Heart Health: Cocoa to the Rescue?

It’s well-known that dark chocolate has numerous health benefits. I have written about them in the past and here is a newsletter and blog post.

According to researchers with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, past studies have highlighted the potential of cocoa flavanols to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases while offering antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity and other heart-healthy benefits.

In fact, they conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) of 21,442 participants aged 60 years and older who were randomly assigned to receive a cocoa extract supplement containing 500 milligrams of flavanols, including 80 mg epicatechins, a multivitamin supplement, neither of those or or both of those options daily from June 2015 through December 2020.

The study participants who received cocoa flavanols had a 27% reduction in death from cardiovascular disease. The incidence of three cardiovascular events, heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths, was also significantly reduced. Not surprisingly, at least not to me, additional benefits were also seen in those who took their supplements regularly. Among this group, there was a 15% reduction in total cardiovascular events and a 39% reduction in death from cardiovascular disease. While those taking the daily multivitamin had no significant reduction in total or individual cardiovascular events.

Cocoa flavanols, found in high-quality dark chocolate and cocoa products as well as in supplement form, have been found to be useful not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases but also improving human health and quality of life.

So what does this mean for you? You can include chocolate and cocoa in your diet and know you are doing something good for your health. Just be sure to choose organic dark chocolate, preferably 70% cacao or higher. Raw cacao nibs have the highest levels of polyphenols. If at all possible, it’s best to buy them whole and grind them in a coffee grinder. Consuming one half to 1 ounce per day, which you can easily add to a smoothie, provides great benefits. If the chocolate is processed from cacao seeds that are not roasted, then you’re buying “raw chocolate” which is ideal, since processing significantly reduces the flavanol content. Here are links for two brands of raw cacao powders.

How do you feel about being able to include dark chocolate and raw cacao daily guilt-free?

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Health: How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Do you need 8 hours of sleep to feel happy, energetic and healthy and perform at your best, yet are trying to get by on 6? Or conversely, do you feel great on 4 hours of sleep but are trying to force yourself to sleep for at least 7 or 8 hours because the “experts” say that’s what you need?

I tell people all the time that because we are a unique, one of a kind creation, we are all different metabolically and every other way. Well turns out that includes how much sleep we each need. According to this new paper, we are each genetically hard-wired for the amount of sleep we need. Those people who can function optimally on 4-6 hours are considered “elite” sleepers.

What is even more fascinating to me is that according to this study in the Journal iScience, this ability to function on less sleep seems to run in families. It is termed Familial Natural Short Sleep (FNSS). Those with FNSS sleep “more efficiently” because their brains are able to achieve the restorative effects of sleep in a shorter window of time.Only about 3% of people are classified as familial natural short sleepers. I am definitely not included in that 3% – I need 7 or 8 hours most nights to feel my best.

In this case, as in others, quality trumps quantity! While we need ample restorative sleep in order to reap the brain protective benefits, these studies show that the quantity will differ for each of us depending on how we are wired. As with most things, listening to and honoring your body’s needs is the way to go.

How much sleep do you need each night to really feel your best?

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Health: Are OTC Drugs Really Safe?

This will be a relatively short post this week because I actually wrote about the dangers of a particular, very common over the counter drug two years ago: Zantac. Besides wanting to lose weight, the complaint I hear most often from clients is about heartburn and digestive issues. You can read the prior article here as I go into detail about the dangers.

So why am I bringing this up again? Attorney, Brent Wisner, is representing plaintiffs who allegedly developed cancer after taking Zantac. He claims that the product was sold for decades (40 years!) with the knowledge that NDMA caused harm.

This is an on-going class-action suit that he says will likely take years but if you or anyone you know took this medication and is now suffering from cancer, it is worth the time to click the link in this article and find out how to take part in this suit.

The only way these things will change and those responsible will be held accountable is to speak up and take action.

Do you use acid suppressing medications regularly? Have you used Zantac before it was pulled from the market?

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Health: It Pays to Speak Up

In 2016 I wrote a blog post about my personal experience with a particular antibiotic – Levaquin. You can read it here so I won’t repeat all the details. Briefly, in 2006. my dad was prescribed this drug and had a very bad reaction and damage to his tendon in his leg necessitating physical therapy. After what he went through I did more research on this drug and found tendon rupture was only one of the many side effects.

Fast forward 10 years and I was recovering from emergency surgery in the hospital. The nurse advised me that I had developed sepsis and the doctor was prescribing a different antibiotic. I asked which one and was told Levaquin. I told her I would not use that drug or any other in the same class and asked that she have the doctor choose a different one. Long story short, although I explained my request. he was angry with me but he did prescribe a different antibiotic and it worked just fine. And I am very happy I spoke up.

