Monday, September 19, 2011

Can Chocolate Reduce Cardiovascular Disease?

Recent studies (both experimental and observational) have suggested that chocolate consumption has a positive influence on human health, with antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, and anti-thrombotic effects as well as influence on insulin sensitivity.

We frequently hear of the anti-oxidant benefits in the bioflavonoids of chocolate. Many are so surprised when I tell them that Cacoa (the true spelling) is a plant and as such, considered a "super food". When I lecture, I frequently talk about the power of super foods and they do not have to be sourced from a rare rain forest berry that you've never heard of much less afford. So much of our standard food supply can be considered full of "superfoods" if we just look at the nutrient profile and chocolate is at the top of this list.

Not just any chocolate will do. Much of the chocolate on the market is processed with alkali. This is a process used in Dutch Chocolates and unfortunately, it destroys most of the beneficial flavonoids. Remember, that white chocolate has no flavonoid benefit at all.

Chocolate is also good for the mood. Chocolate also has a more direct stress-reducing effect. It contains a compound called anandamide also known as the "bliss chemical" that binds to certain receptors in the brain to promote relaxation. This happens in a manner similar to the effect of some components of marijuana though the effect is much more subtle (and much more legal!). Chocolate contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease the body's ability to metabolize anandamide, thus "prolonging the high."

High in magnesium, Iron and copper, chocolate also contains lesser amounts of calcium, zinc, Vitamin A, niacin, and phosphorus.

How do you choose a quality chocolate that will be beneficial to your cardiovascular health?

1. Choose the darkest chocolate bar you can tolerate. The higher cocoa, the lower the sugar. I recommend 85-99%. This can be bitter for some so beginning at a 72% and moving up might be your best choice.
2. Choose an organic bar to avoid the pesticide residue.
3. Choose a chocolate bar that has not been processed with alkali.
4. Be kind to our global neighbors and choose "Fair Trade". Sourced from ethically traded cacao farms ensuring fair trade, responsible labor practices and sustainable farming

Your chocolate bar ingredients should be limited to; Cocoa, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Liquor and Sugar. Of course the higher cacao content will reduce the sugar content. Remember, sugar suppresses the immune system.

A very small amount goes a long way with this beneficial super food. 1-3 squares is a sufficient amount. If you're anything like me, having chocolate in the house may not be a good idea if you are in a weight loss mode. One would think that the slightly bitter taste might detour most from over eating.

Not me, I'm a true chocoholic! This is the reason I don't have a chocolate supply. It's my Friday night movie treat. Only purchase that in which you know you have control over.


Objective To evaluate the association of chocolate consumption with the risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders.

Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and observational studies.

Data sources Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library, PubMed, CINAHL, IPA, Web of Science, Scopus, Pascal, reference lists of relevant studies to October 2010, and email contact with authors.

Study selection Randomised trials and cohort, case-control, and cross sectional studies carried out in human adults, in which the association between chocolate consumption and the risk of outcomes related to cardiometabolic disorders were reported.

Data extraction Data were extracted by two independent investigators, and a consensus was reached with the involvement of a third. The primary outcome was cardiometabolic disorders, including cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke), diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. A meta-analysis assessed the risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders by comparing the highest and lowest level of chocolate consumption.

Results From 4576 references seven studies met the inclusion criteria (including 114 009 participants). None of the studies was a randomised trial, six were cohort studies, and one a cross sectional study. Large variation was observed between these seven studies for measurement of chocolate consumption, methods, and outcomes evaluated. Five of the seven studies reported a beneficial association between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease (relative risk 0.63 (95% confidence interval 0.44 to 0.90)) and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels.

Conclusions Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption.

Full Study:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Special Feature: Navigating Whole Foods Market

I thought I would share with you the recent interview article featured on Paleo Comfort Foods and picked up by Robb Wolf. Julie and I met at the Ancestral Health Symposium in August as I addressed the crowd during a discussion on paleo eating on a budget. I would encourage you to pre-order Julie's cookbook for those mouth watering comfort foods you've been missing on your carbohydrate restricted diet. If you're not aware, I am the Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods Market in my area. I assist the shopper with their nutrition needs and make recommendations based on their dietary goals and needs. It's been a real boost for me in this economy but more than anything, It has filled a need I have to share with the public, the value of a whole food diet. The picture above is of me at work handing out salad samples one of the easier duties of my job description.

