Plant-based is the New Prius!

Categories: Eco-Conscious Living Tips,Uncategorized,

I love myself the most when I know I’m actively making kind choices for the environment and doing my part to preserve the future of the planet for all creatures that will live here even after I’m gone. Caring about the health of the planet can be contagious as our lifestyle choices influence those around us! Instead of denying the existence of global warming or avoiding the issue of climate change because they’re intimidating, scary or confusing, we need to open our eyes nice and wide to what is actually happening on planet earth and the consequences we are expected to face. The recipes on this website, in Love Your Body and my upcoming cookbook are all vegan not just for health reasons or because I love animals, but avoiding animal products, especially meat, is one of the most effective means we possess of reducing our eco-footprint. We actually can do something about Mother Nature’s impending fever and all the people, wildlife, and habitats that are affected.

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The photos in this post are from a recent trip to Yosemite National Park!

A Truly Eco-Friendly Diet Is Plant Based

Did you know that a person adopting a vegetarian diet for a year would reduce more emissions than someone swapping their gas-guzzling SUV for a Toyota Prius? While the causes of global warming are multifaceted, consuming a healthy, plant-based diet filled with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables is actually one of the most effective and most feasible strategies we possess to combat the most threatening greenhouse gases over the next few decades. The evidence is concrete rather than controversial that humans are responsible for the dramatic increase in greenhouse gas levels and that factory farming is a substantial part of the greenhouse gas emissions pie. Understanding why a reduction in factory farming practices would be a tremendous advantage in one of the greatest battles of our lifetime is essential if we are to move forward toward a greener, less catastrophic future. Given that 2000 to 2009 was the hottest decade on record or that sea levels have risen between 4 and 8 inches worldwide during the past century (experts predict they could rise as much as 2 feet before 2100), it has never been a better time to start caring!

The knowledge that the same foods that make us beautiful, healthy, and smart can actually make the planet a better place and protect susceptible nations and vulnerable species from the impacts of climate change is sensationally amazing when you think about it! Adhering to the mindset that loving yourself actually stems from loving the world around you, this idea is a vital component to the journey toward feeling emotionally and intellectually at peace with ourselves and loving who we are, both inside and out.

Global warming is real, and if you disagree, you’re going up against organizations such as the United Nations (UN), Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NASA even has a Website devoted to disproving skeptics with impressive data, titled “Climate Change: How Do We Know?” This article painstakingly details current statistics concerning rises in sea levels, warming oceans, melting glaciers, declining Arctic ice sheets, increases in ocean acidification, extreme weather events, and heightened average temperature trends all over the world. To disagree would also mean dissension with 100 world governments and most countries around the world. The Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed 15 countries and found that only the Chinese expressed apathy toward climate change similar to Americans’.

Anyone seeking advice on ways to reduce our global foot- print will easily find magazine articles and online reports advising us to buy energy-efficient products, drive less and in more fuel-efficient cars, use hot water less frequently, and plant trees, for example. While these are all fantastic recommendations and I support these strategies, these actions actually have far less of a mitigating effect on global warming than does the act of reducing or eliminating animal products from our diets. In fact, a 2006 UN Food and Agriculture report, which was neglected by the American media, announced that worldwide livestock farming is the number-one cause of climate change ~ more than all planes, trains, cars, and boats worldwide! To put a number on it, World Bank analysts have calculated that livestock are responsible for up to 51 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. This figure includes the environmental effects of methane, land use, respiration, and other greenhouse gases released by the production of factory-farmed animal products alone. The same report calculated that domesticated animals cause 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, more than the combined impact of industry and energy.

Plenty of magazines, websites and blogs describe actions we can take to live more eco-friendly lives, yet rarely do I see recommendations to consume less meat. Plus, less meat means less breast cancer! I can’t decide whether this is more strange or frustrating, given the immense data on the tremendous relationship between livestock farming, environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions. Be prepared to start talking about black carbon and nitrous oxide with your girlfriends, because climate change is hella interesting and possibly the most critical issue of our time!

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Reduce Gross Global-Warming Gases

When we think about global warming, most of us have been taught that rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are our greatest gaseous threat. But what about black
carbon (informally known as soot)? No, I don’t hear too many people talking about that. How about nitrous oxide or methane? Nope, not nearly as much. If I ask my friends if they know what black carbon is, most of them just stare at me blankly. I didn’t even know what black carbon was until I attended a conference devoted to climate change. The kicker here is that while we focus on CO2, this particulate and other gases pose a more immediate threat in terms of the warming we see today. And while many factors contribute to C02 emissions, the releases of black carbon, nitrous oxide and methane are all largely rooted in modern factory-farming practices, destruction of rain forests, and the production of food to feed factory-farmed animals. According to a report from EarthSave International, “Other greenhouse gases trap heat far more powerfully than CO2, some of them tens of thousands of times more powerfully . . . Sources of non-CO2 greenhouse gases are responsible for virtually all the global warming we are going to see for the next half century.”