Fast forward again, to 2022. Dr. Linda Martin suffered irreversible life-altering adverse effects from the antibiotic, Levaquin. Apparently she and others injured by this drug requested that the FDA include labeling warnings to prevent further injuries and death from the medication. Unfortunately, as is the case so often, a black box warning on this drug would have impacted the company’s bottom line.

This is alarming, upsetting and disgusting to me on so many levels. We have to trust someone and in cases where we are ill it has to be a doctor. If even he or she is not being told the truth, what are we to do. Obviously trusting pharmaceutical companies is not the answer. We have to educate and inform ourselves, but we can’t know everything either.

I share this just to underscore and highlight the importance of speaking up, even if you get pushback from a medical professional. Bottom line, it is your body, your health and your responsibility.

Have you ever chosen to refuse a medication or go against prevailing medical information?

Want to see more articles like this?   Subscribe to this blog (just click on “Follow”) and get each new post delivered to your email or feed reader.  To follow me and get even more tips on how to live your life in 3-D, including improving your diet, choosing cutting edge nutritional products and effective weight loss strategies be sure to like me on Facebook here and here, sign up for my FREE weekly No-Nonsense Nutrition Report (and get a free gift!), follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

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Nutrition: An Unwelcome Ingredient in Oats

Oatmeal is a very basic early food for babies and toddlers. But there may be an unwelcome ingredient in the cereal you are feeding to your young ones that you may be unaware of. Most people have heard of glyphosate or at least Round Up, which is the most commonly known weed killer that uses this agricultural chemical. It is primarily used on genetically modified crops, however it can also be sprayed on crops like wheat, oats and bbarley to dry them out so they can be harvested earlier. Glyphosade is known to be linked to cancer as well as to disrupt the gut microbiome, which in and of itself can increase the risk of numerous diseases such as depression, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune diseases.

Rolled oats or oat flakes in wooden bowl and golden wheat ears on stone background. Top view, horizontal. Healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, vegan food concept

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which puts out the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 lists each year, many oat products contain residues of this chemical. They found by testing oat-based breakfast products that are primarily marketed to children that 2/3 contained glyphosate in amounts higher than what is considered “safe.” Testing actually revealed 43 out of 45 products made with conventionally grown oats tested positive for glyphosate and 31 of those products had levels higher than the EWG scientists find to be protective of children’s health.

Glyphosate has even been found in PediaSure Enteral Formula, which is given to infants and children via feeding tubes. Thirty percent of the samples tested contained levels far higher than have been found to destroy gut bacteria in chickens. Let that sink in for a moment.

So what should you do? My strong recommendation is to be sure to choose only certified organic oat products for your children and for yourself. Since glyphosate is a synthetic herbicide, it is not allowed to be used on organic crops. That being said, it is in the air, ground water and soil so there will be some contamination even in organic oats, but significantly lower levels than products made with conventionally grown grains. Every little effort to reduce exposure, especially in our children, will make a positive difference. There are a few brands, like Bob’s Red Mill, whose suppliers no longer use glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant.

It is encouraging to know that levels of this chemical in people’s bodies drop quickly within a few days of transitioning to an organic diet, so I would strongly encourage you to replace any conventionally produced oat products with organic as you are able.

Do you or your children eat oats regularly? Are they organic or conventionally produced.

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Coffee: Another Surprising Benefit

The health benefits of coffee are nothing new and are very good news to all the coffee lovers out there. I wanted to share some new information I have just learned about why coffee may be so healthy for us. We know from two large studies involving more than half a million people for more than 16 years that participants who drank the most coffee had the lowest risk of dying. The higher consumption of coffee conferred lower risk of death, particularly from digestive and circulatory diseases. In women in particular, higher coffee consumption seemed to line up with reduced A1c (blood sugar) and C-reactive protein (inflammatory marker) levels. Coffee is known to reduce insulin resistance, inflammation and improve liver function.

Fresh cup of coffee.

Here’s what you may find interesting: it has nothing to do with caffeine content. Coffee contains polyphenols,bioactive antioxidant components, that are associated with these wonderful health benefits. So before I share the really surprising news, this would make choosing the cleanest, high quality coffee even more important, whether caffeinated or not.

What I just learned was that coffee contains compounds called xanthines. These compounds inhibit xanthine oxidase, which is the enzyme required to produce uric acid. A study of over 14,000 people found an interesting relationship between coffee consumption (caffeinated and decaffeinated) and uric acid levels. It found increased coffee consumption decreased uric acid levels.

