Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

An End to the Dark vs. Milk Chocolate Debate

chocolate heartIt’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.

Topics: employee health nutrition cardiovascular disease antioxidants cholesterol hypertension

Facts on Fiber: Good for Weight Loss and More

This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

facts on fiber, oatmealOther than supposedly helping you go the bathroom, do you know the importance of adding fiber to your diet? Our bodies can’t digest it, so why eat it?

Benefits of Getting More Fiber

Fiber is actually considered a carbohydrate. It has many health benefits, and helps to regulate digestion. It also helps you to feel full longer, which could help you cut back on total daily calories, helping you to lose weight. When you lose a few extra pounds, you also decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and heart attack; you also lower cholesterol levels and decrease joint pain. Adding fiber to your diet can also help to lower the risk of several forms of cancer.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

Shoot for getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day, which most of us are not even close to getting. And here's a very important side note: Add fiber to your diet slowly, over two to three weeks. If you add too much too fast, you may have stomach issues! Also, drink plenty of water when taking in more fiber to help keep things moving through your system.

How to Get More Fiber

Are you wondering how to add more fiber to your diet? Here are some tips:

  • Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat.
  • Add more whole-wheat products into your diet.
  • Eat popcorn instead of potato chips.
  • Snack on fruit instead of candy.
  • Keep some nuts at your desk or in your car for when you need something to hold you over.
  • Eat oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Try more recipes with beans and lentils.
  • Purchase unprocessed foods.
Topics: nutrition disease prevention weight loss heart disease cholesterol weight management diabetes

Debt Affects Your Health

money stressA recent AP/AOL poll of 1,000 Americans showed increased debt was directly related to increased perceived stress. Among those polled, individuals with the greatest debt exhibited the most physical and psychological health problems linked to their stress levels.

Debt Causes Physical Symptoms

For example, 33 percent of those polled with high debt said they had suffered from high blood pressure, compared with 26 percent of their less-debt-laden peers. Additionally, 51 percent of those with the greatest debt load reported suffering from low back pain and muscle tension. Only 31 percent of their reduced-debt counterparts reported similar symptoms.

Debt Leads to Unhealthy Behaviors

When bank accounts run low and personal debt (credit cards, lines of credit, and so on) runs high, Americans trend toward a host of unhealthy behaviors. Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and food (overeating) become coping mechanisms for the super-stressed. It's also common for sleeping patterns to be interrupted as levels of stress rise.

Debt Produces a Self-Care Freeze-Up

In addition, those under financial strain may perceive that they lack funds for self-care, so they choose not to seek medical help for what appear to be small health issues. Those concerns grow with unrelenting stress (they are often linked to one another) so that a small, easily remedied health problem eventually becomes a significant medical concern.

If you are experiencing stress related to being in debt or keeping on budget, follow our Fiscal Fitness Email Series for more tips. You may also want to find someone you know who seems money savvy and get some ideas from them or look online for free resources.

Topics: disease prevention stress financial fitness cholesterol