Is Dark Chocolate Healthy? No, but Cocoa Flavanols Are!

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This post is sponsored by CocoaVia® Brand. chocolate and cocoa flavanols

A dark rich chocolate brownie or smooth, creamy chocolate bar tastes even sweeter when you know it is good for you. After all, chocolate is full of healthy compounds right? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. In its native state, the cocoa bean contains a mixture of compounds that may be beneficial to your health. Processing cocoa beans into cocoa powder or your favorite sweet treat destroys most of these helpful compounds.

Percent Cacao Means Nothing

You can forget choosing dark chocolate based on how bitter or dark it is. The benefits of chocolate come from cocoa flavanols, not from the percent cacao or the darkness of the chocolate. Cocoa flavanols are the beneficial plant-based nutrients (phytonutrients) naturally found in cocoa. No other food on Earth can match cocoa’s unique blend of flavanols. Cocoa flavanols work with your body to maintain healthy levels of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps maintain the healthy flow of oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body. Supporting healthy blood flow is essential to helping you maintain who you are for years to come. In fact, our entire bodies, including our heart, brain, and muscles, depend on healthy blood flow, which helps us feel and perform our best.

How can I Choose Dark Chocolate Rich in Beneficial Compounds?

Don’t look for health benefits from dark chocolate . Most chocolate isn’t nearly as healthy as you may believe. It takes approximately four average dark chocolate bars (more than 700 calories) to get the same amount of cocoa flavanols as you get in a single serving of CocoaVia® cocoa extract supplement. So enjoy chocolate – in moderation, as your sweet treat, but not as your daily source of cocoa flavanols!

CocoaVia Cocoa Flavanols

So if chocolate isn’t a reliable source of flavanols, how about cocoa powder? Unfortunately, most cocoa powders aren’t much better. With no added sugars, less fat, and more fiber than typical chocolate, cocoa powder can be a better option for getting a chocolatey experience. However, cocoa powder might not be a reliable way to get your flavanols. Cocoa flavanols are typically destroyed when cocoa is processed. Any cocoa powder that is Dutched or alkalized contains significantly fewer cocoa flavanols.

Taste Plus Health Benefits

To take the guess work out, you can try CocoaVia®. CocoaVia® cocoa extra supplement delivers the highest concentration of cocoa flavanols in a cocoa extract supplement today – 375mg per serving – . and numerous scientific studies have demonstrated these flavanols promote healthy blood flow from head to toe.

It’s easy to start your day with CocoaVia® supplement. Add one delicious powdered stick pack to the beverage or food of your choice. For more information on CocoaVia® supplement, which is supported by more than two decades of scientific research, visit www.CocoaVia.com. I often start my day with a peanut butter chocolate shake. I mix one stick pack of CocoaVia® Unsweetened Dark Chocolate supplement into my morning smoothie with peanut powder, ice and milk.

 

†The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated this statement. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

Protein Before Bed for Greater Muscle Gains?

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protein before bedA recently published study found a protein rich snack before bedtime led to greater gains in muscle mass, strength, and type II muscle fiber size in young men participating in a resistance training program. Yet a closer look at the details of this study suggest the timing (before bed) might not matter at all.

In this study 44 young men were given a supplement containing 27.5 grams of casein and 15 grams of carbohydrate or a placebo that contained no protein, carbs or calories before they went to sleep each night for 12 weeks. They also lifted weights 3 times a week under the direction of a supervised and periodized program. The young men were instructed not to change their diet (other than the supplement). Food logs were taken to access dietary intake. Both groups consumed about 1.3 grams of protein per kg bodyweight before the study started. However, the group given the supplement consumed a total of 1.9 grams per kg bodyweight during the study while the placebo group continued eating the same amount of protein as they did before the study started – 1.3 grams per kg bodyweight. So, was it the timing of protein before bed, the total difference in protein intake or both that led to the results? We don’t know. However, the total protein intake of the placebo group was on the lower end of the recommended range (1.2 – 2.0 though higher values may be beneficial for some, especially those who are cutting calories) anyone should consume if they want to get stronger and bigger.

