It’s Valentine’s Day… the chocolate lover’s favorite holiday! With boxes of chocolate at home and bowls of goodies at the worksite, you can’t help but indulge. You’ve heard it all before: dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate, everything in moderation, and so on, but is one really better for employee health than the other? Let’s divvy up the facts before we divvy up the chocolate.
We know that chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean, but where do the health benefits come from?
- Antioxidants: A high concentration of antioxidants has been proven to come from the cocoa bean. These chemicals aid the body in eliminating free radicals that promote disease and cause damage to the cells in your body.
- Flavonoids: Epicatechin, which is found in the cocoa bean, helps to improve cardiovascular function by improving blood circulation and relaxation of the blood vessels, which in turn helps to improve blood pressure. A chocolate a day just might keep the heart doctor away!
So what is the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate contains little to no extra sugar and a larger quantity of cocoa (60 percent or more). This increases the amount of flavonoids; therefore, there are more antioxidants present. Since milk chocolate contains milk, along with added sugar, the flavonoids are at lower levels due to a possible interaction with milk. This leaves dark chocolate healthier. By choosing dark chocolate, you can also reduce the risk of blood clots, improve your mood, and help lower cholesterol levels.
It’s recommended that you choose chocolate that is at least 60 percent cocoa and consume only one ounce per day, which is equivalent to about one piece of Dove chocolate or 2 Dark Hershey Kisses. Forget the white chocolate; it contains no cocoa, so it provides no antioxidants for the body.
As hard as it might be, consume chocolate in moderation and don’t overindulge.
With all this chocolate talk, what chocolate treat do you prefer on this chocolate lover’s holiday? Leave a comment on our blog or visit the NIFS Fitness Management Facebook page and take our poll.
This is definitely my favorite time of year: football, cooler weather, and the return of all things apples and pumpkin! Not only are they chock-full of healthy goodness, but they are also delicious!
Health Benefits of Apples
The old quote “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” could not be more correct. Apples are loaded with fiber (a typical tennis-ball-sized piece has 4 filling grams of fiber), which helps to keep you satisfied. Apples are also high in immune-boosting Vitamin C.
One recent study found that eating apples was linked to a lower incidence of death from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Another surprising benefit of apples is that they may boost your endurance during a workout. The antioxidant quercetin makes oxygen more available in the lungs, and one study showed individuals who had this antioxidant prior to a workout were able to cycle longer.
Health Benefits of Pumpkins
Pumpkins have just as much to brag about as apples. Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, which is essential for boosting your immune system, vision health, and bone health. You also get a significant amount of potassium from pumpkin. This helps keep your fluid and mineral balance regulated, which helps with heart function. That bright orange color from pumpkin means it is high in the antioxidant beta carotene. This means it is heart protective and can help lower your risk for heart disease. Finally, just like apples, pumpkin is loaded with fiber. Each 1 cup of pureed pumpkin has 7 grams—1/3 of your daily needs!
I like to use pureed, canned pumpkin as a fat replacer in cake mixes, brownies, and muffin mixes. Just substitute the same amount of pumpkin for the amount of oil called for in recipes and enjoy a lower-fat and nutritious treat!
Recipes for Employee Health
Try these delicious recipes for making the most of fall apples and pumpkin.
Baked Cinnamon Apples
4 large baking apples, such as Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash apples. Remove cores to 1/2 inch from the bottom of the apples. Make the holes about 3/4 to 1 inch wide.
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and pecans.
- Place apples in an 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking dish. Stuff each apple with this mixture. Top each with a dot of butter (1/4 Tbsp).
- Add boiling water to the baking pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven and enjoy! Serves 4.
Calories: 230; Fat: 8 grams; Fiber: 6 grams
Recipe adapted from http://www.simplyrecipes.com
3 cups cold, fat-free milk
2 pkg. (1.5 oz.) vanilla flavor fat-free, sugar-free instant pudding
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 cup thawed fat-free whipped topping
Beat milk and pudding mix in medium bowl and whisk for 2 min.
Blend in pumpkin and spice.
Stir in whipped topping.
Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Makes 12, 1/2-cup servings.
Calories: 60; Total Protein: 3 grams; Total Fat: 1 gram
Recipe adapted from http://www.kraftfoods.com.
Enjoy these fabulous fall super foods while they are plentiful! For more information, please contact me at email@example.com.
This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
Nothing brings about that glorious feeling of fall like crisp air, sunny days, brilliant foliage, football, apple cider… and all foods pumpkin!
The Health Benefits of Pumpkin
We are awed by the beautiful shades of red, yellow, and orange of the changing leaves, but let’s consider nature’s colors in terms of health; did you know that a pumpkin’s deep orange hue is an automatic giveaway that it is a nutrient powerhouse? The next time you indulge in a tasty pumpkin treat, consider what one serving of pumpkin, which is low in both fat and calories, can provide:
- 100% of your daily value of vitamin A (from the healthy dose of beta-carotene in the pumpkin)
- 20% of your daily value of fiber
- A handful of antioxidants that help fight disease
How to Get More Healthy Pumpkin into Your Diet
The type of pumpkin that is generally best for consumption is that which comes from a sugar or pie pumpkin; Libby’s brand specifically uses the Dickinson variety. However, your jack-o-lantern is certainly good for something: its seeds! Roast them in some olive oil and seasoning and enjoy. They contain healthy fats, protein, fiber, zinc, magnesium, and iron.
For unique ways to sneak pumpkin into everyday foods to make them healthier, check out these ideas. And try these healthier pumpkin recipes that are perfect for a fall day.