Recently, Chocolate has been declared a super food because of the many health benefits and because of its versatile application as candy, confection, drink and baked goods.
Chocolate is processed from the cocoa bean which is mostly grown in tropical climates, in countries such as Mexico, Central America and other countries (West Indies) on the equator.
After harvest the cocoa beans are fermented, then dried, cleaned and roasted. After that the shells of the beans are removed, the cocoa mass is ground and a liquid mass called chocolate liquor develops.
The liquor can be processed into cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Depending on the added ingredients, the chocolate becomes bitter chocolate (high cocoa content) or sweet chocolate by adding cocoa butter, cream and sugar. White chocolate contains only cocoa butter and sugar and other flavorings.
So what’s the fuzz about chocolate in the recent years?
The cocoa plant has many benefits similar to other dark vegetables, mainly flavonoids, which act as anti-oxidants. These anti-oxidants work in the body as free-radical fighters and help prevent many diseases.
Health Benefits of Chocolate:
It is the dark chocolate (70% cocoa) which has the highest amount of anti-oxidants (8x more than strawberries.) A 2008 study discovered that a small amount of dark chocolate (about 6.7 grams) eaten every day lowers levels of a protein that is associated with inflammation of the blood.
• Heart benefits – lowers blood pressure
• Heart benefits – lowers cholesterol
• Tastes good
• Stimulates endorphin production, which gives us a feeling of pleasure.
• Contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant
• Contains theobromine, caffeine and other (about 500) substances which are stimulants
• Stimulants can elevate the brain receptors and help us with learning
• Cocoa also contains high levels of sulfur and magnesium, increasing your focus and alertness.
• Flavonoid content protects against cancer
• Drinking hot chocolate before a meal can diminish appetite.
• Mexican healers use chocolate to treat bronchitis and insect bites.
• Benefits asthma sufferers, because it contains anti-asthmatic compounds theobromine and theyophilline.
• Decreases anxiety and stress levels. A clinical trial demonstrated that dark chocolate reduced the production of stress hormones in as little as two weeks.
• Kills the bacteria that cause cavities because of theobromine content.
• Contains zinc, a key mineral that contributes to the health of your immune system, liver, pancreas and skin.
• Contains copper to keep blood healthy.
With all the many health benefits of chocolate we have to consider that commercial chocolate contains a lot of sugar, other fats and ingredients which make it very calorie-rich. Remember to look for the dark, high cocoa content chocolate (read the ingredients) and enjoy it.
We can thank the Finns for their inventions of saunas. Sweat lodges are also popular with Native American Indians and cultures like the Alaska Eskimos and the Mayans are familiar with sweat baths.
Where ever saunas are used, people benefit their health. The heat of the sauna helps the body temperature to rise, which causes the blood vessels to dilate and increase blood flow. It also stimulates the sweat glands which makes the body sweat. Although almost 99% of the sweat is water, toxins are released with it and the body is freed of accumulated waste.
With the relaxation, the sweating and the release of accumulated toxins the body’s health is greatly benefitted. The sauna is considered the poor man’s pharmacy. It benefits so many symptoms such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes, hypertention, insomnia, obesity, psoriasis, etc.
Your body’s health and immune system are stimulated through a series of alternating sessions of hot sauna and cold showers.
According to Dr. Paavo Aviola, an author in health matters:
"The sauna increases the eliminative, detoxifying and cleansing capacity of the skin by stimulation of sweat glands. A steam bath provides a mild cleansing process for the skin as certain body fluids are released through the skin. It also promotes healthy skin tone and texture due to increased blood circulation."
He also said that sauna therapy stimulates the body’s natural healing force and therefore promotes overall health.
HISTORY OF SAUNAS AND SWEAT LODGES
Many cultures throughout the world have used saunas, thermal baths, or sweat lodges. In the days when there were no showers or indoor baths, the thermal bath (public) was to facilitate healing, purification and relaxation.
• Hippocrates, the father of medicine, believed that an induced fever could cure every illness.
