Food Friday: Eat Chocolate for Sun Protection

Chocolat de Bonnat tasting

Planning a Caribbean get-away this winter? Don’t forget to pack some hot chocolate.

Several studies, including a well known one 2006 German researchers have shown that dark chocolate beverages high in flavonols (plant-based antioxidants), may have protective properties against damaging UV rays. In the study, they compared two groups of women. One drank flavonol-rich chocolate beverages  while the other drank a less potent chocolate beverage. When both groups were exposed to UV-light, those who drank the richer chocolate beverage suffered the least sunburn.

A 2009 study published in The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology similarly found that regular consumption of chocolate high in flavonols offered some protection against sun’s damaging rays.

What’s the sweet spot for protection? 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate was found to provide an SPF of 2 or 3. While that’s better than no protection, it certainly is not enough to adequately protect you from sun damage.

Since chocolate doesn’t list the amount of flavonoids it contains, look for brands with at least 70% cacoa. So, pack your broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 30 for optimum sun protection and toss a few dark chocolate bars like Ghiradelli’s Intense Dark Twilight Delight 72%, in your carry-on.

Photo credit: FCC, EverJean 

 

Food Friday: Burn More Fat? Eat More Apples

Apple Planet

Don’t peel that apple.

A recent study from the University of Iowa found that a compound called ursolic acid which is found in apple peels, is related to increased fat burning. In the study, mice given ursolic acid built more muscle mass which led to increased metabolism and calories burned. They also had increased levels of brown fat which is a superior calorie burner. Researchers were pleased to find that the mice had reduced obesity, pre-diabetes, and fatty liver disease, all promising findings that could eventually lead to helping patients.

Photo credit: FCC, leoncillosabino

6 Tips To Not Gain Weight During the Holidays

When you’re younger, you worry about “the freshman 15.” When you’re older, you worry holiday parties. Eggnog shots, peppermint fudge, Christmas cookies, bacon-wrapped everything. How can you not gain weight? It’s possible. Not easy, but possible.

Here are 6 tips to not gain weight during the holidays:

1. Exercise in the morning. Studies show that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to make healthier eating choices throughout the day. And morning exercise means you burn more calories all day long.

2. There’s an app for that. Whether you’re trying to drop a few pounds or simply maintain your weight, using a diet or calorie count app will help you stay on track. Studies show that when people record everything they eat and drink, they’re more likely to make healthier choices.

3. Be choosy. Going to a potluck or buffet? Scan all the food choices before digging in. One satisfying bacon-wrapped scallop may be fewer calories than 5 pieces of baked chicken. Eating what you’re really craving may help you to avoid overeating foods you don’t really want. Just remember one word: moderation.

4. Make it 2 for 1. For every alcoholic beverage you imbibe, drink two glass of water. It’ll help you stay fuller and less tipsy.

5. Eat normally. Don’t starve yourself the day of the party so you can pig out. You’ll slow down your metabolism and weaken your willpower, two things you do not want to do before a party. Instead, eat a light breakfast, lunch, and snack high all high in lean protein  whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

6. Step away from the table. See the guy in the picture above? Don’t be him. Walk around the room, strike up conversations, dance, and kiss under the mistletoe. You’ll eat less and have more fun.

How about you? What are your stay-slim tips for the holidays? Please share them with us in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, Average Jane

Food Friday: Grandpa, Don’t Eat That Bread

Old Man of Lisboa

A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, shows that older people who eat a lot of carbs have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

All I can say is, thank goodness my Italian grandmother never lived to hear about this. The woman ate pasta about four times a week and bread every day her life and lived to her 90′s, still sharp as a tack.

Yet, as the study shows, there might be a link between high carb intake and MCI. Study participants who ate the most carbs showed early signs of cognitive impairment including problems with memory, language, and thinking and judging. The study’s lead author said that although not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s, many will. Currently, Alzheimer’s affects over 5 million US adults, so researchers are keen to find ways to stop MCI from progressing.

