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Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

Do you give sweets to your ‘sweetie’ on Valentine’s Day? According to the National Confectioners Association, 83% of Americans will give chocolate or candy on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is the third largest holiday for the consumption of chocolate, trailing behind Christmas and Easter (US Food Market Outlook 2018). 58 million pounds of chocolate will be purchased the week before Valentine’s Day. That’s a lot of extra calories, and sugar.

heart fruit bowl

My son’s birthday happens to be on Valentine’s Day. Knowing there would be an abundance of sugar at classroom Valentine parties we have always tried to bring a healthy treat to share for his birthday. Pictured here is one of my favorite birthday treats we have shared with classmates. It’s simply fruit cut into heart shapes and arranged in a heart-shaped pan. And you know what? The class has always devoured the fruit! Consider sending a healthy for your child’s classroom… fruit, pretzels, raisins… or a non-food item like pencils or stickers.

Maybe the best way to say I love you… is with a gift that promotes health. Here are some gift ideas that say Happy-Healthy Valentine’s Day:

  • Flowers – buy local and save money!
  • Pampering gifts – bath salts, scented lotion, candles
  • Make or purchase a fruit bouquet
  • Homemade gifts from the kitchen – soup mixes in jar, granola, or flavored popcorn
  • Coupons for quality time together
  • Plan an active date – ice skating, skiing, dancing, hiking, bowling,

Of course you can still enjoy a little chocolate… just do so in moderation and balance it with physical activity and smart food choices the rest of the week. Feel free to share your favorite healthy gift idea in the comments below.

Sources:

Garden-Robinson, J. & Henneman, A. “FREE Holiday Food Mixes in a Jar PowerPoint, Recipe Handout and Online Slide Show.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2019. https://food.unl.edu/free-holiday-food-mixes-jar-powerpoint-and-recipe-handout

“Heart Health and Candy Hearts?” American Heart Association. 2013. https://www.yourethecure.org/heart-health-and-candy-hearts

US Food Market Outlook 2018. https://www.packagedfacts.com/Food-Outlook-11000243/

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County

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iced-tea-lemon-paper-straw-978364

One of the lesser-known benefits of consuming a diet high in polyphenols is its beneficial impact on your gut bacteria.

Polyphenols are natural compounds found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, and wine. They provide amazing health benefits as they proceed through the digestive tract. The majority of polyphenol compounds stay present all the way down to the colon where they are then broken down by your gut bacteria into metabolites.

Polyphenol-rich foods provide nutritional assistance that helps protect the health and welfare of your gut microbiome. They should be included in your diet along with such heavy hitters as probiotics and prebiotics.

Polyphenols Increase Good Bacteria

Your body contains approximately 10 trillion human cells, but over 100 trillion “good” bacteria. They outnumber you 10:1, so you need to protect and support them with your food choices. They can be negatively affected by antibiotics, stress, and poor food choices (fast food, processed food). Polyphenols provide the same type of benefits as prebiotics, meaning that they increase the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut.

I am a 365 day/year iced tea drinker, and wanted to see if drinking black tea would provide a more beneficial effect on gut bacteria than green tea because it is fermented, whereas green tea is not. Tea is one of the most researched of all the high-polyphenol foods, with many studies showing a positive link between the prebiotic effects of tea leaves and their polyphenol composition.

What is exciting is that not only do polyphenols increase the number of beneficial bacteria, they also inhibit the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria. Catechin, a polyphenol found in tea, chocolate, apples, and blackberries, has been shown to significantly inhibit the proliferation of pathogens such as Clostridium histolyticum, Staphylococcus, and Salmonella.

Studies also show that tea consumption helps repress the growth of Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium difficile, and Bacteroides spp.

Include Polyphenol-Rich Foods for Balanced Gut Flora

Eating polyphenol-rich foods on a regular basis, along with probiotics, prebiotics, and resistant starch will balance your microbiome and help you achieve good gut health! Below is a list of some of the most polyphenol-rich foods, ranked from highest in polyphenols to lowest (per serving).