• 2000 years ago, the Romans had public baths to meet their friends and relax.
• The Finnish saunas are known world-wide, and are their best prescription against illness and to
promote cleanliness, and healing during their long winters.
• Well known are also the Turkish steam rooms (harara), which are still used today.
• In Syria, the steam bath, or hammam, remains a focal point of socializing, even among working women and busy families.
• In the Orient, public bath are popular and visited at least once a week, mainly because
most private homes don’t have bath (traditionally). They also have steam rooms, saunas, hot stone rooms, and hot sand rooms.
• Many American Indian tribes have also a long history of sweat lodges for cleanliness, relaxation and to revitalize body, mind and spirit. The partaking in a sweat lodge is often connected with rituals and traditions.
WHY SAUNA THERAPY IS BENEFICIAL FOR ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis and joint pain are greatly relieved through sauna therapy. It relaxes the body, toxins are released through sweating, and it stimulates circulation. Warm muscles are easier to stretch and even the joints become more flexible after being heated in the sauna.
The heat penetrates deeply into the muscles and removes uric acids, calcium deposits, and other toxins which are causing most of the arthritic pain.
Time spend in the sauna can also be used for relaxation and visualization for healing.
WHAT OTHER HEALTH BENEFITS ARE THERE FROM SAUNA THERAPY?
• Benefits cardiovascular system
• Clearer skin
• Eliminate dead skin cells
• Improves joint mobility
• Increases blood flow
• Increase circulation
• Kills viruses
• Opens sinus passages
• Promotes weight loss
• Relaxation of the whole body
• Relaxes muscles
• Relieves pain
• Relieves stress
• Speeds up the metabolic process
• Stimulates the immune system
WHICH SAUNA IS BEST FOR YOU?
Sweating is essential to our health as is breathing and eating. Many people who work in closed in offices or air-conditioned homes don’t sweat enough. Sauna therapy helps to induce heating the body to release sweat and therefore detoxifying the body. The changes of heat (sauna) and cold (shower or cold bath) increase the body’s circulation and stimulate the cardiovascular system.
Most of the secreted sweat is water (99%) but the rest is undesirable waste like excessive salt, uric acid and toxic metals. In only 15 minutes of sauna treatment toxins are expelled which would take the kidneys 24 hours.
In recent years scientists have discovered the benefits of negative ions in the sauna therapy. Additionally to the relaxation effect of the sauna, negative ions invigorate the body. Other ways of breathing negative ions is by having life plants around the house or stand by a waterfall.
In Finland saunas with wood burning stoves are most popular. Water is poured over rocks placed on the stove which releases the steam with the negative ions.
The heat of the infrared rays will penetrate deep into the muscle tissue. Far infrared energy is absorbed by the skin and is beneficial to the whole body by reducing muscle spasm, joint stiffness and pains from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. It is especially beneficial if it used immediately after an injury.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND SAUNAS?
Build one in your own home or garden
That’s probably the greatest luxury to have one build in privacy of your own home. With the portable infrared saunas it is just a matter of purchase.
Public health spas or fitness centers
Many health spas or fitness centers have saunas. It is a matter of educating the general public about the benefits of the sauna therapy.
One of the greatest privileges out Creator gave us is that we can chose. No other creature in the universe has that option. Obviously, we are born from our parents whom we don’t choose. During the beginning of our lives we are depending on our parents, elders, families, tribes, etc. and are programmed into certain beliefs, thought patterns, and behaviors.
When we finally grow up for many people it is hard to learn that our choices have consequences. And for some of us it takes years to undo what we have been taught and how we have been raised.
But once we get to know the spiritual principles which govern our lives, things become a little clearer. At one point in life we all wish we had been given an instruction manual for life. It is not put together in a book (some people believe that the bible is the book and is all we need to make it work). Life is a journey and each person’s life could be a text book. If we put together many people’s lives and compare and learn what they did right we might be getting a pretty good idea.