I used to think rising carbon dioxide levels were our biggest climate-change nemesis until I had the privilege of attending one truly remarkable global warming conference in the United Kingdom in 2010, hosted by the World Preservation Foundation and filled with the many respected scientists who meticulously study climate change. The world’s leading experts gave lectures about black carbon, nitrous oxide and methane gas’s contribution to global warming, and I sat in the audience positively baffled as I learned, for instance, that “methane heats the Earth 100 times more than CO2 in 5 years of time (or 72 times in 20 years’ time).” Dr. Kirk Smith, professor of global environmental health at the University of California–Berkeley, stated, “A ton of methane emitted today will exert more warming in one year than a ton of CO2 emitted today would exert until 2075.” So while it is true that human activity produces much more carbon dioxide than other greenhouse gases, more in this case does not mean more powerful. In fact, other greenhouse gases trap heat far more strongly, even tens of thousands of times more strongly for some of them.

You might be wondering what these gases have to do with what we eat and how we feel about our bodies, but the link between our factory farming and levels of these gases in the atmosphere is undeniable, and minimizing or eliminating animal products from our diets is the best solution we have. As far as our bodies are concerned, educating ourselves about atmospheric black carbon might not make us skinny or help us clear up our skin, but I do believe increasing our knowledge about atmospheric black carbon might not make us skinny or help us clear up our skin, but I do believe increasing our knowledge about how we can help the world makes us more beautiful on the inside. Besides, you will sound awesomely intelligent when you begin talking about reducing atmospheric black carbon and nitrous oxide levels to combat global warming! The billions of animals on factory farms are one of the biggest polluters on the planet and our greatest source of potent greenhouse gas emissions. To understand why factory farming is so destructive to the environment, we need to get the lowdown on the gases I mentioned above and why they trap heat in the atmosphere like it’s their full-time job.

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BLACK CARBON

Black carbon (BC) is a light-absorbing little particle, technically the carbonaceous component of soot. It’s a greenhouse particle that traps heat a whopping 680 times more effectively than CO2 and causes the ice sheets and glaciers at the poles to melt even faster than they would via temperature rises alone. Tiny particles of BC possess an impressive dose of power and experts have concluded that they add two to three times more energy to the climate system than an equivalent mass of CO2.

What’s the #1 cause of black carbon in the atmosphere? Why, factory farming, of course! BC is produced primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass, with the burning of trees in the Amazon rain forest being the largest source. How is factory farming related to deforestation of the Amazon? The awful reality is that many of the statuesque trees of the Amazon are burned and chopped to make way for farmland used to produce feed crops, which are fed to livestock. More specifically, calculations by scientists at the University of Washington and the World Bank have found that 80 percent of Amazon deforestation is due to human activities, specifically for grazing pasture or to produce soybeans to feed to farm animals. Scientists have concluded that 60 percent of black carbon particles in Antarctica actually come all the way from rain-forest lands near the equator. Hence, grazing practices are the #1 contributor to Amazon deforestation, which subsequently releases black carbon into the atmosphere, which in turn melts glaciers in Antarctica. Now, that’s some pretty ridiculous science!

As a tremendous contributor to the melting of the polar ice caps, BC represents a quarter of observed global warming in the Antarctic region. Little but not-so-innocent BC is so powerful because it reduces reflectivity on the surface of ice caps, which increases the rate of melting. Even when air temperatures are below freezing, black carbon causes ice to melt. The dark color of black carbon adds to its heat-absorbing properties, and once melting begins, a domino effect occurs in which darker earth or water below snow or ice becomes exposed and promotes further melting. Glaciers hate black carbon. As black carbon induces melting on the surface of glaciers, the resulting water percolates down through cracks in the ice and increases lubrication at the bottom of the glacier, causing the glacier to flow increasingly rapidly. This is just one massive positive feedback loop that can and will cause our massive glaciers not to be so massive anymore, and most likely, cause them to disappear completely. As we see a continuous rise in ocean water levels, massive flooding in vulnerable countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Pakistan is now becoming a formidable threat with the potential to cost billions of dollars in repairs.

Reports from scientists indicate that our most effective weapon in the battle against global warming in the next few years will be to reduce black carbon levels rather than CO2 in the atmosphere, because black carbon is a short-lived climate forcer (SLCF), with forcible warming effects in the short term, unlike CO2, which is a long-acting greenhouse gas. As Mother Earth heats up over the next few years, reducing levels of black carbon will be essential to cooling her mounting temperature increases in a fast amount of time. Given that scientists have shown that SLCFs can reduce the earth’s rate of warming to less than 2°C by 2070, this is something massive we can do to slow down warming!

We are losing 11⁄2 acres of Amazon rain forest each second, and much of this deforestation is occurring for the simple purpose of producing more land to cultivate soybean crops to feed animals on factory farms. Most people have no idea that this is why we are destroying all that forest! As demand for meat rises in both the developed and developing world due to population growth and increased wealth (mostly among developing countries), we are becoming increasingly needy of fertile land to grow soybeans and other crops used to feed livestock. We simply don’t have enough land in the United States to meet current demands. Soybean, corn, and wheat grown in the Amazon are used to feed animals on factory farms in the United States and elsewhere. This is a long chain of events, and it’s crazy, yet frightfully true, that we can connect animal product consumption to rising levels of black carbon in the atmosphere and the rapid warming of the earth that comes with it.