Whether you are a Paleo or Low Carber, you will find a variety of recipes to work with. If you haven't read The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, check it out too as I know you won't be disappointed. When we can learn from each and every angle and take a few pieces from what we've learned and put them into place for our lifestyles and biochemical individuality, we truly began to expand our knowledge in a manner that was never available to us unless we spent countless hours at the library curled up with medical journals only to find ourselves in a dazed and confused state.

One of the most amazing surprises at the Ancestral Health Symposium happened during the fabulous talk given by Sarah Fragoso and Chrissy Gower (the two hot ladies who run the wildly popular Paleo Talk podcasts and seminars). Someone had asked a question about grocery shopping and affordability. A woman stood up and introduced herself (her name is Misty Humphrey) and she stated that she is the Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods Market (WFM), and shared with the group gathered for Sarah and Chrissy’s talk some of the pieces of advice that she gives on her weekly WFM tours.

Realizing the need to share even more of this information with the masses, I connected with Misty to share some of her insights, tips, stories and inspiration with you all. So many times people refer to WFM as “Whole Paycheck.” Here, Misty shares with us some of her experiences and tips to make the shopping experience more economical and healthy!

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, what it is you do for Whole Foods?

As an 85lb. weight loss maintainer, I took my “Low carbohydrate diet” to a whole new level when I attended the Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition. There, I learned the value of a whole food diet and turned my diet into not only a lifestyle but a journey I gladly share with others both in my home office as well, my position here at Whole Foods Market as the Healthy Eating Specialist. As a person who suffered ADHD, constipation, weight and other cognitive issues, I share with my clients and customers the value of transitioning from a SAD diet to that of a nutrient dense, whole foods diet. There are a few plans and challenges that are encouraged at Whole Foods but I have found that with my education and experience, my customers have great success with my advice to eliminate gluten, increase their fat and protein and decrease their carbohydrate.

What inspired you to get into this line of work?
Inspiration or obsession? I frequently tell others that I was so obsessed with how great I felt, how quickly the weight fell off and the thousands of ancedotal stories I was a witness to for the past 11 years on a variety of message boards. I was astounded with the amount of maladies disappearing as well as my own with this transition that it excited me to the point of further education. I am a Certified Holistic Nutrition Educator and am currently enrolled in Reed Davis’ Functional Diagnostic Nutrition program to further my personal practice goals.

Part of what you do is give food tours of WF and how to purchase good food for the family. Let’s pretend we’re a family, and on tour with you, and our food budget for the week is $200. What kinds of things will you make sure to point out and/or stress to us?
As I tour a family or individual through the store, I point out a variety of values. We work with many manufacturers to provide a coupon book called “The Whole Deal” where the customer can locate quite a few quality coupons not necessarily devoted to packaged and processed foods. Second, I remind all customers to review the Wednesday specials which feature a nice cross section of whole foods on sale. Our 365 brand is comparable to all major leading retailers so I always encourage customers to choose the 365 brand if no coupon or sale exists at that moment on other products. Finally, we have our Friday special where one can find a product at about 50% below retail. This sale will quite often pertain to seafood and meat. Wild Salmon, Grass Fed Ground Beef, Organic Air Chilled Chicken and of course the recent sale on prawns. So frequently, we get into the rut of serving the same dishes week after week. I encourage my customers to watch ads, be aware of the Friday special and browse the coupon book while making their choices for menu planning. Look outside the box and try something new if it’s on sale and for the lowest prices, choose local, in season products.

What purchases do you advise families against?
I’d like to begin with the gluten free lecture and store tour that I provide twice weekly. So many are attracted to the gluten free products which I am quick to remind have an equal if not higher impact on blood glucose than that of the wheat. I generally recommend they experiment with squash, zucchini and root vegetables rather than that of a low quality pasta dish. I find it’s less expensive, more filling and of course, nutrient dense. I also encourage the purchase of a quality water canteen for children and the school lunch as opposed to high sugar fruit juices.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge in educating families?
I find the biggest challenge to be the resistance in home preparation of whole foods. Overcoming time objections with a busy family is difficult but I might make recommendations such as packing the picnic for a soccer game, enjoying a variety of easy to grab finger foods and of course taking one day off per month to pre-cook some animal proteins to quickly put together family meals, and we must never forget about the slow cooker. I will frequently remind the “cook of the home” that an investment of time in the human frame now will save time from illness later.