I do believe that there are certain spiritual principles which can help us to make better choices and can enlighten us to the point that we can be free and trust ourselves.
From those who lead successful lives we learn that it is o.k. to make mistakes. In fact, we often learn more from wrong choices than if we don’t do anything at all. Once we shed light and consciousness on our situation every circumstance become a learning experience.
Another thing successful people learn is that decisions are not always right or wrong decisions. As long as we take responsibility for the outcome, we can move on.
My decision to be happy, that doesn’t mean I’ll be happy right away. I know that I cannot depend on others or on circumstances to be happy. I am the only one, who can choose to be content, joyful or pleased. The same goes for a commitment. I am committed to a relationship no matter what. There is room for forgiveness, because I am invested 100% without any expectations in return.
That same principle goes for gratitude. Once you decide to be grateful, there is no room for complaint. - or confidence - . I decide to be confident, and it seems that the whole universe comes to your help to be confident.
The "I AM" of God is very desisive, absolute, and unchanging (see my article The nature of God). Just remind yourself that "I am confident, I am happy, I am grateful, etc." puts you in direct connection with your creator. By repeating these "I am's" with deep emotions and strong intent, they will come true for you.
If I decide to be happy, there is no need to struggle. Struggle comes from indecisions. Our inborn servo-mechanism (Maxwell Maltz – “Psycho-Cybernetics”) will guide us in the direction of our decision. As I move along, and I don’t get the desired result I am looking for, I adjust my direction until I reach the desired goal. That also goes along with the law of attraction. I just have to create feelings and thoughts which can attract the desired result.
This article is not meant to advice on how to make decisions. Rather I would like to encourage others to make a choice and if not used to learn to make choices. Being born in the sign of the Libra when I was younger I hated to make choices. It often caused me frustration and pain because I didn’t assert myself. Now I know that I can only be happy if I know what I want and go for getting it.
When we start living a responsible live, being accountable for our life and our life’s decisions, something magical happens. We start to live life on our terms and fulfill our greatest human rights.
I want personally congratulate First Lady Michelle Obama on her initiative to fight childhood obesity. It is a big undertaking but it certainly does not only concern our children. I believe as a whole society we are on our way to be more conscious of our food choices and a more healthy lifestyle.
In the face of this national crisis we have to look at our culture as a whole and be willing to make not only some adjustments to how we live, how we eat, and how we play. Unfortunately, our unhealthy eating habits have spread to other countries as well. But we can’t blame the problems of childhood obesity only on the fast food companies nor can we make junk foods responsible for our weight gains. Overly processed and starchy/greasy/sugary foods are not healthy for anyone, let alone kids.
Another issue we have to look at is the physical inactivity most of us face on a daily basis. Technological advances have made easy for us to stay inactive for whatever time we chose to. Unlike our ancestors who had to work for their food, physically being active outdoors for most of the day, many of us spend their days indoors.
During the agriculture age, sedentary activity and obesity were rare, maybe only common among the affluent. The children worked along with their parents at home and in the fields. Their food came directly from their gardens. Children could play on the farm, in the woods, and the fields. Even city children had more outdoor activities and playgrounds to protect them from the dangers of the streets.
This being the Information Age, we need to take advantage, and become educated about our health and wellbeing. Most of all we need to be responsible and make the right choices for “our health and wellbeing,” and that of our children.
1. FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO END CHILDHOOD OBESITY
"I have set a goal to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight," the text of the president's memorandum reads. "The first lady will lead a national public awareness effort to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity. She will encourage involvement by actors from every sector -- the public, nonprofits, and private sectors, as well as parents and youth -- to help support and amplify the work of the federal government in improving the health of our children."
2. WHAT CAUSES CHILDHOOD OBESITY?
I am sure there are many reasons for childhood obesity. Let’s start with many unwanted pregnancies. When a baby is conceived under emotional turmoil, this little creature will be insecure with low self-esteem. Other health problems arise when the expectant mother is smoking during pregnancy.
