Can Eating Chocolate Make You Smarter? 2 Healthy Sources of Chocolate to Boost Your Brain Power

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As a food with such a bad reputation for being unhealthful just a couple of decades ago, new studies keep revealing new health benefits of eating chocolate. Along with past studies that linked eating chocolate to improved mood, heart health, and reduced risk of stroke, a new study shows reveals that it may help improve your brain function.

The study analyzed almost 1000 people over a 30-year period and found that those who ate chocolate at least once-a-week were in better cognitive health than those who didn’t consume chocolate or ate it only on rare occasions.

Of course, the health benefits of chocolate can be counteracted when you eat processed chocolate bars that are filled with high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and emulsifiers. However, here are two sources of chocolate so healthy that you can even include them in your diet every day.

1. Raw Cacao Nibs

Raw cacao nibs are readily available at many health-food shops, and they offer an experience as close to eating a real, unprocessed cocoa bean as possible. These nibs are simply cocoa beans cut into small pieces and packaged. The easiest way to include them in your daily diet is to simply munch on them, just as you would any other snack.

Other ideas include adding the nibs to trail mix, adding them to cookie recipes instead of processed chocolate chips, or adding a few to your daily smoothie to give it a healthy flavor kick.

Or, you can mix equal amounts of cacao nibs and healthy nut butter, then roll the mixture into small balls, and roll again in small dish of nibs. Healthy chocolate-nut butter candy! Yum!

2. Brewing Chocolate

Brewing chocolate is perfect when you want a healthy chocolate beverage with almost zero calories. It is sold in bags, similar to how coffee is sold, but inside the bag you will find ground cocoa beans instead of coffee. While you can brew the chocolate in a drip coffee maker when in a hurry, it is better to heat a cup of hot water on the stove, add a few tablespoons of brewing chocolate (play around to find your perfect strength), allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes, then strain it. This longer steeping time unleashes more of the antioxidants and flavor of the ground cocoa beans than a drip coffee brewer can.

You can then drink the final beverage “black,” or with a little organic milk of your choice added along with a little stevia. If you are a coffee drinker, you can mix the brewed chocolate beverage into your daily cup of coffee to make it even healthier.

Once you brew your ground beans, don’t throw them out! Place them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, and you can then add them to your next smoothie, bowl of rice pudding, or even your oatmeal.

Chocolate is healthy, but only when you choose the right type of chocolate to add to your daily diet. Try one or both of these healthy sources of chocolate to reap the health benefits without the added fat, preservatives, and emulsifiers in processed chocolate bars.

Want the Health Benefits of Probiotics but Don’t Do Dairy? Try Making Easy, Affordable Water Kefir!

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If you live a dairy-free lifestyle due to ethical reasons or lactose intolerance, then you may envy people who can easily obtain healthy probiotics by eating yogurt or drinking dairy kefir. You may even be thinking of taking probiotic supplements, but these supplements are often ineffective. Instead, try making affordable, dairy-free water kefir. The basic recipe will give you a base you can then add fruit juice or even a natural flavor extract to in order to customize your flavor.

How To Make Probiotic-rich Water Kefir

To make water kefir, you need to purchase a starter culture of water kefir grains. Not only are they super-affordable, but you should only have to purchase them once! Not only can they be re-used, but since they are filled with living bacteria and yeast, they will keep growing and replicating, and you will actually end up with more and more the longer you keep them!

Once you receive them, make your water kefir in any glass jar (an empty jam or pickle bottle is perfect) by following these steps:

  1. Dissolve two-tablespoons of brown sugar in about one-quarter cup of hot water and then let cool to room temperature. (The kefir grains will “feed” off it, so there will be little to no sugar left in the final beverage.)
  2. Add 2 cups of room temperature water to the sugar solution.
  3. Add one tablespoon of water kefir grains.
  4. Place a clean cloth or coffee filter over the top of the jar and secure it with a rubber-band or string tied tightly around it. Do not top with the metal lid that came with the jar, or you will starve the solution of needed oxygen!
  5. Place it in warm spot in your home. The solution thrives best at around 75-degrees Fahrenheit, but don’t worry too much about the exact temperature too much. However, if you find a batch does not ferment the first time, you may have to find a warmer spot in your home the second time around. Your unheated oven is the perfect place to store your water kefir if you don’t use it daily.
  6. After about 36-hours, you should notice that the water is cloudy, and this is when you can strain the mixture to remove the grains.
  7. Once the water kefir is fully prepared and the grains taken out, you can chill it before you drink it and add a splash of fruit juice for a delicious, healthy beverage. Enjoy!

