flavonoids, which has been found to boost brain activity. Cognitive skills are enhanced when flavonoids create new sets of neurons in the brain. These new neurons assist in the formation of new memories, as well as improving blood flow to the brain.

3. Prevents wrinkles

Topical creams, lotions, and even cosmetic treatments by physicians, can only go so far in making your skin appear younger.  For real sustainable results you need to look to your diet.

Free radicals in our environment are some of the most extreme reasons why wrinkles appear in the skin. To fight free radicals, your diet should contain many sources of antioxidants.

While fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants, dark chocolate has actually been found to contain higher percentages of antioxidants than even “superfoods” such as blueberries.

4. Slows down muscle aging

Recent studies are showing that the plant compound, epicatechin, found in dark chocolate, stimulates the same muscle response as does vigorous exercise.  A type of antioxidant compound, epicatechin can help slow down muscle aging as well as improve lean muscle mass.

5. Helps you live longer

There is antidotal evidence that dark chocolate can help you live longer. The oldest verified human being to have lived to 122 years old, Jeanne Calment, gave her daily consumption of dark chocolate credit for her longevitiy.

And now scientists are finding that the high percentage of antioxidants in raw cacao may very well be the key that does help you live longer.

This power-pack of antioxidants helps fight disease as well as cuts your risk for heart disease.

For the health benefits of chocolate be sure you eat dark chocolate which is listed as 70% or higher. The percentage indicates the amount of raw cacao in the product, which is what contains the compounds that give you these wonderful health benefits.

Photo Credit: livestrong.com


What is "Fair Trade" in the Chocolate Industry?

December 26, 2013

cacao farmerThe definition of  “Fair Trade” is:

A trading partnership, based on respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.

What exactly does this mean and why is this a big deal?

In 2000 journalists began documenting the continued practice of forced child labor in the West African cacao trade, a source of 70% of the world’s chocolate. Since the Ivory Coast in West Africa alone produces 40% of the planet’s raw cacao, its beans are mixed into almost every brand of mass-produced chocolate.

Large global corporations such as Hershey and Nestle have historically done little to address the problem of slave labor, and most cocoa on the world market is bought “blind,” through importers and brokers.

Besides the slave labor issue, cacao farmers are often forced to sell their harvest to middlemen who rig scales and misrepresent prices.

Fairly traded cacao is monitored by independent, non-profit, certifying organizations that guarantee that the chocolate was produced and traded in a socially responsible manner, specifically that:

1.  International Labor Organization Conventions on child labor and forced labor are adhered to.

2. The cacao beans were bought directly from a democratically controlled co-operative of small scale farmers, which helps them gain more control of their livelihoods and ensures farmers a higher percentage of cocoa export revenues.

Organic cacao has a built-in aspect that makes it somewhat automatically a fair trade product. Organic farms are subject to their own independent monitoring system that checks labor practices.

Also, as of now, cacao beans are not organically grown in the Ivory Coast, which is where the vast majority of the reports about exploitation and slavery in the chocolate trade are centered.

Mayesa purchases its organic cacao beans through Fair Trade from farmer co-operatives in Peru. Knowing this you can enjoy your delicious healthy chocolate drink feeling as good about the way the chocolate was grown and harvested as you do about the way it tastes.


Photo Credit: telegraph.co.uk






Healthy Eating – 8 Superfoods of Fall

December 21, 2013

fall-foods-superfruit-400x400As autumn brings a sharp chill to the air while the countryside warms with the golds and crimsons of coloring leaves, the joys of healthy eating combine with the peak of harvest.

Fall brings an abundance of superfoods into the grocery stores and farmers markets. Here are eight of the top superfoods of fall:

1. Apples

Sweet or tart, apples are satisfying eaten raw or baked into a delicious dish. Just be sure to eat the skin—it contains hearty-healthy flavonoids.

Health benefits include:
• Full of antioxidants
• 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving

2. Pears

The sweet and juicy taste makes this fruit a crowd-pleaser. Cooking brings out their fabulous flavor, so try them baked or poached.

Health benefits include:
• Good source of vitamin C and copper
• 4 grams of fiber per serving

3. Cauliflower

The sweet, slightly nutty flavor of cauliflower is perfect for winter side dishes. It’s wonderful steamed, but it can also be blended to create a mashed potato-like texture or pureed into soup.

Health benefits include:
• Compounds that may help to prevent cancer
• Phytonutrients may lower cholesterol

4. Winter Squash

Unlike summer squash (such as zucchini), winter squash (butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, etc.) has a fine texture and a slightly sweet flavor. Because of its thick skin, it can be stored for months. It tastes best with other fall flavorings, like cinnamon and ginger.

Health benefits include:
• Contains omega-3 fatty acids
• Excellent source of vitamin A

5. Pumpkin

Technically a fruit, but also considered a type of winter squash, pumpkin can be used for much more than jack-o’-lanterns. Its sweet taste and moist texture make it ideal for pies, pudding, and especially hearty soup.

Health benefits include:
• Rich in potassium
• More than 20% of your DRI of fiber
• Good source of B vitamins

6. Sweet potatoes

These veggies are for much more than Thanksgiving casseroles. More nutritionally dense than their white-potato counterparts, try roasting them—they’ll taste delicious, and you may maintain more vitamins than boiling.

