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Sacrifices Can Lead to Big Health Benefits

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Sacrifices Can Lead to Big Health BenefitsAs gas prices, the stock market, and employment rates continue to yoyo, one figure has been steadily growing over the past few years, and it’s not a good one: It’s obesity. According to a joint study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Duke University in Atlanta, at current rates 42% of Americans will be overweight by the year 2030, and half of that figure will be due to childhood weight gain. A large part of it is simply due to the fact that people are consuming more calories, but exercising less.

Small Numbers Add Up Over Time

On paper, weight management seems like a simple task: If kids cut between 41 to 64 calories per day, it can lead to a national obesity rate of only 16.1% among youths aged 12 to 19. That equates to about cutting 4 ounces of apple juice or a quarter of an oatmeal raisin bar every day. These figures vary between racial demographics, but they are manageable, nonetheless, if parents and schools work together to curb kids’ appetites, and if adults themselves exercise a little more willpower. If obesity figures are left to their own devices, national healthcare costs due to weight-related health issues may exceed $500 billion over the next 20 years.

Cutting Back Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

As stated earlier, one doesn’t need to make drastic changes just to be healthier; small cutbacks to your diet every can be equally effective in producing lasting health results. So the next time you’re thinking about adding dessert to your meal, have one scoop of ice cream instead of two, or choose low-calorie frozen yogurt—then get up and add a little exercise into the mix. The long-term results may be a pleasant surprise!

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Dark Chocolate Brightens Up Your Heart Health

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Dark Chocolate Brightens Up Your Heart HealthMost of us dread eating things that are supposed to be good for our health (do you remember being forced to eat your greens when you were a kid?). But what if we told you that you could actually improve your heart health by eating chocolate?

According to Mee Young Hong, PhD, associate professor of exercise and nutritional sciences at San Diego State University, chocolate has remarkable benefits to your heart. But it’s important to be picky about the type of chocolate you consume because dark chocolate is a clear winner over white chocolate when it comes to lowering blood sugar levels and improving cholesterol.

Pick Dark Chocolate Over White Chocolate

Pure, unprocessed cocoa that hasn’t been heavily processed with sugar and preservatives is actually quite healthy because it is loaded with compounds called flavonols, which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dark chocolate contains up to 70% of cocoa solids whereas white chocolate has no cocoa solids at all. In her study, Dr. Hong and her team assigned 31 men and women 1.7 ounces of dark, white, or “bloomed” dark chocolate daily for 15 days. Bloomed chocolate is chocolate that has been melted, but stuck back in the refrigerator to reharden. Dr. Hong wanted to test this type of chocolate to see if blooming affected the health properties of the chocolate. At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the participants who ate dark chocolate, compared to the white chocolate eaters, had:

  • Lower blood sugar because cocoa helps the body use insulin more effectively
  • Improved good HDL cholesterol
  • Decreased bad LDL cholesterol

Results were consistent even for the people who ate bloomed dark chocolate.

Additional Research Sweetens the Deal

A similar study conducted by scientists in Germany found that dark chocolate may also help lower blood pressure, again due to cocoa’s antioxidant capabilities that support the arteries and circulation. But just because the results look promising, it’s no reason to overindulge out on chocolate (remember, most store-brand chocolate is packed with sugar and calories!). You can, however, reward yourself every so often with a bar of dark chocolate to brighten up your mood—and your heart.

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