Purines are normally produced in the body and are also found in some foods and drinks like liver, anchovies, mackerel, dried beans and peas, and beer. Most uric acid dissolves in blood and travels to the kidneys and passes out in urine. If your body produces too much uric acid or does not remove enough of it, you can get sick. A high level of uric acid in the blood is called hyperuricemia. If untreated it can lead to serious health issues like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and fatty liver disease as well as gout.

Here’s new research on uric acid that makes this even more exciting: The enzyme, AMPK, lets the body know whether it should be producing glucose and storing fat or use fat for energy. Stimulating AMPK tells the body that food is plentiful so there’s no need to make sugar. And because there is an abundance of food, the body doesn’t need to store fat, so it can be oxidized (burned) for fuel. A primary mechanism that reduces the activity of AMPK, resulting in fat retention and elevated glucose is uric acid. The two most effective ways to activate AMPK are exercise and reducing uric acid levels. Here’s where coffee can be one of the strategies that will help with weight loss.

While overdoing anything is never good, a couple of cups of coffee a day may just be protective. The studies found it didn’t matter whether the coffee was caffeinated or not but tea didn’t seem to have the same benefit of lowering uric acid levels.

If you are a coffee lover, does this give you just one more reason to love that morning cup of joe?

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The Key to a Long, Happy, Healthy Life

I would love to know what you are thinking I will suggest! There are myriad ways I could go with this and they would all have merit for sure. We could talk about physical things like nutrition, exercise, intermittent fasting, supplements, avoiding toxins and EMFs or we could focus on the emotional aspect like managing stress or dealing with past hurts and traumas. What about dealing with your stinkin’ thinkin’ by speaking positive confessions and creating vision boards? All great things. But not what I wanted to address today.

How much downtime do you build into your life? This is not a very popular thing today since most people wear their busy-ness and burnout as a badge of honor – proving they are accomplishing their goals. Busy-ness is an epidemic and coupled with the increased stress in our world, it is supremely destructive. Yes, it’s great to set goals and work for them. We all need to have a purpose to fulfill. But I have a different take on this.

What I believe is overlooked and underappreciated is the importance of quality sleep and also downtime. By that I mean quiet time each day when you have no agenda. You don’t have anything to “do” except sit quietly and perhaps daydream. If it sounds like a big waste of time to you, then I can assure you, you need it more than you realize.

There are two entire chapters in Today is Still the Day devoted to rest and rebooting – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You cannot get to really know and understand yourself without powering down and you can’t make truly authentic choices in all areas of your life (relationships, nutrition, beliefs) without cultivating self-knowledge. We need to build in those times of quiet and introspection to gain insight and a balanced self-image. Along with self-knowledge comes a deeper relationship with God. We are told in scripture to “be still and know I am God.” Ps. 46:10.

We spend so much time doing that I believe we forget how to just be. We are human beings after all, not human doings. In my own life I’ve found maximizing being still, just resting quietly in the presence of God helps me to return to a state of peace. From there I am able to think clearly, respond rather than react and even see the answers to problems I may have been struggling with.

I think restorative, rejuvenating sleep is being focused on more and more and that is definitely very important. Quality sleep plays a pivotal role in our overall functioning and has whole-body health benefits, including lifting your mood and emotional outlook.

However, so is just resting and rebooting. So how can you build some of this time into your life? There are so many ways. Find one that appeals to you and make it a daily habit. Commit to 10-15 minutes a day of downtime. Once you do you will not want to go a day without it.

You could just go outside and take a walk in nature.

Just sit and daydream.

Meditate. My favorite way is to use a word from my morning devotional and just mentally chew on it.

Take a nap!

Journal

Use an adult coloring book.

Are you sold? Will you commit to 30 days of building downtime into your life?

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Healthy Habits: Why Your Why Matters

Here we are at the beginning of April. One-quarter of this year has already passed! How do you feel about your progress in making healthier habits? Are you making progress on your health goals? You may have had a goal of losing a certain amount of weight in this new year and were hoping you would be at a particular point by now. Are you?

Most people find they have either lost interest, defaulted to their old habits or just plain given up trying. I hope that’s not you but in case you find yourself somewhere in there, I would like to make a suggestion that might help you get back on track.