Health benefits include:
• Excellent source of vitamin A
• Good source of iron
• Anti-inflammatory benefits

7. Pomegranates

This fruit has gotten a lot of press as an antioxidant powerhouse. The juice provides a tangy base for marinades, and the seeds can be tossed into salads to amp up the flavor.

Health benefits include:
• A UCLA study showed pomegranate juice has higher antioxidant levels than red wine
• Good source of vitamin C and folate

8. Dates

This Middle Eastern favorite is a sweet fruit that is much more versatile than you might think. Besides chopping it up in desserts, try it braised in stews,  or stuffed with cream cheese or almonds.

Health benefits include:
• Low in fat
• Good source of fiber
• Good source of potassium


9. Cacao

Cacao is a superfood for all seasons. In a two-part series beginning next month we’ll be looking at all the reasons raw cacao is so good for a healthy eating plan and a healthy lifestyle.


Source: health.com



Why You Should Eat and Drink High-Cacao Dark Chocolate – Part 2

December 18, 2013

Raw Cacao Powder“The truth is that you should probably be eating dark chocolate on at least a semi-regular basis because, as it turns out, it is very good for you.” So writes nutritionist and fitness expert Mark Sisson in Part 1 of our 2-part article where we look at the health benefits of raw cacao, and of enjoying dark chocolate.

We continue here with more information from Mark Sisson:

4. Dark chocolate and cardiovascular disease.

Studies have shown that people with both normal and elevated cholesterol levels, who ingested cacao powder mixed with hot water lowered LDL (bad cholesterol) and increased HDL (good cholesterol). All three doses of high-flavanol cacao powder – 13, 19.5, and 26 g/day – proved beneficial. If you’re wondering, 26 grams of powder is about a quarter cup.

The effects of chocolate on cholesterol also means that it will lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. And indeed, epidemiological studies suggest that this is the case. In a sample of over 2200 patients, chocolate consumption was inversely associated with progression of atherosclerotic plaque (clogged arteries).

5. Dark chocolate and insulin resistance.

For fifteen days, hypertensive, glucose-intolerant patients received either 100 daily grams of high-polyphenol dark chocolate or 100 daily grams of zero-polyphenol white chocolate. Nothing differed between the groups besides the type of chocolate. Dark chocolate lowered blood pressure, increased insulin sensitivity, and improved endothelial function, while white chocolate did none of those things.

6. Dark chocolate and UV damage.

Who would have thought?  One study found that feeding high levels of dark chocolate to healthy people over twelve weeks resulted in greater resistance to  UV dosage than a low-flavanol-from-cacao

Seeing as how most of chocolate’s benefits stem from the polyphenol content, and most of the studies that saw large effects used “high-flavanol” dark chocolate, you should be gunning for chocolate with high polyphenol counts.

Dutch processed, or alkalized, chocolate lightens the color, removes some of the bitter compounds, and gives it a milder taste. Awesome for Hershey’s Kisses, but awful for the flavanol content.

Those “bitter compounds,” you see, are the flavanols. Without the bitterness (which I think of as complexity), you’re missing most of the beneficial polyphenols. It might taste good, but it won’t perform all of the aforementioned physiological tasks.

Once you’ve got a lead on some good chocolate with high cacao and lower sugar levels, eat a few squares a sitting, or enjoy Mayesa healthy chocolate drink every day!  Treat it like a medicinal adjunct to an otherwise solid diet, says Sisson.

We thank Mark Sisson for his insightful discussion of the wonderful health benefits of raw cacao.

Source: MarksDailyApple 

Disclaimer: Neither Mark Sisson nor Mayesa has received remuneration for the publication of this guest blog, nor is there product endorsement.




Can Chocolate Keep You Slim? – A New Study

December 19, 2012

A new study has found that people who regularly eat dark chocolate (with a high percentage of raw cacao) tend to be thinner. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and headed by Dr Beatrice Golomb, from the University of California at San Diego, showed that those who ate dark chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who ate it occasionally.

The study looked at diet, calorie intake, and body mass index (BMI) of almost 1,000 participants.

“Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight,” said Golomb. “Even though chocolate is loaded with calories, it contains ingredients that may favor weight loss rather than fat synthesis.”

Interestingly that link remained even when other factors, such as exercise, were taken into account. And it appears it is how often you eat chocolate that is important, rather than how much of it you eat.

The study found no link with the quantity that was consumed.

In addition, Dr Golomb and her team believe that antioxidant compounds found in raw cacao, called catechins, can even improve lean muscle mass and reduce weight. Mice fed for 15 days with epicatechin (present in dark chocolate) had improved exercise performance and observable changes to their muscle composition. Dr. Golomb says clinical trials are now needed to see if this is the case in humans.

The type of chocolate consumed is important. Most chocolate used in candy bars, chocolate milk, snacks and desserts contain low percentages of cocoa and large amounts of sugar and fat, which can cause obvious problems such as weight gain and onset of diabetes.

For the health benefits of chocolate be sure you eat dark chocolate which is listed as 70% or higher. The percentage indicates the amount of raw cacao in the product. The more raw chocolate the less sugar and fat. And drink Mayesa – a great way of indulging in healthy chocolate because it’s made from healthy organic raw cacao.