Chocolate Good for the Heart, Research Suggests
Good news, chocoholics: Indulging regularly may help reduce the risk of heart disease. In an analysis of seven studies involving about 114,000 participants, researchers found that those who ate chocolate at least one a week lowered their risk of heart disease by 37 percent, their risk of diabetes by 31 percent, and their risk of stroke by 29 percent, compared with those who ate it less often. The research does not distinguish between different types of chocolate, such as dark versus milk. In most of the studies the researchers analyzed, participants with the highest level of consumption had about two servings per week. Eating chocolate regularly, and not just once every few weeks or months, appeared to be a factor. The research, presented today at a European Society of Cardiology conference in Paris, was published in the British Medical Journal. Chocolate's heart benefits are likely because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties; it's chock full of polyphenols, which help lower blood pressure. But the findings aren't an excuse to binge: Chocolate is often high in calories and can be loaded with sugar and fat, so overdoing it could cause more harm than good. "You should eat chocolate in a moderate way and in a regular manner," study author Oscar Franco of the University of Cambridge told Bloomberg.
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Use These 8 Foods to Help You Lose Weight
We all know the basic nutrition rules when it comes to safeguarding our health and losing weight. In the words of best-selling nutrition writer Michael Pollan, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Sounds simple, but if you're interested in maximizing the amount of nutrients you get, you may want to be a little choosy when selecting among various options in each food group. Some fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products stand out as nutritional superstars, according to the latest research. And they're also easy on the calorie count to help you shed pounds, U.S. News reported in 2010. Consider incorporating these foods into your daily meal plan:
1. Watermelon. It's not only delicious, but packs a wallop of antioxidants like vitamins A and C. It also contains lycopene, a plant chemical found in studies to lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related vision loss due to macular degeneration. Just as gratifying: One cup of cubed watermelon contains less than 50 calories, not too damaging for your waistline.
2. Avocado. This extremely versatile fruit can be used in salads, sandwiches, and guacamole. Filled with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, avocado is a healthful alternative to mayonnaise and can help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels. Just watch your portions. One-quarter of a medium-sized avocado contains 65 calories, so you don't want to overdo it. [Read more: Use These 8 Foods to Help You Lose Weight.]
6 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Eating Fruits and Veggies
Experts say most people know they don't eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables (Find how much the government says you should be getting here.) Some may not know how to prepare them. Others might think they don't like them. Here are six ways to work them into your diet painlessly, U.S. News reported in 2010:
1. Use them in sauces, chili, soups, and casseroles. They're great at camouflaging zucchini, squash, carrots, or corn. Grate and sauté them or pulse them in a food processor until they're smooth. But they don't have to be hidden to taste good. Pasta sauces or toppings on meat dishes are other veggie vehicles. Grab a can of butternut squash soup and cook gnocchi in it—it's "super yummy," says Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Smother your chicken in ratatouille—an assortment of seasoned, sautéed veggies—or top sea bass with tomatoes, capers, and olives or perhaps a mango salsa.
2. Bake them into muffins, breads, and pies. Yes, you can enjoy pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving relatively guilt-free, so long as it's not topped with a huge dollop of Cool Whip. Carrot cake, zucchini bread, and banana muffins are a few more possibilities. Many recipes call for applesauce instead of all or some of the butter or oil, and it brings just as much moistness. "It can definitely be an awesome way to get your more nutritious substitutes to replacing high-oil, high-fat baked goods," says Sarah Krieger, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. [Read more: 6 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Eating Fruits and Veggies.]
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