Three Foods to Get You In the Mood

I know this post is a bit out of my wheel house.

But I get asked this question from friends (and friends of friends) every year around this time. You know — because Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

“Can certain foods really act as aphrodisiacs or make you fall in love?”

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The simple answer: YES.

So even though this goes outside the bounds of my usual topics, I present three foods that can get you in the mood.

Maca Powder

Maca is a Peruvian root vegetable used for centuries. It is most commonly found in the powder form, which has an earthy flavor and warm vanilla-like aroma.

Maca is known to increase energy, boost fertility, and enhance libido. Additionally, maca is rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals.

It’s easy to add a teaspoon of maca powder to your smoothie of choice; alternately, you can sprinkle maca powder into your oatmeal or add it to your favorite bar recipe. Just remember maca powder can be energizing so beware of using it before bedtime unless you know how you react to it.

Tip: Trader Joe’s sells maca powder — you can typically find it near the smoothie protein powders and in the baking section.

Dark Chocolate

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You know I’m a HUGE chocolate fan (for the taste and the health benefits).

But did you know dark chocolate can help you fall (or stay) in love? This property is attributed to dark chocolate’s phenylethylamine, an endorphin released when people fall in love.

This — coupled with chocolate’s ability to stimulate production of “feel good” hormones serotonin and and dopamine — helps explain why chocolate is the stereotypical Valentine’s Day food.

Chili Peppers

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Chili peppers have special properties that can be exploited for more than just taste.

Chili peppers contain an ingredient called capsaicin. Capsaicin stimulates nerve endings, causing a tingling sensation, and ultimately causes the release of endorphins and adrenaline. In fact, capsaicin is used medicinally in topical products to help reduce pain.

The endorphin release caused from eating chili peppers can increase feeling of happiness and love.

The Truth - There Are Foods that Stimulate Love & More

Maca, dark chocolate, and chili are three foods that can stimulate good feelings and love.

Do you want even more good feelings for Valentine’s Day this year?  Try combining these feel good foods together for your special someone.

The flavors of chocolate and maca go together nicely. In fact, one of my favorite smoothie recipes utilizes them both.

If you prefer something you can buy premade, Theo chocolate makes a dark chocolate and chili bar. Three different chili peppers are combined with 70% dark chocolate in a delightful tasting way.

Sending you x’s and o’s,
Skye

 

Thank YOU! And 2017’s Best Of List.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you for being part of A Better Way Wellness. Thank you for helping me share real, truthful, and action-oriented health information. Thank you for making living a happier and healthier life a priority.

It’s been a year for the books and I wouldn’t be doing what I  am truly passionate about without you.

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So THANK YOU!

And as a small token of my appreciation, I am giving you a list of my most popular posts this last year.

It’s A Better Way Wellness’ Best Of 2017 List. It’s short, sweet, and full of health boosting tidbits. So have at it!

1. How to Use Supplements to Boost Happiness

If you want to be happier and want supplements to give you a boost, this is the post of you.

2. Healthy Happy Hour Part I and Healthy Happy Hour Part II

Do you love happy hour? And love feeling great? If so, click the links above to find out how.

3. How to Burn Fat in 15 Minutes

Who doesn’t want to burn fat fast? I know I do . . . if you do, too, check out this one.

4. How to be Happier at Work

Do you want to feel better and happier in the workplace? If this is you, I have actionable tips to help.

5. The Smoothie that Tastes Like Dessert, But Feels Like Medicine

Yes, please! Recipes that taste rich and luxe, but make you “feel like a million bucks” are my favorite. This one is easy-peasy. Give it a try!

6. My Fall Beverage Secret: The Sunshine Latte (Recipe Included)

I know it’s not technically fall anymore, but the Sunshine Latte will still please your mouth, mind, and body.

7. The Truth About Chocolate (& the Best Way to Eat It)

Chocolate lovers rejoice! Chocolate is GOOD for you and I show you the best ways to have it in this post.