Since the process of making a batch of water kefir does take a few days, you may want begin your next batch using the same grains again as soon as you strain them from the first batch. However, you can store them in the refrigerator between uses if you don’t plan to make a new batch right away.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Health: Over-Hyped or True Disease Fighter?

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If you frequently search the internet for natural remedies for ailments you are facing, you likely run into many claims that apple cider vinegar, often called ACV, is the perfect cure for whatever ails you. Even if you are an avid believer in the power of natural health remedies, it may just sound too-good-to-be true that drinking a couple of tablespoons of this affordable, easy-to-find liquid helps your body fight off so many diseases and health problems. Let’s take a look at the apple cider vinegar facts, and you can then decide what you think about this natural, cure-all.

Just What is in Apple Cider Vinegar That Can Improve Your Health?

If you glance at the nutrition label of a bottle of apple cider vinegar, you will only see minimal amounts vitamins and minerals listed. While not vitamin and mineral packed, one of the keys to the health benefits of ACV is its acetic acid content. Acetic acid in ACV has been shown to help regulate blood-sugar, making it great for diabetics.

Apple cider vinegar is also acidic, typically about 2.4 on the pH scale, so when you take a little before or after meals, it helps aid digestion and unlock the nutrients in your food.

Organic apple cider vinegar with “the mother” is also full of healthy probiotics, which are the good bacteria that everyone needs to keep their gut microbiota in healthy balance. This acid also helps to fight acid reflux and heartburn, which can make anyone feel less-than-their-best.

New Studies Show Apple Cider Vinegar Fights Body Inflammation

One of the claims of apple cider vinegar enthusiasts has always been that it helps get rid of the inflammation in your body that contributes to many chronic diseases. This fact has recently been proven in a clinical study that showed that taking ACV every day helped fight colon inflammation in sufferers of ulcerative colitis, which is an auto-immune disease that affects the colon.

While this study tested the heath benefits of ACV in a specific group of people with this auto-immune disease, the fact that apple cider vinegar can control a disease that once was only treatable with biological medications that literally suppress a person’s entire immune system is a huge break-through that should matter to you whether you have IBD or not.

Inflammation is the root-cause of virtually every chronic illness, so this means that if it can suppress inflammation enough to combat a tough-to-treat autoimmune condition, it is definitely worth giving a try if you suffer from any type of chronic disease or illness.

If you have looked at the lists of diseases and conditions that people claim they have treated by simply taking a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar a few times a day and thought this natural treatment sounded too-good-to-be-true to try, then you change your mind after you look at the facts.

When choosing the apple cider vinegar to include in your daily diet, look for organic ACV that looks a little cloudy, because this has “the mother,” which is the rich source of probiotics. Also, always dilute one to two tablespoons of ACV in a large glass of water to make sure the acids in it don’t irritate your throat or damage your tooth enamel over time.

All About Oats: This Grain Packs a Nutritional Punch & Contains a Natural Appetite Suppressant

 

If you don’t include oats in your daily diet, then you should consider adding them. Why? Rolled and steel-cut oats are filled with vitamins and minerals and help combat many health problems. It is a little-known fact that they can also help you lose weight or maintain your healthy weight due to a natural appetite suppressant they contain. Read on to find out just why oats are so healthy and how they can help curb your cravings for unhealthy foods.

What Makes Oats so Nutritious?

Organic rolled oats or steel-cut oats are both healthy grains that are filled with vitamins and minerals. Just one-half cup of either type of oats contains 8 grams of healthy fiber, 13 grams of protein, 40-percent of your daily RDA of thiamin, and 20-percent of your RDA of iron. Oats also contain plenty of folate, pantothenic acid, and 35-percent of your RDA of magnesium.

Eating oats every day can also help lower your blood pressure and keep your “bad” cholesterol level in-check. Just a small portion of oats is also very filling, and when topped with yogurt and a little fruit, makes a healthy, antioxidant- and probiotic-packed breakfast or dessert.

