It's that time of year again when store shelves are full of chocolate; bunnies of every shape and size, peanut butter or cream filled, and my old personal favorite, Cadbury Mini Eggs.
Chocolate is the only ingredient that is its very own food group.
Well not really, but it seems as if it should be. Powerfully comforting, creamy, delicious—many people eat chocolate at least several times a week. Which begs the question…
Is Chocolate Good for You?
The answer is both yes and no. Chocolate has been used for centuries to treat bronchitis, sexual malaise, fatigue, hangovers, anemia, depression, memory loss, high blood pressure, poor eyesight, and more. It also helps release the feel-good neurotransmitter—serotonin—in the brain. But eat the wrong kind and you’ll get loads of sugar, calories, and junky ingredients.
How to Eat It Responsibly
Chocolate begins life as raw cacao (pronounced kah-kow) beans. Loaded with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and plant phenols, cacao is a powerful superfood. The more processed cacao becomes however, the fewer healthy components remain—think commercially produced candy bars and most Easter treats.
So how do you get the most out of your chocolate fix?
• Don’t be afraid of the dark. The darker the chocolate, the more beneficial cacao it contains.
• Know your percentages: the number on dark chocolate packaging refers to the percentage of cacao bean in the chocolate. For maximum health benefit, look for dark chocolate that has 75% to 85% cacao.
• Go raw—or as unprocessed as possible.
Looking for more fun ways to enjoy your favorite food? You’ll love this dark chocolate treat!
Raw Chocolate Truffles
Prep time: 20 minutes
Makes 25 truffles
1 cup raw cacao powder
1 cup cashews or macadamia nuts
½ cup maple syrup
Water (to mix)
Roll-in ingredients: shredded coconut, chopped nuts, chocolate nibs, raw sugar, cacao powder, ginger, or something else you love
• Mix cashews in a food processor until a powder, adding enough water to create a thick paste.
• Add maple syrup to cashews and pulse to process.
• Add cacao powder. Pulse to process.
• Refrigerate for four hours or overnight for best results.
• Form teaspoon-sized balls of dough. Coat balls in your chosen roll-in ingredients end enjoy!
It's beginning to look a lot like the holidays (despite the fact that it is still in the upper 70's here in San Diego). This is the time of year when people tend to get busier, indulge more, and exercise less. Here are 7 of my top tips to keep you healthy and happy this holiday season.
1.Feel free to say no.
It is perfectly fine to say no (and not feel bad about it) when you are being stretched too thin. You don't have to accept every party invitation that comes your way.
2.Take a time out.
When you start to feel stress creeping in take a moment to yourself and do some mindful breathing. Sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breath. Imagine that there is a balloon in your stomach. Every time you breathe in, the balloon inflates. Each time you breathe out, the balloon deflates. Acknowledge thoughts as they arise, but let them go and refocus on your breathing. Doing this for even a minute or two will make you feel more calm and relaxed.
3. Skip needless indulgences.
Determine what your favorite treats or most important indulgences are and skip those you don't love. If you can't pass up grandma's stuffing perhaps you skip the mashed potatoes instead.
4. Keep warm with this immune boosting elixir:
1 inch piece of ginger
1 cup of water
1 tsp. local, raw honey
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of cayenne pepper
Peel and chop ginger into a few small pieces and add to your favorite mug.
Bring water to an almost boil and pour over ginger. Allow to steep for 3 minutes.
Add juice of 1/2 lemon, honey, cinnamon, and cayenne.
Mix and enjoy!
5. Keep these products handy:
Active Calcium Chewable works great as an antacid. (Click "Shop Now" at the links to find products)
If you're planning on having a few eggnogs take some Hepasil DTX to keep your liver happy.
If travel is part of your holiday plans Pure Rest is a must have to help you sleep.
To fight off the inevitable germs of the season Booster C 600 is your best friend.
(To see additional health products I recommend visiting www.jessica_scott.usana.com)
6. Don't beat yourself up.
If you end up eating one too many pieces of pie or skipping out on your exercise routine two days in a row it's not the end of the world. Be kind to yourself this season (and every season).
7.Make time for yourself.
A fabulous way to unwind at the end of the day is a relaxing bath. Adding in Epsom salt will help relax your muscles and lavender oil will help relax your mind:
I would love to hear your top tips for surviving the holidays! Feel free to comment below. Have a happy and healthy holiday season!
If you know me you know that I love all things pumpkin (and Peanuts). So in honor of FINALLY perfecting the perfect fall smoothie (recipe below!) I am dedicating this post to the great pumpkin.
Did you know that pumpkin is full of vitamins A and C? Not only is it good for eyes and skin, but it helps to keep your immune system strong. So important for this time of year!
Pumpkin also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin in abundance. Lutein is found in the macula, retina, lens, and optic nerve of the eye. It is responsible (along with zeaxanthin) for blocking out harmful blue light that can cause damage to your peepers.
A diet high in fiber can contribute to weight loss and help keep things moving, and pumpkin is a good source of it. One cup of canned pumpkin provides around 7 grams of fiber.
And the best part of all, pumpkin is downright tasty! Here is my proof!
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon nut butter (I prefer almond)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 ice cubes
Blend and enjoy!