8. 5 Products to Change Immediately to Decrease Exposure to Carcinogens and EDCs

Consider a New Year's resolution around this one. Swap out one (or all!) of these products to protect yourself from carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

Non-Depressing Health Alert: Chocolate is GOOD for Your Heart

Are you struggling with the holidays?

Maybe you can’t turn down those chocolate truffles your co-worker put in the lunch room.

Maybe the box of Candy Cane JoJo’s calls your name when you’re shopping at Trader Joe’s.

Or maybe your husband brought home a package of dark chocolate dipped pretzels that you can’t resist. (Welcome to my life).

Are you feeling food guilt or frustration?

If so, I have FANTASTIC (and evidence-based) health news for you. News that will make you feel better, lose the guilt, and start enjoying the holidays.

Are you ready?

Because it may blow your mind away.

Chocolate is good for your heart.

Seriously.

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Eating chocolate is correlated with reductions in heart disease.

So are things like exercising and eating fruits and vegetables. But isn’t eating chocolate a little more fun? I think so. And I think a healthy life SHOULD be fun.

A recent study published in the journal Heart may give us a look into WHY. The study conducted in Denmark showed chocolate consumption was associated with a lower risk of atrial fibrillation, a common arrhythmia that can lead to stroke and other serious heart problems.

Those who had one to three one-ounce servings of chocolate each month had a 10% relative risk reduction in atrial fibrillation. And people that ate more chocolate (one serving a week) had a 20% reduction.

The not as good news? Those that had one or more servings of chocolate a day did not have a statistically significant risk reduction.

So enjoy those chocolate truffles — but try to keep it to once a week to maximize heart health benefits.

OTHER HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE

There are other health benefits to chocolate. Studies show chocolate consumption is also associated with:

  •  Lower blood pressure
  •  Improved insulin response
  •  Improved mood

So you can feel good (and healthy) about that dark chocolate truffle you just ate.

THE BEST TYPE OF CHOCOLATE TO EAT

If you want to maximize the health benefits of chocolate, I have a motto for you.

Darker is smarter.

The darker the chocolate, the higher percentage the cacao or cocoa.

The cacao or cocoa is the part of the chocolate that we think has the health benefits. Not the added sugar or milk.

If you need a little help on picking the best types of chocolate, check out this post. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see my favorite chocolate brands. 

NEXT STEPS

So go forth and enjoy your holidays! Eat your chocolate and savor each bite — knowing you are helping your heart.

 

With love,
Skye

The Truth About Chocolate (& the Best Way to Eat It)

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, chocolate is on my mind.

In fact, Valentine’s Day sparks memories of my childhood days. Cheesy (but adorable) cards, Conversation Hearts (with Call Me and Love You printed in red ink), and Russell Stover’s and Whitman chocolate boxes.

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Back then I actually thought I didn’t like chocolate. I was suspicious of the oddly flavored, pseudo-fruit fillings. And unconvinced by the dodgy caramel and nut fillings. I just thought I wasn’t a “chocolate” person.

Then I visited Switzerland (the land of chocolate) and was given carte blanche in a high quality chocolate shop. And I finally understood the obsession with chocolate!

I’ve also done the research — on the real benefits of chocolate and how to get the most out of it.
 
So if you plan to indulge yourself (or someone else) for Valentine’s Day with chocolate, please continue reading. Because I’m sharing the evidence-based benefits of chocolate, how to make sure you get the most from your chocolate, and my favorite chocolate brand.

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE

You’ve probably seen headlines and news snippets touting the health benefits of chocolate. Think it sounds too good to be true? Think again!

Studies show that chocolate consumption is linked to:
    •     Lower blood pressure
    •     Improved insulin response
    •     Improved mood

Plus, it tastes delicious!


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN PICKING CHOCOLATE

Not all chocolate is the same. A high quality dark chocolate is going to do much more for you than a high-fructose corn syrup sweetened fudge topping. To make sure you're picking the best options, I’ve put together a mini chocolate education for you.

1.) Cocoa is NOT Cacao.

You may see these words on chocolate products and think they are the same.

But they aren’t.