Top Polyphenol-Rich Foods:

  • Black elderberry
  • Blueberry
  • Coffee
  • Sweet cherry
  • Strawberry
  • Blackberry
  • Plum
  • Raspberry
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Dark chocolate
  • Chestnut
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Apple
  • Hazelnut
  • Red wine
  • Black grapes

 

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

 

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

 

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286313000946

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772042/

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/98/6/1631S/4577455

 

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zucchini.jpg

As my family gardened this week we noticed that we have an abundance of zucchini. It’s that time of year where everyone is getting more than they anticipated and they are trying to find ways to use it up, preserve it, or give it away.

When picking zucchini look for firm and wrinkle free zucchini that is about 6 to 8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. If you are anything like me, you likely have zucchini in your garden that’s 12 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. The larger the zucchini the tougher it will be and it will also contain more seeds. These zucchini are best for baking. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, grate the zucchini and use in your favorite recipes.

Zucchini have a high water content which makes them lower in calories. They provide us with vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, and potassium. This makes them a fantastic vegetable to eat. However, not all children are big vegetable eaters. If you are like me, you sneak them into things when they don’t notice. Zucchini bread is always a good option but if you have a picky eater like I do, the green flecks in the bread can quickly turn them away. Have you ever put it in your chocolate cake or finely shredded in spaghetti sauce? My kids don’t know it’s there and I get them to eat a vegetable! I count it as my mom super power! The below recipe is a great one to try from USDA’s Mixing Bowl recipe collection. You can also check out some of their other zucchini recipes.

The big zucchini that I picked from my garden will make a lot of Chocolate Squash cake. I won’t use all of my grated zucchini before it goes bad so I will be freezing my leftovers. For proper freezing procedures please check out these safe instructions by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Make sure you blanch zucchini before freezing to ensure quality.

Eating the squash cake is not as healthy for you as eating the raw vegetable itself but we all have to start somewhere.

Aunt Barbara’s Chocolate Squash Cake

Makes: 12 Servings

Instructions

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 package cake mix, dark chocolate

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup squash (shredded or finely chopped)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10″ tube or bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and cinnamon.
  3. Add eggs, water, and oil. Blend until combined, then beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes on medium speed.
  4. Fold in squash. Add nuts if you like.
  5. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until cake springs back when lightly touched.

Other Ideas:

  • Use a greased 9×13-inch pan. Bake for 45 minutes.
  • To lighten cake, try 6 egg whites in place of whole egg.
  • Replace 1/2 cup oil with 1/2 cup applesauce.

WRITTEN BY: Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County.

REVIEWED BY: Lisa Barlage , Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension,  Ross County.

SOURCES:

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Tis the season for chocolate. Most of us love chocolate anytime of the year but from Halloween to Valentine’s Day, chocolate seems to be all around us.Chocolate

Is dark chocolate really good for you? Do the flavanols in chocolate really help you?

Chocolate or cocoa powder does have flavanols. The cocoa bean is a rich source of flavanols which are a group of phytochemicals in food.

However, depending on how the cocoa bean is processed many flavanols can be lost. Flavanols tend to be bitter tasting, so manufacturers roast, ferment, pulverize, and sometimes alkalinize the cocoa bean to improve taste. Thus, it is hard to know how much benefit is in that chocolate piece.

• Consuming a large amount of cocoa flavanols has produced benefits including improved endothelial function (dilation of the artery). This helps blood flow through the arteries and may help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
• Some promises of lowering blood pressure and improving brain function have been seen with consuming large amounts of chocolate.
• Sorry, but chocolate does not help you lose weight. Studies show the more chocolate you eat the more weight you gain.Cocoa

So, how do you get the benefits of the cocoa bean without gaining a lot of weight? Using or eating cocoa powder is your best source. Two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder will provide you with 200 mg of flavanols and about 20 calories. You could try adding it to your coffee, warm milk, oatmeal or yogurt. That is unsweetened, so if you add sweetener the calorie content will jump. To get 200 mg of flavanols you can choose baking chocolate (unsweetened) providing about 70 calories; 1-1/2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips providing 200 calories or 2 ounces of dark chocolate (at least 65%) with 320 calories. Forget milk chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate syrup as they have few flavanols and lots of calories.

Enjoy chocolate in moderation, yes benefits, but also calories.

Author: Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Fayette County

Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County

References:
Schardt, D. [2013]. How bittersweet it is, Nutrition Action HealthLetter, December 2013. 40(10). 8-11.
Zeratsky, K. [2012]. Can chocolate be good for my health? Available at http://mayoclinic.com

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