Oats also Suppress Your Appetite and Curb Unhealthy Food Cravings

Oats offer an additional advantage if you have a large appetite that you want to curb. All oats contain an abundant amount of a specific type of fiber called beta-glucan. This soluble fiber has an array of health benefits, since it is considered a prebiotic fiber that supports a healthy gut bacterial balance.

An added benefit of beta-glucan is that it is a potent natural appetite suppressant. Supplement manufacturers have even created beta-glucan supplements to market the appetite-suppressant effects of this fiber, but why take a supplement when oats have so much more to offer than just this fiber?

Steel-Cut vs Rolled Oats: Is one Healthier?

Many oat enthusiasts are avid believers that steel-cut oats are healthier than their rolled counter-pats. However, steel-cut and rolled oats contain the exact same vitamins and mineral contents, because they are both made from the same oat groat. When the groats are chopped into small pieces, it creates steel-cut oats, and when they are rolled under pressure, rolled oats are created. The main difference in the final product is the texture. Steel-cut oats take longer for your body to digest, which leads to them having a lower glycemic index.

In the end, both are healthy grains, and if you prefer the texture of rolled vs steel-cut oats, you aren’t losing out on the important nutrients that the oats still contain. However, avoid instant oatmeal, especially those little packets that contain so many additives. Always check the label of your oats and ensure there is only one ingredient and not a list filled with chemicals and preservatives.

Are Emulsifiers in Processed Foods Making Everyone Fat and Full of Inflammation? Studies Say Yes!

 

If you eat a healthy diet, then you likely know that you should limit processed foods in your eating plan and stick to whole, natural foods. However, you may not have heard about the new study that shows just why eating processed foods, even in small portions, can lead to obesity. Read on to find out why processed foods are bad for your health and the new discovery that may lead to you never touching a packaged food again.

Long-known Reasons to Avoid Processed Foods

The list of reasons processed foods are so unhealthy was already long before the new discovery was even made. To sum up why these foods are so bad, you have to take a look at how processed breads, cookies, and crackers are often produced.

Once-healthy, vitamin- and nutrition- packed grains are stripped of their natural hulls, ground up, and bleached. This is done to make them look more appealing and remove their natural flavors so they don’t interact with the artificial flavors added later.

Then, these grains are combined with a variety of unhealthy oils, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings, preservatives, and texture-enhancers to create nutrition-less fat- and calorie- bombs that people enjoy eating due to the body’s natural tendency to seek out calorie- and fat-filled foods (Food manufactures often add vitamin and mineral powders to the products and cheap sources of fiber, such as inulin, to dress up the nutrition labels and fool people into thinking these foods have some nutritional value).

New Discoveries on How Emulsifiers in Processed Foods Disrupt Good Gut Bacteria

Even with the long list of reasons processed foods are so unhealthy, even a typically healthy eater can be tricked into thinking they can enjoy them on occasion as a “special treat,” since many of these foods do still tickle our taste-buds. However, with the new research on how they affect your gut microbiota, you may want to never touch them again, and it would be wise not to.

Recent studies have revealed that the common emulsifiers used in processed foods to improve their textures alter a person’s gut microbiota after they consume them.

Why is this bad? When you eat only healthy, whole foods, the bacteria in your intestines and colon maintain a healthy balance that is important for virtually every aspect of your health, and that includes maintaining a healthy weight.

When you eat processed foods with artificial emulsifiers, including polysorbate-80, carboxymethylcellulose, or one of many others, it disrupts the healthy bacterial balance in your digestive system, leading to an inflamed gut. This inflammation not only triggers inflammatory disease, but also metabolic syndrome that leads to obesity.

Since there are so many emulsifiers used in processed foods today, it is best to avoid these foods completely if you want to stay in good health and maintain a healthy weight. Eat only whole, natural foods to make sure you are keeping your gut bacteria in good balance to promote a healthy body and mind.

Eating Garlic Every Day to Keep the Doctor Away? How to Sprout Garlic Easily to Super-charge its Health benefits

 

If you haven’t been eating raw garlic every day for its many health benefits, then now is a great time to start. Eating garlic frequently not only helps keep your blood pressure low, lowers your “bad” cholesterol levels, and even protects you against several types of cancer, but it also helps fight off those colds and viruses that you may be getting hit with this winter.