It doesn’t really matter what your goal was – losing weight, drinking more water, cleaning up your diet, practicing intermittent fasting, exercising regularly, balancing cholesterol or blood sugar, lowering blood pressure – they all have one thing in common. They all affect the length and quality of your life. So here’s my suggestion:

Find your big, overriding reason for doing any of that. I know, it sounds too simple but please don’t just scroll past this and ignore it. If you do not have a good enough reason to make a change, you will not have the motivation and persistence to do the easy things much less tackle the more challenging ones! Every single, little baby step you take consistently will build momentum. But without that “why” under-girding them, they won’t carry you through. Your why has to be personal and important enough to you. My why won’t work for you. So this will take some time of honest thought and reflection.

If you want to drop 20 pounds but it’s because you want your significant other to be proud of you or you want to look great at your niece’s wedding, that may not be a big enough why. Remember, I mentioned above that every one of those changes are connected to longevity and your quality of life. You can live a long life but not necessarily a healthy, vibrant one. You want quality and quantity. Why? Keep asking yourself why – keep going deeper. Just keep pulling that thread and get to your core reason.

It will make all the difference in the world.

Do you know what your real, powerful, important reason is for making any changes in your life? Are you willing to find out?

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Posture: Why it Matters

Posture is so much more than looking good. How you stand and sit affects your health in ways you may not have realized. Good posture helps reduce anxiety, improves concentration and mood and according to studies, plays a significant role in our ability to problem solve. Think about it, when we stand or sit up straight, our shoulders and back relax and then our mind can begin to align with that. There have been TED talks about how posture changes our attitude and how we see ourselves!

Breathing becomes easier with good posture. My dad developed a very slouched forward position over the years and he had great difficulty breathing. When we slouch, we compress our lungs and stomach, including the diaphragm, making breathing more shallow and difficult which results in less oxygen getting to the blood.. Simply by standing up straight, oxygenation can be increased by as much as 30%.


Sitting with back curved, neck forward, we crunch up our stomachs and intestines into the thoracic cavity which stops the digestive system’s natural flow and can lead to acid reflux and constipation. Good posture allows digestion to function smoothly.

When the spine is properly aligned, unnecessary pressure comes off our joints and bones decreasing the normal wear and tear on joints in the neck, shoulders, low back and hips and reducing aches and pains.

In case you are not sure what good posture looks like your chin should be parallel to the floor, shoulders back and relaxed; a natural line from the top of your head to your hips while keeping the natural curve of your spine. When standing your weight should be evenly distributed on both feet and your abdominal muscles should be pulled in to support your core and low back.

Do you have good posture? Are you aware of your posture as you go through your day?

Want to see more articles like this?   Subscribe to this blog (just click on “Follow”) and get each new post delivered to your email or feed reader.  To follow me and get even more tips on how to live your life in 3-D, including improving your diet, choosing cutting edge nutritional products and effective weight loss strategies be sure to like me on Facebook here and here, sign up for my FREE weekly No-Nonsense Nutrition Report (and get a free gift!), follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

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Heart Health: Is Lowering Sodium the Answer?

I have long recommended everyone increase their water intake to one-half their body weight in ounces and include ¼ teaspoon of natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan Crystal or Celtic Sea Salt for every 32 oz. I got a lot of push-back about this in the beginning and I have written blog posts and newsletters explaining the importance of real, unprocessed salt – not the processed white table salt most people use.

Natural, unprocessed salt contains the full complement of minerals the body needs, not just sodium, which the body needs as well. Unfortunately most people eat so many processed foods that are high in sodium from processed salt, that it becomes a problem.

One of the first clients I ever worked with wanted to reduce his blood pressure without resorting to meds. When I suggested the water and salt he was skeptical. I asked him to give it a chance and see how it worked. He was amazed at how much more energy he had and that his blood pressure normalized. Of course that wouldn’t have happened if he was eating a typical SAD diet full of processed foods.

What I wanted to share with you today is this study in the journal, Nutrients, which found that lower sodium intake was not associated with lower risk of heart disease, but increasing magnesium and potassium were!

As long as you are not getting excess sodium in your diet from packaged, processed foods and getting adequate magnesium and potassium from vegetable sources, supplements and natural, unprocessed salt, you may be very happy to know you will be supporting heart health.

Do you limit your sodium intake? Have you ever thought about choosing the best source of that essential mineral?

Want to see more articles like this?   Subscribe to this blog (just click on “Follow”) and get each new post delivered to your email or feed reader.  To follow me and get even more tips on how to live your life in 3-D, including improving your diet, choosing cutting edge nutritional products and effective weight loss strategies be sure to like me on Facebook here and here, sign up for my FREE weekly No-Nonsense Nutrition Report (and get a free gift!), follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

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