If you could name one (or two) best “bang for your buck” meat/veg/fish/nuts/staples at Whole Foods Market, what would you say?
Wild Alaskan Salmon while in season is frequently on sale for $9.99 lb., our 365 brand Extra Virgin Olive Oil is $5.99 for a one liter bottle and a bunch of Kale is $1.99. I challenge anyone to find these values at their local Safeway.

No doubt you’ve met a lot of individuals and families in your work and seen some amazing changes. Are there any particular moments or experiences with customers that most resonate with you?
I have two very special stories for you:
Barbara is a 67 year old diabetic and breast cancer survivor. Barbara has been a diagnosed type 2 diabetic for 20 years. She came in to my class room one day and during our appointment she mentioned that she had been using Dr. Barnard’s vegan diabetic plan and was finding that she was utilizing a great deal of insulin which consequently was making her sleepy and ill. I recommended she try a lower carbohydrate approach. After 3 days Barbara’s blood sugars were dropping but when she entered my office she exclaimed “My Dr. doesn’t like your diet, I’m going back to Barnard’s program”. I said “I know and I’m not surprised. Barbara, you must do what makes you feel comfortable but understand you have a glucose metabolism imbalance”. I knew at that point that Barbara’s decision was made out of fear for her cancer but 4 days later, Barbara is in my office again and almost in tears because she had once again lost control of her blood sugar and with the previous information I had shared with her regarding glucose metabolism and cancer, she was scared to death. In this short period of time Barbara had felt such dramatic differences that her trust in me escalated. From over 200ml on her glucose readings now down to 120ml and dropping, Barbara wrote on her customer comment card and is not hesitant to announce in every group class “Misty has literally saved my life”. Barbara happens to be a senior citizen who has a $200 shopping budget and with some hints and tips, she is able to shop at Whole Foods primarily.

Tina brought her 8 year old son Zach in to see me after we met at an event where I was representing Whole Foods and the Wellness Center. Tina was desperately defending her son in school with his teachers because his ADHD was so extreme. Keep in mind this child is enrolled in a special education school so you can imagine her frustration. I gave Tina some information that I had studied regarding food and ADHD including gluten, food dye elimination and reduction to elimination of sugar. 2 weeks later Tina entered my office with tears in her eyes. Zach brought home his first progress report showing “All Stars” on every level. “Misty, he’s a different child” exclaimed Tina and with this information, Tina’s entire family has not only eliminated gluten but endured testing as well and have all proven to be gluten intolerant. That day, Tina and I cried together because not only was I so sympathetic to Tina’s case, I wished I had this information when both of my children and myself suffered ADHD.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I would like to share that when I began this job, there was no information on the floor regarding a Paleo lifestyle. Currently, we are carrying Loren Cordain’s books and are working to expand on this. I have a lot of customers who are finding themselves leaner, healthier and of course happier than they’ve ever been. When I first began here almost 8 months ago, my meat dept. was skeptical. I am happy to report, their sales have increased and we have a mutually beneficial relationship. Of course when there’s a great sale, they come to me and ask “how many pounds?” now. I have also teamed up with a local boot camp and am excited to announce our 100lb. challenge sponsored by Live Fit Boot Camp and Whole Foods Market. In one year, with a collaborative effort, we will transform 10 Men and 10 Women in a kind and paleo manner.

We applaud Misty and the work she is doing to really make a difference out there for so many, and for sharing some great tips for all of us! Thank you, Misty, for what you are doing and sharing your “insider’s tips” and inspirational stories with us!

Chemical Element Dominance-Sodium Deficiency

Sodium deficiency in an overly processed society?  You bet it is!  I have had many a friendly debate with those utilizing the typical iodized salt shaker.  So frequently I hear, "salt is salt".  Not according to Dr. Victor Rocine, a Norwegian homeopath.  In the 1930's, Dr. Rocine had studied the works of a variety of contemporary European biochemists who had begun to analyze and measure the amounts of the chemical elements in many of our common foods.  This growing body of nutritional knowledge had hardly been noticed in the US at that time.

Rocine proposed that deficiency or excess of any of the primary chemical elements needed in human nutrition was at the root of most human diseases, maladies and mental problems.  In addition, he wrote and lectured extensively on his theory of chemical dominance, that is, the dominance of any particular chemical in a person's makeup such as calcium, silicon, or sulfur creates in that a person a particular and identifiable temperament type.

Like Hippocrates, Rocine believed that food, together with exercise, rest, sunshine and positive attitues is man's best medicine.