The study also found that those with diets highest in fats (nuts and healthy oils) were 42% less likely to get cognitive impairment. And those with the highest protein diets (chicken, meat, fish) had a 21% reduced risk.

So what does this mean for you?

  • It doesn’t mean carbohydrates cause dementia or Alzheimer’s. More studies need to be done to determine causality.
  • Don’t throw away all your pasta and bread. Like most things in life, moderation is key. The American Diabetes Association has some good information on carb counting and serving size.
  • Eat as many non-starchy vegetables as possible, including broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach, and salad greens, which are some of the healthiest carbs you can eat.
  • Remember, that many different foods contain carbs including less healthy crackers, chips, and pastries as well as healthier milk, yogurt, and beans. So rather than banish carbs from your diet, choose smart, healthy carbs like these recommended from The Harvard School of Public Health. You might also like to read WebMD’s article on “Good Carbs, Bad Carbs,” and why they matter to you.

Photo credit: FCC, KevinPoh

Food Friday: Don’t Worry, Fruit Happy

Farmers' Market

We know an apple a day keeps the doctor away. It can also put a smile on your face. A new study out of Britain shows that eating 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is linked to happiness.

Researchers analyzed the diets of 80,000 British men and women and found that those who ate the most fruits and vegetables were the happiest. Seven servings was indicated as the ideal number.

Researchers aren’t claiming a cause-effect relationship. Think about it: Do people who eat more fruits and vegetables actually become happier, or are happy people more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables? There’s no definitive answer.

Either way, we know that eating more fruits and vegetables is linked with decreased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. So even if that extra side of kale doesn’t make you feel like laughing on the outside, you’ll be laughing on the inside.

Photo credit: FCC, NatalieMaynor

Food Friday: Eating Fish May Be Healthier Than Fish Oil Supplements

salmon

Eat fish or take supplements? Which is better?

For years, omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish oil supplements have been touted as beneficial for heart health. This was especially good news for people who didn’t like to eat fish.

However, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that supplements may not be as beneficial for heart health as eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, herring, and tuna.

Researchers measured the fatty-acid blood levels of more than 20,000 male doctors and found mixed results when it came to omega-3 supplements and the men’s likelihood of heart failure. However, eating fish regularly was linked to a lower risk.

Should you stop taking your supplements? Talk to your doctor. In the meantime, order the salmon next time you go out for dinner.

Photo credit: FCC, Andrea Pokrzywinski

 

Food Friday: Eat Walnuts for Healthy, Soft Skin

Walnut

Having grown up in New England, I’ve always eaten walnuts. Turns out that’s been good for my skin. Walnuts are high in Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, both which benefit your skin. Vitamin E is a natural anti-inflammatory which can help people with inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce free radicals that cause skin aging. Omega-3 fatty acids help your skin to manufacture the essential oils it needs to protect itself, so eating foods like walnuts can help keep skin looking and feeling soft and healthy.

Just 1/4 cup of walnuts provides nearly 95% of your daily omega-3 requirements. So toss walnuts into your cereal, salad, trail mix, or cooked grains. Or make this recipe for apple-maple walnut breakfast quinoa that’s healthy for your body and your skin. High in protein, fiber, and vitamins, it’ll help you look and feel good.

Apple-Maple Walnut Breakfast Quinoa
Makes 2 servings

1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup water
2 teaspoons butter
1 medium apple of your choice, diced with skins on
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted walnuts, or more if you’d like
1/8 teaspoon apple pie spice
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1. In a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring water and quinoa to a boil for 2 minutes. Lower to a simmer and cover for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed the water, puffs up, and turns translucent. If the water has evaporated before the quinoa is cooked, just add a bit more water. Quinoa should maintain a slight crunch when cooked.

2. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add apples and cook 2 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Add walnuts, apple pie spice, and salt. Cook 1 minute more. Add to quinoa and stir.

3. Divide quinoa into two bowls, and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve hot.

Photo credit: FCC, Ioan Sameli. Recipe credit: Susan Russo