Tweaklet #56 – Cacao vs Cocoa

OK boys and girls, let’s talk CHOCOLATE! I say boys and girls because for many of us chocolate brings out our big kid and our inner sweet tooth. But there’s so much confusion about chocolate. We’ve talked about it before and we will undoubtedly talk about it again but today let’s clarify the differences between cacao and cocoa.

Cacao and Cocoa both start off in the same place – from the seeds or beans within the seed pods produced by the cacao tree in South America. The raw bean is very bitter and is usually fermented and dried first.

To maintain the health benefits of the cacao bean manufacturers heat them at a low temperature, which separates the fatty part of the bean from the rest of it. And now it gets chopped up into nibs, just like healthy chocolate chips!

I say healthy because cacao really is! It is one of the most powerful superfoods known to man, that not only boosts our Feel Good hormone levels, but it can also lower our blood pressure, control our appetite,  regulate insulin levels,  boost our good gut bacteria and so much more!

Cocoa starts the same way cacao does. However, during processing, it’s heated at much higher temperatures. This results in a slightly sweeter flavour but, unfortunately, a lessening of its health benefits because of the change the high temperatures cause to the bean’s molecular structure.

So it doesn’t essentially mean cocoa and chocolate made from cocoa is bad, it just doesn’t have the same integrity and is therefore not nearly as beneficial for our health.

Plus in regular chocolate, a lot of other things are often added, like dairy products, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers and those dreaded unknowns called FILLERS. Urgh!

So when that chocolate craving kicks in look for a good quality dark chocolate or take time to seek out some cacao nibs for a purer source of chocolate.

Then you’ll be surprised how satisfying chocolate can be because of its many benefits, including stopping other cravings and helping you get a good night’s sleep.

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Tweaklet #40 – Adrenal Health

It’s not very sexy talking about our internal organs but sometimes we just have to. A condition that is often overlooked or misdiagnosed is adrenal fatigue. The adrenals are the small glands located at the top of each kidney.

Adrenal fatigue occurs when we’ve been under a lot of physical, mental or emotional stress, especially for a prolonged period. We don’t just feel a bit tired, we feel extremely fatigued,…….we have brain fog……….. we may have gained weight…………… have elevated blood pressure……..experience hair loss……..moodiness and depression….. and in more serious cases, have become insulin resistant.

But once again let’s turn to food and see what we can do to help ourselves through tweaking our diet.

For a start you need to eliminate some foods that are undoubtedly putting a load on your body. In fact these are good for all of us to consider eliminating…
Caffeine…………alcohol…………white sugar……………white flour……………processed foods………..fried foods……………soda…………..artificial sweeteners.
What you want to eat are foods that are nutrient dense but easy to digest and have plenty of healthy fats and fibre.  Lean meat or fish…………., leafy green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables,……………. low sugar fruits,…………… coconut…………, nuts……………., seeds, ……………fermented foods

Timing when you eat is important as it helps regulate your blood sugar which in turn supports your adrenal glands. Eat regularly and don’t skip meals. When your body has adrenal fatigue it needs routine and balance so that your energy and cortisol levels are consistently maintained.

Even when you’re feeling the worst effects of adrenal fatigue you will really notice a difference if you tweak your diet in these simple ways.

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Tweaklet #36 – Chocolate

Nothing contentious today. No dangerous subjects. Nope, today we’re talking about chocolate! I do love a nice piece, or three…….. of chocolate. But like everything else, not all chocolate is created equal.

I am still a lover or milk chocolate and the odd bit of white chocolate but instead of doing us good those two choices really don’t.

Dark chocolate is a whole different thing, however. There are a number of pretty impressive benefits associated with eating dark chocolate.

First and foremost dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that neutralise free radicals and protect the body from damage. These antioxidants include vitamins and minerals and, significant studies have shown, that eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate definitely has a positive effect on heart health.

Lots of research is being done but there are correlations to dark chocolate lowering blood pressure,…..improving blood flow to the heart and brain…..an improvement to heart circulation….. and improved blood clotting.

Now don’t take this as a license to eat a chocolate bar a day, although I have to admit to being tempted, the results are positive and well-founded.

So, if you’re a chocolate lover, look for a good quality brand that is nice and dark – 70% and above.

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Tweaklet #31 Salt – Good or Bad?

Salt is another one of those intensely debated health topics. Over the past 30 years, science has systematically disproved our biggest fear, that salt elevates our blood pressure. In fact, when you’re lacking in minerals, like sodium, THAT can lead to higher blood pressure! And low-salt diets can actually increase the risk of heart attacks.

But before we go too far down the science track, let’s just talk about the food aspects of salt. Your body does need salt but the right kind. Ordinary table salt is not a good choice as it has been broken down with heat and has lost all its minerals.

All salt is originally from the sea and it’s the unrefined sea salt we want that still has all its minerals intact. It’s so much tastier too. And UNREFINED is the key thing to look for.

Why do we need salt? Well, apart from being rich in those trace minerals it also prevents dehydration and balances our electrolytes. In turn, it supports our brain, muscles and nervous system and it’s important for digestive health, particularly helping to absorb nutrients.

Some unrefined salts to look for are Himalayan Salt (the pink one), Celtic Salt, Flaky sea salt, Fleur de Sel or  Flor de Sal, Hawaiian Sea Salt, to name a few of the purest.

Like anything with our diets, moderation is key. We now know that salt is needed by our bodies and we don’t need to avoid it. That being said, if you’re a bit of a salt addict, as I have been, it’s still nice to dial back the salt a bit and taste the real flavour of the food.

Thanks for joining me on my quest for a better understanding of salt and other food tweaks that can make a difference to our health.

Visit the Tweaklets YouTube Channel

Download my free E-Book here.