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Archive for the ‘HOLIDAYS’ Category

This Mother’s Day give Mom a priceless gift we all strive toward―better eyesight, healthier heart function, and improved memory. Who doesn’t want that? Mom can anticipate this health package while salivating over a box of dark chocolates tied with a lovely bow.

That’s right. Dark chocolate―the most craved food by women―is a present that keeps on giving in the form of more positive health outcomes. New research finds that decadent rich dark chocolate helps protect from several health issues that are more likely to progress as we age.

Don’t expect a prescription for dark chocolate from an ophthalmologist any time soon, but this yummy “melt in your mouth” sweet continues to show promise in improving vision. Researchers compared 26-year-olds given a 1.5 ounce of Trader Joe’s 72 percent Cacao Dark Chocolate bar with a Trader Joe’s Crispy Rice Milk Chocolate bar of similar size. About two hours later, participants underwent vision tests using the standard letter-based eye chart. Those who consumed the dark chocolate compared to milk chocolate showed a slight, although significant difference in visual acuity.

Dark chocolate contains greater amounts of flavanols, often referred to as heart-healthy compounds. How this affects eyesight isn’t known but may result from increased blood flow to the retina or to the cerebral cortex of the brain.

With brain function in mind, dark chocolate may reduce stress levels and inflammation. A bar or piece with at least 70 percent cacao, the source of flavonoids, stimulates areas of the brain involved in memory. It’s also a mood elevator and may improve sensory processing, the ability of the brain to receive and respond to information that comes through our senses.

This tasty treat may have positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Moderate amounts of dark chocolate may lower the risk of atrial fibrillation. The delectable food seems to help loosen stiff arteries and prevent white blood cells from sticking to artery walls. As little as one chocolate square may slightly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. To some extent, small amounts may lower LDL cholesterol.

Other health issues have been linked to chocolate. It benefits the immune system through increased numbers of white blood cells which fight infection and disease. Limited studies found it may play a role in preventing diabetes. Who knows what other health conditions may be linked to something so enjoyable to eat?

Like many things, there’s a caveat. Chocolate is high in calories. However in the studies cited, researchers emphasized that limited amounts (in one study a square of dark chocolate had 30 calories) can benefit our physical well-being. The smallest portion may help maintain health.

Show Mom extra love this Mother’s Day with a special gift for better health and a delight to her palate. How can she resist a box of chocolates?

Assortment of Beautiful Sweet Chocolates in Box Top View. Chocolate Pralines Mix Background

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As we close the chapter on 2017, many of us think of plans we made for the past year and failed to accomplish. This blog, as a part of my theme “To Nourish Body and Spirit,” emphasizes good nutrition. We make resolutions or goals at the beginning of each year to lose weight or improve eating choices. Sometimes we chastise ourselves mentally because we failed to achieve those goals. Instead, why not focus on things we did right? We can’t undo the past, but we can forge ahead on positives.

Here are points to consider.

  1. Remember the positive choices you made throughout the year to choose healthy foods.
  2. Reflect on your greatest accomplishments in making wise food choices.
  3. Ponder constructive decisions about relationships and foods that made you feel good.
  4. Recall walks or exercise you attempted.
  5. Think about the times you abided by safety rules to keep foods safe.
  6. Likewise, meditate on the way you nourished your spirit. Hints. More prayer, Bible study, sharing with the less fortunate. You finish the list.
  7. Identify five things from 2017 that gave you joy and contentment, and consider how you can expand those experiences in the future.

Many throughout our nation and worldwide experienced devastating natural phenomena or mass shootings during 2017. Yet, several expressed thanks in the midst of hurricanes, floods, fires, and senseless carnal disasters. You, too, can find joy and blessings in many seemingly negative situations. When you do, hold onto them, nurture them. God bless you as you strive to improve your attitude and live your life to the fullest in the year ahead. Contemplate the positives, especially in your eating habits, and make joyfulness and thankfulness your companions throughout 2018.

Pf, Pf2018, Pf 2018, New Year

Happy New Year to all my readers  

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October 31st is a fun time. Halloween, one of the world’s oldest holidays, mingles tricks of fictitious goblins and ghosts with treats of candy. Derived from ancient festivals and religious rituals, the holiday is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve and remains a celebration in many parts of the world. In the United States, it is the second most popular holiday, after Christmas, for decorating, candy, and costume sales.

Puritan traditions in the early years of our nation restricted the holiday. During the 19th century, the migration of some two million Irish brought Halloween to the United States. Trick-or-treat became the main event of this holiday for children in our country and Canada. Children shuffle from house to house seeking goodies, especially candy. Both children and adults dress in costumes of favorite characters.