So what’s the bottom line?

We don’t know if consuming protein right before bed will help young, healthy and active adults make greater gains from their strength training program compared to consuming the same total amount of protein each day without a protein-rich bedtime snack.

My protein recommendation for now:

Meet your daily protein needs based on your goals first and if a pre-bedtime protein-rich snack helps you do this and sleep well at the same time, then great. If eating or drinking before bed interferes with your sleep (running to the bathroom counts as interfering) then this strategy may do more harm than good.

References:
Snijders T, Res PT,Smeets JSJ, van Vliet S, van Kranenburg J, Maase K, Kies AK, Verdijk LB, van Loon LJC. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. J Nutr 2015.

Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, Beelen M, Wallis GA, Gijsen, AP, Senden JM, Van Loon LJ. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44:1560–1569.

Are You Getting the Nutrients You Need for Maximum Energy & Good Health?

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Take one quick peek at dietary survey data and you’ll find many Americans don’t consume enough vitamins and minerals through food alone. How does this impact your health? A nutrient deficiency could affect your energy levels, mood, ability to concentrate, structure of your skin, teeth, nails, bones and more. So, how can you be sure you are getting enough of the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health? First, focus on consuming foods that are particularly rich in the nutrients many Americans fall short on. Secondly, consider taking a multivitamin to make up for any nutrient gaps. But first, here’s a look at the food groups:

To watch my Talk of Alabama TV segment on this topic, click here.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain a wide variety of nutrients including magnesium – which is necessary for a healthy metabolism, good energy and muscle strength – yet many people get very little magnesium in their diet. On average, most women get about ½ of the magnesium they need each day. Nuts & seeds also have zinc for immune system functioning, wound healing, muscle growth and repair and some nuts, like almonds, also contain calcium, which we need for strong bones. If you are worried about the calories in nuts and seeds, stick to the right portion size (about 1/4 cup for nuts) and keep in mind that research shows people who eat nuts regularly tend to weigh less than those who consume nuts infrequently.

A few of my favorites based on nutrient content (including magnesium): pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts.

Grains

Grains provide approximately 43% of the fiber in an average American diet. Fiber aids digestion, helping prevent constipation and it adds bulk to your diet helping increase feelings of fullness, which makes it easier to control your weight. Whole and enriched grains also naturally contain a wide variety of important vitamins and minerals. For instance, grains provide about 2/3 of the folic acid in an average American diet. Folic acid makes healthy new cells. And, it is a nutrient of concern for women of childbearing age because inadequate folate (folic acid) intake during pregnancy increases one’s risk of having premature and low birth weight babies or babies with certain types of birth defects in the brain or spine. Here in the U.S., grains such as bread, cereal, flour, and pasta are enriched with folic acid (gluten free products might not be enriched).

Beans

Beans count as both a vegetable and protein-rich food. Not only are they packed with fiber but they also contain iron, magnesium and potassium. And diets higher in potassium may help lower blood pressure, especially if you consume too much sodium. Plus potassium supports muscle functioning and higher potassium diets may also decrease risk of kidney stones.

Here are 3 you should focus on based on nutrient content and versatility: black beans, lima beans and white beans.

Seafood

Seafood is another rich source of nutrients. For instance, oysters have more zinc than any other food and more iron than red meat (a 3 oz. serving provides almost half of the daily value for iron). Try canned oysters to save time and money. Canned sardines with the bones are an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D – you need both of these for strong bones. But, chew those bones carefully! And, if you are concerned about mercury (and small children, pregnant and lactating women should consume only low mercury fish), check out this guide from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which categorizes fish based on mercury content.

While eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods is the best way to get vitamins and minerals, the reality is that most Americans don’t get enough through food alone, especially those on lower calorie diets or adults over the age of 50. So, consider a multivitamin. Multivitamins are a great solution to fill dietary gaps.

I partnered with Centrum and the Wheat Foods Council for this segment though I wrote the content of this post and the segment based on the latest scientific research.