Friday, December 21, 2012

Chocolate


You might have heard the good news: the powers that be have decided that chocolate is good for us. Those of us who have a relationship with chocolate couldn't be more pleased. It turns out that humans have included chocolate in their diets for thousands of years, and not just for dessert. The Aztecs, Maya, and Olmecs knew of the healing properties of cacao, and consumed a drink made of cacao seeds.


Like most fruits, the cacao seed is full of antioxidants. These healing properties are derived from cocoa flavanols, the plant-based nutrients in cocoa which have been intensely studied for their health benefits.

Chocolate contains the same flavonoids found in red wine and tea. Flavonoids are potent antioxidants and have been linked to numerous health benefits. Surprisingly, chocolate has these antioxidants in even higher concentrations. One bar of dark chocolate has twice the flavanol content of a glass of red wine and seven times the amount as green tea. Most of these benefits have to do with their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). The ORAC is a measure of the ability of foods to neutralize harmful free radicals. Free radicals are associated with many diseases such as Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cataracts, cancer and more. Chocolate is a concentrated source of antioxidants—other fruits and even vegetables don't come close. Prunes are in second place behind chocolate at 5,770 ORAC units per gram, but dark chocolate has 13,120 ORAC units per gram!

How Much is Too Much?
It is best to think about the antioxidant content as you look at the percentage on the label of a chocolate bar - essentially, the higher the percentage of cocoa the better. Dark chocolate has the highest amount of cocoa and less sugar. Currently, most sources say about 6.3 grams of dark chocolate (one square inch) per day is sufficient for a tasty antioxidant boost.

Happy Holidays Everyone!


Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Health Sciences Dept


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sweet Potatoes


Whenever I think of sweet potatoes, I envision the holidays. In my mind's eye I see that glass casserole dish with warm gooey sweet potatoes covered in melted brown sugar and marshmallows. While using the sweet potato as a holiday table specialty is nice, sweet potatoes are actually much more versatile than one might imagine. There are many ways to include them in one's diet—and many reasons one should. Sweet potatoes are ranked highest of all vegetables in nutritional value by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Ounce for ounce you get a load of nutrients from a sweet potato. This blog entry will focus on just a few that make this tuber an excellent dietary choice for the cold and flu season. 
Nutrition and the Immune System
As we make our food choices, we must remember that nutrient intake is an important contributing factor in the immune system's ability to function. Micronutrients that are required for the immune system to function efficiently include vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, Zinc, Copper, Iron, and Selenium. It turns out sweet potatoes are high in many of these:
Vitamin A. The intense orange color of the sweet potato is evidence of its high concentration of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. In fact, just one has five times the RDA of vitamin A. Besides being recognized as essential for vision, growth and bone development, vitamin A plays a crucial role in immunity.
Vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are considered to be a very good source of vitamin C. Vitamin C affects the immune system by stimulating the production and function of white blood cells.
Vitamin B6. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6. Studies have demonstrated that low dietary intake of vitamin B6 can result in depressed immune function.
Copper and Iron. Sweet potatoes are a good source of both copper and iron. Minerals such as these are essential to immunity as they aid in the maturation, function, and activation of defense mechanisms.

If you would like to learn more about sweet potatoes or simply find some great recipes – try the World’s Healthiest Foods website: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64

Eat Sweet Potatoes! Now that you know the incredible nutritional value of the sweet potato, there is just no excuse to reserve them only for the holiday table. Be creative - try adding them to your everyday meals, especially during the cold and flu season!


Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Health Sciences Dept

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cranberries


Hi Everyone,

If you have been following this blog for some time – you have probably noticed that I have a deep interest in the health effects of food. Due to this passion, many of my friends and family members enjoy asking me about the health benefits of particular foods. And so, for this week’s blog – I’d like to analyze some of our holiday favorites. First one up: Cranberries.


Cranberries not only complement the taste of our turkey and decorate our holiday tables, they also have many health promoting properties. Cranberries are rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, and they are a good source of dietary fiber, manganese and vitamin K.

Historically, Native American Indians used cranberries to treat urinary tract infections and other ailments. Current research has revealed that cranberries contain proanthocyanidins which prevent the adhesion of bacteria to the bladder wall, thus thwarting potential urinary tract infections.

In addition to the wonderful properties listed above, cranberries contain significant amounts of phyto-nutrients. When compared to many commonly eaten fruits, cranberries have been shown to contain higher concentrations of antioxidant phenols. Antioxidant rich fruits aid in the prevention of heart disease, cancer and more.

If you would like to learn more about the medical powers of cranberries, click here and explore this NPR link: 




Stay tuned for a close look at the health benefits of sweet potatoes…


Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Health Sciences Dept





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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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