Commercialization of Halloween in the U. S. began around the turn of the 20th century. According to the National Confectioners Association, each year more than 75 percent of Americans plan to give candy to trick-or-treaters. And Americans’ favorite Halloween candy? Chocolate, of course, with candy corn in second place.

Halloween is the largest candy-eating event of the year. Other than gaining weight or developing tooth decay, are there dangers in eating too much candy? The American Chemical Society gave this some thought in 2016 and concluded that sugar from large amounts of candy consumed in one sitting might be lethal. The probability is unlikely since most would become sick before eating enough to harm them. Based on research and mathematical equations using rats, theoretically, 1,627 pieces of candy corn eaten in one sitting could be toxic to humans. One fun-size piece of candy has about 75 calories. Eating 262 pieces equates to about 20,000 calories. If it doesn’t kill you, your conscience may as you figure out how to work off those added pounds.

While dying from an overload of Halloween candy isn’t likely, use caution in making your choices. If you are over 40, consuming two ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks may cause irregular heart rhythm. The sweetening compound, glycyrrhizin, in black licorice may lower potassium levels in the body resulting in high blood pressure and other heart-related problems. This candy can also interact with medications, herbal products, and dietary supplements.

As you observe this special holiday of sweet treats, keep in mind the outcomes of eating too many sweets. Teach children about moderation. The American Heart Association warns against allowing them to have large amounts of candy. Set a good example and use discretion in how much you eat. Make the holiday a treat but avoid the trick of too many calories.

 

 

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Heart health took center stage when Lyndon B. Johnson issued Proclamation 3566 in December,1963. He declared February as American Heart Month and Congress passed a joint resolution requesting presidents each year to follow suit. In that era, more than half of deaths in the United States resulted from heart-related conditions.

In the 2017 proclamation, President Donald Trump stated “The death rate from heart disease in the United States has fallen dramatically since the 1960s . . . [yet] heart disease remains a leading cause of death. . . . During American Heart Month, we remember those who have lost their lives to heart disease and resolve to improve its prevention, detection and treatment.”

 Globally, more than 17 million deaths occur annually from heart related conditions with projected increases in future years. What is more appropriate than to think about healthy hearts on Valentine’s Day? As a day of love, it’s befitting to encourage those we love to eat healthy and to express our love to family and friends by practicing a healthy-heart lifestyle.                                     

      Image result for free heart healthy clip art                                                             

 If you plan to treat those you love with any type of food this Valentine’s Day, make it healthy. Increase the availability of fruits and vegetables, avoid offers of high-sugar, high-salt foods, and provide meats low in fat, especially saturated fats.

As we commemorate a day for hearts, remember to protect yours. Helping yourself and others choose healthy-heart foods can reduce the number of people likely to meet untimely deaths due to cardiovascular disease. It’s the way to honor a national treasure―you and those you love. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Eating is a major focus during the busy holiday season. Many people add a few pounds to their weight from the festivities centered around food. This isn’t the time to diet, but with a few simple changes, we can spare ourselves from gaining additional pounds.

    1. Choose smaller portions. Not easy, but many times we not only add extra calories but become uncomfortably full from excess food. Gauge those portions sizes and feel better afterward.
    2. See what calorie-laden foods you can skip or resolve to eat less. Gravies and creamed dishes add lots of calories. Select unsweetened beverages. Choose red sauces over white ones for fewer calories.
    3. Choose desserts with less calories. Double crusted pies and those with whipped cream or topping have more calories. If you must have a piece of that traditional coconut cake, make it a smaller portion.
    4. Watch out for snacks of candies, nuts, party mixes and yellow cheeses. Look for veggie or fruit trays and skip the dip.

A few simple changes can keep away those dreaded extra pounds. Make the holidays a time of love and joy without those rich, fattening foods. Have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

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What is more appealing as a token of love on Valentine’s Day than a heart-shaped box of chocolate candies? How did this custom begin?chocolate candy: Illustration of a Partially Open Gift Filled with Chocolates

As with many traditions, St. Valentine’s Day evolved from a mixture of Christian commemoration and mythological folklore. The most popular version of this day’s origin relates to St. Valentine, a priest during the reign of the Roman Emperor, Claudius II in 270 A. D. The Emperor believed single men made better soldiers and therefore forbade them to marry. St. Valentine secretly performed wedding ceremonies for many young soldiers and was, therefore, jailed. While imprisoned, he healed the jailer’s daughter, and before execution wrote her a note signed “Your Valentine.”