Garlic is already one of the world’s healthiest foods, but did you know that you can get even more nutritional punch out of the garlic you eat by sprouting it before you eat it?

Sprouting garlic increases the antioxidant content, and just one of the many antioxidants in garlic is called allicin. Allicin is the natural disease-fighting component in garlic that kills bacteria, viruses, and gives it many of its health-protective effects. By sprouting garlic, you are essentially bringing it “back to life” before eating it, which is why it then becomes even more nutrition-packed.

How to Sprout Garlic Easily

The best thing about sprouting garlic is that it is super-easy! You don’t need a garden, soil, or even a plant-pot. You also don’t need any special type of garlic. Just start with the basic garlic bulbs you can purchase at any grocery store (of course organic is always best!).

Then, follow these instructions to bring that garlic back to life so it sprouts:

  1. Place several peeled large garlic cloves or a couple of entire bulbs in a glass bowl.
  1. Add water to the dish until it covers only the bottom one-quarter to one-third of the cloves or bulbs. You do not want to submerge the garlic completely in water.
  1. Place the dish on one of the windowsills in your home that receives the most direct sunlight. Don’t worry if it is cloudy where you live, because some sun will still penetrate through the clouds and hit your garlic. They may just take a day or two longer to sprout with less sun.
  1. Let them stay put for five days. You may need to add a little water here and there, since some will evaporate. Try to keep the water-level fairly consistent.
  1. Enjoy your sprouted garlic as soon as you see green sprouts shooting up! You don’t have to let them grow tall. As soon as you see about a quarter-inch of green sprouts, your garlic has then been brought back to life and super-charged with extra antioxidants.

Remember that allicin and the other antioxidants in garlic are most powerful when not exposed to high cooking temperatures, so it is important to eat all garlic, including sprouted garlic, raw. You don’t have to eat the cloves whole, though, and you can crush them to add to pre-cooked sauces, spread on toast, or add to vegetable smoothies.

How to Eliminate Heartburn Naturally Without Using Dangerous Proton Pump Inhibitors

Everyone is talking about the recent study that links the use of proton pump inhibitors to an increase in the risk of developing dementia, but the truth is this is not the only way these acid-blockers can harm your health. While originally intended to only be taken for a maximum of two weeks when a person had a peptic ulcer or other serious stomach problem, PPIs, like Prilosec and Nexium, have become the go-to prescription medications to treat basic heartburn. These medications work by shutting off acid production in your stomach completely. Your stomach needs acid to digest your food properly, so when you take these medications daily, your body cannot break down food properly to unleash the nutrients in it that you need.

Three other negative health effects of PPIs include:

Osteoporosis. These “purple pills” prevent your body from absorbing calcium in your diet, which makes you more prone to this bone deterioration.

B-12 deficiency. Feeling tired and worn out? PPIs also keep your body from absorbing this vitamin, and this can lead to anemia and a general worn-out and tired feeling.

Magnesium deficiency. Lack of magnesium in your diet can lead to depression, anxiety, and many other health problems.

Proton Pump inhibitors are overall bad news if you want to stay healthy, and other over-the-counter heartburn medications also have their own side effects. The good news is that you can live a life without heartburn just by making a few changes to your daily diet and eating the right foods.

Foods that can help prevent heartburn and eliminate it if it does occur include:

  1. Milk, Yogurt or Kefir. Think of milk and yogurt as natural Pepto-Bismol! They coat your stomach to protect it from acidic foods and help neutralize stomach acid.
  2. Apples. Eat a fresh organic apple or a dish of applesauce before or after each meal. Apples contain tartaric and malic acids that help neutralize the acid in your stomach.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar. Add just a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, or ACV, to a small glass of water and drink two to three times each day to keep heartburn away.

Also, follow these additional tips to prevent and treat heartburn:

  • Eat until you are satiated but not stuffed. Too much of any food can trigger heartburn, so eat only until your stomach feels ¾ full and not stuffed.
  • Rely on baking soda for emergency relief. Sodium bicarbonate is a natural heartburn remedy, but it is full of sodium, so don’t rely on it too often. However, if heartburn does strike, mix ¼ teaspoon into a glass of water and drink it for quick heartburn relief.

If you are hooked on PPIs, realize that there are natural ways to treat your heartburn without sacrificing your health. You don’t have to rely on daily heartburn medications when you make just a few tweaks to your daily diet.