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Sweets for your Sweetie

To get this column started, considering that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I’ve included a few healthy substitutes for the standard heart-shaped box of chocolates.

We know that dark chocolate yields the greatest health benefits. To reap the most rewards, try one (or all!) of these three chocolate bars, selected by Women’s Health magazine for their high-cacao content:

* La Maison du Chocolat Cuana. $11 for a 4.16 oz. bar, but heavenly!

* Godiva Demitasse. $39 for a sweet 16 oz. package.

* Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate. $2.50 for a 3.5 oz. morsel of one very dark recipe.

* Scharffen Berger Extra Dark. $7 for a box of 12 squares. Share this with a glass of red vino and someone you love.

For an alternative to the chocolate bar, those watching their diet could give the new Right Direction Chocolate Chip Cookies a try. They’re high in soluble fiber and plant sterols, both shown to reduce bad LDL cholesterol.

Also, FYI, if you’re dazed and chocolate-crazed in the convenience store, take note that one (repeat: one) Hostess chocolate cupcake has only 180 calories and 6 grams of fat. Of course, there’s little, if any, natural ingredients in those things so it’s best to stay away, but in case of emergency, that could be good information to know.

A New Potential Fat-Burner

A compound in red wine may offset the effects of a high-calorie, high-fat diet, according to a recent Harvard Medical School and National Institute on Aging study that followed a group of mice. Resveratrol, a molecule also found in grapes and nuts, appeared to increase the mice’s survival and insulin sensitivity (important for efficient processing of glucose into energy). Authors note that resveratrol “can safely reduce many of the negative consequences of excess caloric intake, with an overall improvement in health and survival.” However, to take in the equivalent of resveratrol given to the mice, one would have to drink on average 750 bottles of red wine a day. Yikes!

Purge for the Environment

We all know it’s important to recycle, but many of us come up with any number of excuses for why we don’t. But the less trash we generate, the happier and healthier our planet, our environment will be, and, as a result, ourselves. Make it a point to incorporate these handy tips on how to reduce your personal waste. The more we fill up the recycle bins, and the less we put in the garbage can, the better!

* Turn those banana peels, coffee grinds, and other food scraps into compost. Use in your own garden, or participate in an existing food collection program in your area, or haul your scraps to a community garden or permitted composting facility.

* Bring your own bags. It’s easy. Carry canvas bags to the grocery store or really anywhere else you shop. Some stores even issue a small discount for doing so.

* Recycle. Just do it! It’s easy if your neighborhood offers a curbside recycling program. If not, just keep your recyclables sorted, and take them to your local recycling center. So it’s an extra stop on your list of errands. Is that such a big sacrifice?

* Buy bulk. Many health food stores sell grains, flour, and other items in bulk. At the traditional grocery store, buy the large container of applesauce or yogurt, for example, and separate it into smaller containers yourself.

* Support local farmers and merchants, organic growers, fair trade companies, and companies that are making an effort to reduce waste.

* Buy a smaller garbage can. No one really enjoys taking out the trash, so the smaller container will motivate you to keep from filling it up too often.

Downward Puppy Dogs and Bunny Breathing

Longtime yogi and wife of former Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Peter Guber, Tara Guber crafted a curriculum for kids called “Yoga Ed,” which aims to bring the benefits of the practice to elementary school children. More than 100 schools in 26 states have adopted the program so far, and more than 300 physical education instructors have been trained to teach it. Her program, and others like it, are being taught in public and private schools throughout the U.S. and educators are realizing the benefits.

Teachers report that it helps calm students with attention-deficit disorder, lessens discipline problems, and may help reduce childhood obesity. In turn, the federal government issues grants to gym teachers who complete a teacher-training course in yoga.

In 2003, researchers at California State University, Los Angeles, studied test scores at the Accelerated School, a charter school where Guber sits on the board and where students practice yoga almost every day. Researchers found a correlation between yoga and better behavior and grades, and they said the little yogis were more fit than the district average from the California Physical Fitness Test. So just imagine what yoga can do for you!

While more and more Americans are incorporating yoga into their health routine, yoga in public schools remains a touchy issue. Despite programs such as Guber’s that lighten up the practice by replacing “belly breathing” with “bunny breathing,” for example, critics argue that it will leads young people to explore other religions and mysticism. Namaste! / Issue 65 - September 1863
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