Cacao fruit trees (also known as Theobroma Cacao) produce cacao pods. Cacao pods contain cacao beans. Cacao beans can be processed different ways.

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Cacao beans.

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Cacao beans can be chopped into small pieces and are called cacao nibs. They can be heated and made into a paste (then often made into cacao bars). Most often, the beans are lightly heated until the cacao butter separates from the beans. Once the butter is removed, the beans are milled into a fine powder.

Cocoa is the product of processed cacao; usually cacao is processed at extremely high heat to make cocoa. What does this do? It improves the taste by decreasing bitterness. On the flip side, the high heat processing can decrease the potency of beneficial enzymes and antioxidants.

2.) Dark chocolate is best.

There are actually federal definitions for chocolate. Let’s review some common definitions to make sure we're on the same page.

  • Dark chocolate: a chocolate product that is at least 50 percent cacao.
  • Milk chocolate: a chocolate product that is at least 30 percent cacao. Milk chocolate usually contains sugar and vanilla. It may also contain dairy (see #3 below).
  • White chocolate: a product made from cocoa butter and sugar.

The health benefits of chocolate are attributed to the cacao. Therefore the higher the percentage of cacao, the better off you are. That means the darker the chocolate (and the higher the percentage), the better off you are.

3.) Dairy in milk chocolate makes it harder for you to get the health benefits of chocolate.

Nearly all the research that shows health benefits with cacao and cocoa are completed using powder with NO dairy added.

The reason? When milk solids are mixed with cacao, many of cacao’s beneficial nutrients are not absorbed by the body.

So if you rationalize chocolate consumption by waxing about the health benefits, make sure you choose dairy-free options.

4.) Many chocolate products contain unnecessary (and often unhealthy) additives.

Most chocolate products sold contain unnecessary additives. These additives usually make chocolate worse for you.

Think of dairy and milk solids already discussed. They decrease the health benefits of chocolate. Other additives that can be found in chocolate include clay, soy lecithin, and chemical emulsifiers.

To make sure you get the most bang for your chocolate buck, pick chocolate without unnecessary additives.

5.) White chocolate is not actually chocolate.

Recall from the definitions above that white chocolate is a product made from cocoa butter and sugar. It does not contain cocoa. Therefore, it really isn’t chocolate.

While it may be tasty, white chocolate does not contain the health benefits of cocoa.

MY FAVORITE CHOCOLATE BRANDS

Note: I do NOT have any financial relationships with the companies I recommend below. This is entirely based on my personal opinion and experience.

As you can see, not all chocolate is created equally.

Expensive and well known chocolate brands are often not the best.

In my mind, the best chocolate is:
    •    Dark (65% or higher content)
    •    Contains three ingredients or less
    •    Is free of unnecessary additives (like milk solids, clay, and soy lecithin)

While my list of requirements is small, it can be tricky to find a product that fits the bill.

Theo Chocolate

My favorite go-to is Theo chocolate (remember, I mentioned back here around the holidays). Theo is an organic chocolate roaster and maker located in Seattle, Washington. Their products are high quality, free of unnecessary additives, and reasonably priced.

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If you live in Seattle, you can even visit the Theo chocolate factory where they give daily tours. If not, you can find Theo chocolate at a variety of retailers across the United States. Whole Foods (in store), REI (in store), Amazon (online), and Thrive Market (online) all stock Theo chocolate.

Enjoy Life

If you are looking for chocolate chips or chunks for baking, Enjoy Life makes some great options. The mini chips only include 3 ingredients are free of milk solids and common allergens (such as gluten, peanuts, soy, and eggs).

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I’ve been known to dip a spoonful of almond butter into the Enjoy Life mini chips for a quick and sweet treat.

Natural grocers and Whole Foods usually stock Enjoy Life chocolate chips. I usually buy mine online from Vitacost at a significant discount.

NEXT STEPS

Consider yourself chocolate educated! So next time you reach for a chocolate treat (or buy one for someone you love), remember my tips so you can enjoy the health and taste benefits.

xoxo,

Skye

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