Happy February! This month, as the Valentine’s Day approaches, we are reminded to tell those closest to us we love them and show affection to those who deserve it. Consequently, this month brings with it a deluge of hearts and chocolate everywhere we go, so I have decided to make those the main topics of our letter this month.
Have you ever wondered how much your heart does for you? You may be surprised to see what it does for you everyday. Take a look at some facts about your heart in our Focus on Fitness article to find out. Spotlight on Nutrition will discuss making good choices when it comes to America’s sweet treat of choice, chocolate. Finally find some easy and healthy recipes to tempt your tastebuds and a take a quick look at our Fitness Proaction Update to keep up to speed on what’s happening at the studio, including our “Skip-It Heart Challenge” and how you could win a prize this month!
|Focus on Fitness:
The cardiovascular system is amazing and deserves some recognition for all the hard work it does to keep you alive and thriving, most of the time without your awareness. Just think about it, from early in fetal development until the day you die, your heart beats continually and rhytmically, never taking a break!
Just the FACTS
Facts About Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
Since the heart and vessels work constantly to keep you alive, damage done by neglect can have significant consequences. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a collective term for cardiac disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD), or cerebrovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease can be congenital or develop from damage done to the heart and vessels over time. Here are some facts about CVD:
Heart Facts. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/heart-blood-vessels/heart-facts.aspx. 2014.
Heart Disease Facts: Cost of Cardiovascular Disease. Rasmussen Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention.
|Spotlight on Nutrition:
Chocolate for Your Heart
Can Chocolate Be Good For Me?
Controversies abounddebating whether chocolate is good for you or not. I hope to present you with some simple facts to clear up the muddled waters. Just in case you were wondering, this article is pro-chocolate, well, cocoa to be exact.
Cocoa, the Heart-Healthy Factor in Chocolate
Getting right to the point, cocoa is the ingredient in chocolate that touts the health benefits we are looking for. Forget about the milk-chocolate sissy stuff, full of milk fat and sugar, if it’s not 60% cocoa or higher, don’t try to make a case for taking it as your daily dose of antioxidants.
Cacao is a natural plant product and is full of polyphenols, particularly flavanols, which are molecules that have positive effects on the cardiovascular system. The processing of commercially available chocolate that involves roasting and alkalinization can destroy large portions of these protective molecules, therefore choosing raw cocoa powder and dark chocolate that have not undergone “Dutch processing,” to remove bitterness, will offer the most positive health benefits.
When cocoa is consumed, the concentration of flavanols and antioxidants in the blood plasma rise, reaching peak levels 2-3 hours following consumption. The method by which cocoa exerts positive effects is debated, but the following are few ways cocoa benefits the cardiovascular system.
Cocoa’s Protective Effects on the Cardiovascular System
“Of interest, drinking a flavonoid-enriched cocoa beverage results in regional changes in cerebral blood flow and overall increased blood flow to gray matter for up to 3 hours as assessed by functional magnetic resonance imaging. In addition, in elderly humans, cerebral blood flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery increases…suggesting that cocoa flavanols may protect against dementia and stroke.” (Corti, Flammer, et. al.)
Some limitations exist as to the benefits of regularly consuming chocolate in the diet. Generally, commercially available chocolate is high in sugar and fat and has low cocoa content, leading to the opposite effects as seen above (causing weight gain, diabeties, dyslipidemia, hypertension, etc.) When looking to incorporate chocolate in the diet, look for high-levels of cocoa that have not been processed with alkali. Also, remember everything is better in moderation, so stick to a serving size of dark chocolate a day, no more than about 40g. Or even better, try recipes that use natural sweeteners and healthy fats with cocoa powder. (Like those in our Healthy Recipes section) Enjoy your chocolate the healthy way and treat your heart right!
DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to be educational and not prescriptive. Individual results and needs may vary. Consult a dietician or physician before making drastic changes to the diet.
Corti, Flammer, Hollenberg, Luscher. “Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health.” Circulation. 2009; 119: 1433-1441. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/119/10/1433.long
|Heart Healthy Cocoa Recipes
Looking for a sweet treat to satisfy that chocolate craving? Look no further! These easy 3-ingredient recipes are not only delicious, they are also pretty darn good for you! So put down that Ben & Jerry’s and try something new.
2 ripe avocados
1 ripe banana
3 T cocoa powder
Optional Ingredients: honey/agave syrup, vanilla extract, orange zest, walnuts, cocoa nibs
1. Puree avocado, banana, and cocoa powder in a blender or food processer until smooth.
2. Add any optional ingredients to taste.
3. Refrigerate until chilled.
4. Stir and serve.
Cocoa Almond Bites
1 c. almond meal (or pecan meal)
1/4 c. cocoa
1/4 c. agave syrup or honey
Mix all ingredients. More or less of any ingredient can be used to change flavor and/or consistency. Form into balls and refrigerate. (For some variety, add nuts, shredded coconut, cacao nibs, etc.) Coat with cocoa powder, shredded coconut as desired.
Show some love to your heart this month by getting moving and enjoying some heart-healthy cocoa, in moderation of course. Have a happy Valentine’s Day and we look forward to skipping our way to better health with you this month!
Fitness Proaction LLC