Most babies today are not breastfeed. Breastfeeding not only creates an extra immunity for the baby but also creates a special bound with the mother, giving the baby security and protection. Some health concerns arise when the baby gets solid foods too early, or is constantly encouraged to eat more or clean their plates.
Obviously, children learn from what they see their parents do. Creating a peaceful atmosphere around the dinner table, providing healthy balanced meals for the children at home, getting plenty of sleep, will give them a great start for life. We are such an instant society, everything is convenience and fast. Children can adjust to any lifestyle and any kind of foods. The overpowering advertisements on TV and the enticing toys at the fast food places have many parents confused. There is a knob on the TV for a reason and food at home is much healthier and cheaper, too.
I appreciate Mrs. Obama’s initiative to educate the American public about childhood obesity. We all have to become accountable for our choices for ourselves and for our children.
3. THE MYSTERY OF THE DISAPPEARING PLAYGROUNDS AND RECESS AT SCHOOLS
I was very surprised when I heard that many of the playgrounds at our public school are not used for recess anymore; that in many cases recess has been completely taking out of the schedule. The reason being, that the educators want to give our children a greater chance for “education.” The “No Child Left Behind Act” has some educator confused about balancing education and recreation. Children need a balance of the left and right brain stimulation to advance technologically and stay creative. Studies have shown that children can study better after taking regular breaks even as short as 10 minutes.
Even adults have only a certain length of attention span and need to take a break every couple of hours. Children need free play, need run and free their minds from structure for short periods of time. Free and imaginary play does good, for the morale and social skills. The argument, that legal matters of safety are just not cutting it. So what if a child gets their knee scraped, or maybe doesn’t get their turn in jumping the robe. Life learning comes in many packages, and children need to learn social skills as well as intellectual learning. And hopefully recess will not be completely unsupervised; a bully needs to put into place.
4. LET’S CHANGE THE FOOD PYRAMID
When our leaders in the agriculture department of our government created the food pyramid, they had our health and wellbeing in mind. After 20 years of having carbohydrates at the bottom of the pyramid, which means that these nutrients are most desirable, we have to question its value to say the least. Especially, since most of our carbohydrates are so refined and denatured that there not many nutrients left.
Sugars are also carbohydrates and they are the greatest detriment of our eating habits. Cereals, breads, pastas, unless they are made from whole grains (complex carbohydrates), don’t have much nutritional value. I believe the vegetables and fruits should be on the bottom of the pyramid and eaten the most. Or we should get rid of the pyramid completely and implement a food pie.
5. CONGRATULATIONS MRS. OBAMA ON PLANTING A GARDEN AT THE WHITE HOUSE
I was really inspired when I read that the First Lady and some school kids planted a garden last year near the White House. It is not only a good idea to get kids out of the house, but also to teach them that the foods we eat don’t grow in the supermarket. When kids participate in planting a garden, putting in their sweat and efforts to cultivate fruits and vegetables, they are naturally more inclined to eat them.
6. LET’S GET OUR HEADS OUT OF CYBERSPACE AND BACK TO EARTH
Along with bad eating habits our kids are growing up with their heads and eyes on computer screens, video games, cell phones, living in a virtual reality. When they get hungry, their snacks are soda pop, chips, and candy. Their heroes are in the ball games, on a screen. Many kids are so deprived of fresh air and sunshine that they are always tired and therefore don’t get enough exercise.
7. DO THE STATISTICS REALLY HELP?
We don’t need any more statistics unless we really go to the grassroots and become responsible citizens. Let’s stop blame the government or the fast food industry for our childhood obesity. We all know it’s not cool to be fat but that has not prevented an obesity epidemic from occurring among America’s youth. Childhood obesity increased from 5% in 1964 to about 13% in 1994. Today, it’s about 20% and rising.
Other statistics prove that kids are watching TV, using computer or playing video games for 5-6 hours a day. On top of that, kids are bombarded with well-crafted TV ads from fast food chains, cereal makers and junk food corporations which promote their denatured, sugar and fat laden meals and snacks. Again, statistics tell us, that “the amount of overweight kids” have doubles since 1971 which means that one in three children in this country is overweight: about 17% are considered obese. To make matters worse, a quarter of all kids from 5 to 10 already have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. Thank goodness for statistics.