Rocine taught that certain foods have certain effects upon the body.  For example, it was taught that in the case of over-activity, or under-activity of the thyroid gland, iodine foods would be needed to restore chemical balance in the thyroid gland.  Not as obvious, Rocine taught, in cases of joint troubles or digestive system troubles, sodium rich foods would be needed.  Underlining the observation, Rocine stressed an important distinction; much of the population understands sodium to mean table salt.  However, this form of sodium is inorganic and uselss to the body.  The type of salt the body needs is bio-organic sodium salts, which are formed in plants by the internal processes of living cells.  Sodium slats are crucial to replenish the sodium used in the joints, stomach and bowel to neutralize acids and to aid in other metabolic functions.

The discussion of the function of chemical salts fascinated Rocine.  Much of his work is focused on the effects of balancing slats in the body.

Common table salt is a combination of sodium and chloride (a form of chlorine) in equal proportions.  It is inorganic sodium and chloride.  It is not as valuable as that sodium which we find in organic foods.  The human frame is organic or organized.  The sodium that we get from plants and vegetables is organized sodium; it is organic.  On the other hand, sodium in ordinary table salt, or manufacture salt is inorganic.  When inorganic salt is taken into the system, it will over tax it.  As a result, your body will have to work harder in order to throw off the inorganic chemicals introduced. 

You might just be surprised to hear that strawberries, spinach and carrots for example are quite high in sodium or organic salts.

Foods rich in sodium are often rich in chlorine oxygen and potassium.  Chlorine is the "laundryman" of the body, Sodium neutralizes acids and chlorine helps to carry impurities off.

Sodium Deficiency is Common
So frequently we hear that we should avoid the salt if we want to avoid high blood pressure.  As you've just learned, salt is a necessary component to good health and the human frame.

In Foods that Heal Dr. Bernard Jensen reminds us that people between the ages of seven and twenty-one do not require very much sodium, for 100 adults, there is a lack of sodium rather than an excess.  Interestingly enough, so many that I speak to over the age of 21 are watching their sodium intake rather than that of their carbohydrate intake.  Most of this information is either   conveyed to them via their Dr. or morning news program or our most recent health guru Dr. Oz.

The body utilizes the sodium in a variety of ways that you may never have guessed or even heard.  Commonly, we hear of hot temperatures but cold climates use up sodium slats in the body as well.  Being in love enables a person to take up more sodium salts under favorable emotions, sodium is more rapidly assimilated or utilized.  Under unfavorable emotions of passions such as fear or anger, sodium salts are eliminated in the urine.  This is just one more example of how a loving state of mind is favorable to your good health.  Temper, excitement, jealousy and ugly melancholy passions always have an unfavorable effect upon the chemistry of the body and consequently, upon health.

A sodium deficient persona feels well one day and then the next, might feel sick.  They feel as if though something is going to happen all the time.  A fear of the unknown or anticipation of negative event.  They are sleepy during the day and at night, his/her brain is quite active and even more so after midnight.  Roller coaster emotions can ensue where the world can be accomplished one day and later, one is sleepy and depressed.

Sodium excess is usually excess of sodium in the tissues, not in secretions.  There is never an excess of sodium in the blood and secretions, but therre may be an excess of sodium in the joints and tissues.

When sodium is lacking, the nerves are on fire, judgement is unreliable, concentration is poor and there is greater tendency to heat or sun stroke.

Sodium is lowered by drinking water which washes the sodium of the system.  People really do drink too much liquid for their own good.  Coffee, tea, soda, copious amounts of bottled water are all consumed in excess in one way or another even if deemed healthy as in the case of water.

As I always tell my clients, "Try to eat your water".  Yes, this always produces a funny look but when you consider that a great deal of fresh vegetables contain a high water content, this really does make sense.   

Sodium is lowered through temper and excitement as well.  The more high tempered you are, the more sodium you burn.  At some point, you may suffer from indigestion due to your temper.  Again, for this reaosn, it is much better to cultivate affection than to cultivate anger.

Salts & Pregnancy
An expectant mother needs calcium, sodium, iron and silicon in abundance because the growing unborn baby uses those salts and a great many others.

Morning sickness is an indication of a lack of sodium claimed Rocine.  Adding slat or high sodium containing foods like chicken and turkey gizzards can increase sodium to the pregnant woman.

So, when the Dr. tells you to stop eating sodium, make the decision to throw your conventional salt shaker and the packaged foods out and begin consuming fresh sodium containing foods and a sprinkle of a quality sea salt.

Sodium deficiencies are most commonly seen as very low blood pressure and muscle cramping.