Others believe customs of Saint Valentine’s Day originated centuries before from the pagan Feast of Lupercalia celebrated between February 13 and 15. The occasion, one of the most ancient Roman festivals, celebrated Lupercus, the god of fertility. For years the Christian church tried to suppress the festival. By the fifth century, Rome began to move away from paganism towards Christianity. The Feast of Lupercalia became relegated to the lower classes and eventually ceased. Pope Gelasius abolished Lupercalia and later established the celebration named after St. Valentine.

In 1537, King Henry VII of England officially declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day. The holiday of feast and romance mimics portions of the pagan festivities. In the years to follow, participants celebrated with poems and later valentine cards, roses, and eventually candy.

Chocolate had a history as a love food. The Mayan and Aztec elites prized chocolate as a luxury item. By the 1600s, this decadent treat in the form of a drink had spread through Europe with the advent of chocolate houses. Even Marie Antoinette had her own chocolate maker.

In an effort to find use for pure cocoa butter and to make a more palatable chocolate drink, Richard Cadbury in 1861 originated the idea of “eating chocolates.” He filled heart-shaped boxes decorated with cupids and rosebuds with these new confections. Thus he spawned an industry of heart-shaped boxes for sale on Valentine’s that now has projected sales of more than 35 million at a value of over $1 billion. Chocolate became the choice sweet for Valentine’s Day.

By the late 1800s, Milton Hershey, successful in caramel making, began covering those caramels with sweet chocolate. After the turn of the century, he sold foil-wrapped chocolate kisses which today we enjoy year round. Hershey advertised them as a nourishing food.

Then there was Russell Stover whose wife began wrapping candies in her kitchen in 1923. They moved from Denver to Kansas City and opened several factories. The Stover’s sold Valentine chocolates in heart-shaped boxes to department stores and eventually bought out Whitman’s, expanding their focus to big-box retailers like Target and Walmart.

All those famous brands remain today to entice us throughout the year, but especially on February 14. Few now think of St. Valentine’s Day as a religious celebration. The traditions of love and chocolate, however, seem to last forever. After all, Hershey was right. Chocolate is nutritious unless you indulge too much. May your admirer gift you on this special day with a box of chocolates. Enjoy!

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Many cultures observe unique traditions on special occasions. People begin the new year with food customs in an attempt to assure health, happiness, and prosperity. Worldwide, several foods such as cakes, grapes, fish, pork, greens, and legumes represent good luck.

Cakes and other pastries are often enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s Day. Commonly round in shape, they consist of many different flavors. Some incorporate a variety of fruits and may include an object inside, such as a coin. The lucky person to find the object in a serving is assured great success in the coming year.

The Spanish consider grapes a way to achieve prosperity. The tradition dates back to 1909 when grape growers in one region initiated a way to use excesses from the year’s harvest. They eat twelve grapes at midnight, one for each stroke of the clock. The custom later spread to other countries.

The consuming of fish, especially cod, to start the new year dates back to the Middle Ages. Certain types of fish were preserved and safely transported to other areas. Likewise, cured herring remains a popular fish in Poland and Germany.

To many, pork symbolizes progress. Pigs push or root forward in the ground and serves as a symbol of moving forward. Roast pig is popular in several countries including Cuba, Italy, Spain , Portugal, Hungary, Austria, and the United States. Southern states favor ham hock, usually used to season cooked greens or their choice of legumes.

Cooked greens are common in many cultures. They signify money and indicate fortune for the coming year. The Danish choose kale with a touch of sugar and cinnamon. Germans and many other regions eat cabbage or sauerkraut, while southerners in the United States make collard greens their choice.

Legumes also symbolize money since the tiny peas/beans enlarge as they cook to represent  expanding fortunes. Southern Americans often cook black-eyed peas with hog jowl. The most well-known treat for prosperity in that region is Hoppin’ John. For a history of this delightful dish, see my blog of September 19, 2011. That blog also includes my favorite recipe which I have repeated here for you to consider this New Year’s Day. It’s quick and easy to prepare.

Whatever your choice of food for good luck, make it healthy and enjoy the delights of many healthful foods during the coming year. Happy New Year!

Hoppin’ John

6          cups canned and drained or cooked dried black-eyed peas

4          cups chicken broth

2          cups water

1          (6.6 ounce) package long-grain and wild rice with seasonings

4          cups diced canned tomatoes

1          pound smoked spicy sausage, cut into 1″ pieces and lightly seared*

½         cup chopped ham

Combine all ingredients in a deep saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 20-25 minutes. Soup will thicken as it sets. Freeze any leftover portions for up to six months.

* Searing cooks out part of the fat. To reduce fat content even more, use a smaller amount and add more lean ham.

Reference:

http://www.epicurious.com/archive/holidays/newyearsday/luckyfoods

 

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