8. WE NEED EDUCATION ABOUT HEALTHY LIVESTYLE
I believe in Michelle Obama when she promotes educational awareness. Like the decade-long education on the effects of smoking finally led to the banning of smoking in all public places. Public awareness of childhood obesity has to be promoted everywhere and every cereal box and every soda can has to have a warning sign on it on how much refined sugar is in each serving. Food labels are not enough. Put a warning label next to it: WARNING: X AMOUNT OF SUGAR IS HAZZARDOUS TO YOUR CHILD’S HEALTH AND CAN LEAD TO CHILDHOOD OBESITY AND DIABETES.
OTHER SUGGESTIONS TO OVERCOMING CHILDHOOD OBESITY:
• Get the whole family involved and create a plan of action, to be more active, etc. Changing habits takes a certain discipline. You can’t just tell your child to change by themselves.
• Consult your pediatrician regarding overcoming obesity. Let him recommend a nutrition based program to get your child started. Even better, do the program with your child.
• Look at your pantry and refrigerator and get rid of all the sugar-laden foods like soda, candy, cereals, etc. Also eliminate potato chips and high-glycemic snacks.
• Be there when your child gets home from school, or have a neighbor receive the kids from the school bus.
• Love your kids, show them love and support by spending time together, either in play or in helping with homework or school projects.
• Make a goal plan; reward your children when they reach a certain goal, either to buy some new clothes or take them to the movies, or prepare for a special outing, etc.
9. WHY AREN’T INSURANCE COMPANIES REWARDING US FOR STAYING HEALTHY?
In all the discussion about health care reform I haven’t heard one word about being rewarded for leading a healthful lifestyle. Why don’t we get “browny” points for all the times we don’t need a doctor; every time we eat an apple instead of a candy bar, or drink a glass of water instead of soda.
10. LET’S GET THE YOUNG PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE SOLUTION
I was reading some columns where the young students were involved in making better choices for their health and fitness. Here is an account from:
In Royal Palm Beach, FL, student council members worked with their P.E. teacher to create a fitness trail around the school. The trail is open to students and faculty alike and easy to use because of its convenient location on school grounds. As a part of the P.E. curriculum, students will maintain the trail, keeping it clean and accessible.
Young people have a good mind and should be consulted about their circumstances. We just always have remind ourselves that we the adults and have the long range wellbeing in mind for our youth.
There are many accounts where young people get involved in volunteering in their communities. With the guidance of some adults, young people can be moved away from self-indulgence like playing video games, and find opportunities in self-learning, raising their self-esteem in doing good for others.
11. LETS START WITH ADULT EDUCATION REGARDING HEALTH AND LIFESTYLE
Americans spend $33 billion annually on weight-loss products and services. It is not only our young people who suffer from obesity. When we look and ask for change today, we have to ask ourselves: What can I do to make a lasting impact on food choices, fitness and lifestyle? And maybe, we just have to look a little deeper, than convenience and keeping up with the Jones’. Maybe, we have to reconsider some core values. It is difficult to go against the mainstream, but if the lives of our kids and families depend on it, it is worth it. Most junk food is eaten either alone and/or in secret because one feels lonely.
• A family who eats meals together can create security and protection for each member.
• A family taking walks together or going to the playground together, can be more fun than if everybody disperses to their video game or computer after dinner.
• A family who goes on a bike trip, camping outing or some other family activity can share simple foods and healthy snacks together.
• A family who takes time to do volunteer work in the community can create wonderful memories for the kids.
• A family who talks together and shares their feelings and experiences approaches a healthy lifestyle where they address all aspects of their children’s development: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Although Mrs. Obama has the best intention, she cannot solve these problems only from the top. It takes the whole population to become aware of the dilemma and support our leaders by being proactive.