It’s tempting to ignore the relationship between animal product consumption and something as tremendous as the melting of the polar ice caps. Given that so many people relish a good hamburger, confronting the truth is difficult. It would be difficult for me to give up fresh peaches, blueberries, and mangoes, so I’ve thought about what it would be like if I learned that by giving up peaches, blueberries, or mangoes I could fight global warming. It didn’t take me long to make a decision. I would just consume more strawberries, melons, and apples as an alternative. Most meat eaters have no idea how divine meatless meals can taste and that helping the environment and protecting our health by eliminating or reducing animal products is really not much of a sacrifice at all.

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NITROUS OXIDE

The crazy link between livestock production and climate change by no means ends with black carbon or carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is actually a much more formidable threat to global temperature rise over the next few decades than carbon dioxide or methane and is up there with black carbon in its short-term impact on climate change. Richard Conant, Queensland University of Technology professor and member of a Nobel Prize– winning team of scientists, has advocated that we all turn our attention to nitrous oxide emissions, given that N2O is 296 times more heat trapping than carbon dioxide. N2O traps heat so efficiently because these particles absorb much more energy per molecule than a molecule of CO2 does. Therefore, per molecule, N2O is the biggest destroyer of the cushioning ozone layer that surrounds the earth. Referring to the energy-radiation capacity of major greenhouse gases, Conant reports, “Let’s say carbon dioxide has an impact of one, methane has an impact of say 21 times, and nitrous oxide has an even bigger impact, something like 300 times the impact of CO2.” On top of the incredible energy-absorbing capacity of N2O, it is also very persistent in the atmosphere, where it can remain for up to 150 years. N2O is such a powerful ozone layer antagonist that doubling its concentration in the atmosphere would result in a 10 percent decrease in the ozone layer, which would increase ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth by 20 percent. This means that we can make great strides against global warming by reducing N2O in the atmosphere!

Livestock activities contribute two-thirds of all anthropogenic N2O levels and as much as 75 to 80 percent of agricultural emissions of N2O. Most N2O comes from manure, but much of it is produced by feed-related fertilizers used to grow the crops fed to factory-farmed animals. A large portion of grain and other crops is fed to animals rather than to people, and mineral fertilizers (which produce N2O as a by-product) are applied to most of this cropland. Scientists estimate that 20 to 25 percent of mineral fertilizer goes directly to crops that are used to feed livestock. Although we cannot completely avoid releasing N2O into the atmosphere, we can greatly reduce levels by eating more plant foods instead of animal products. And we can cut manure production by not eating animal products or by minimizing our consumption of them. That sounds like a good deal to me!

METHANE

There may not be as much methane in the atmosphere as there is carbon dioxide, but don’t be fooled by atmospheric concentrations alone. What methane lacks in atmospheric concentration, it makes up for in potency. As I stated earlier in this chapter, methane is 100 times more potent than CO2 over a 5-year period and 72 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period. While CO2 wins the atmospheric concentration competition, this doesn’t mean there isn’t oodles of methane released into the atmosphere via human practices, primarily animal agriculture. The amount of methane released into the atmosphere from factory farming alone amounts to millions of metric tons annually! Globally, livestock release 100 million metric tons of methane each year, accounting for 28 percent of all global methane emissions from human-related activities. Yikes. Here in the United States, cattle release 5.5 million metric tons of methane every year. This does make sense given that there are more than 100 million cattle in the United States at any given time and about 1.2 billion cattle raised for food around the world.

Granted, each cow produces only so much methane, but the collective effect of the hundreds of millions of livestock animals worldwide is simply incredible. Eighty-five percent of this methane is released from the digestive processes of livestock, and the rest of the agricultural methane emissions are released from massive “lagoons” used to store untreated farm animal waste, also a target of environmentalists for their role as the primary source of water pollution in the United States. Other sources of human-induced methane emissions include coal mining, gas and oil refining, rice cultivation, waste, and on a much smaller level, energy and fossil fuel production. However, it is difficult to reduce these sources of methane emissions. As stated by the World Preservation Foundation in its report Livestock’s Climate Impact, “Clearly the most effective means of reducing methane emissions is to reduce livestock production.” This knowledge becomes especially relevant given that reducing atmospheric methane concentrations is our most effective means of combating ground-level ozone.

While we should focus on curbing carbon dioxide emissions, this is no walk in the park compared with the simple act of switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Resolutions to cut back on CO2 are impossible without drastically weakening our economy; even the most innovative strategies fail to cut CO2 emissions by more than half. And who doesn’t enjoy instant gratification? Shifting in the meat-free direction will enable us to witness greenhouse gas reductions at a much faster, more noticeable rate than CO2 reduction strategies. The turnover rate for farm animals is 1 to 2 years, so decreases in meat consumption would lead to an almost immediate drop in black carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions. Moving away from fossil-fuel-burning activities from power plants and cars, on the other hand, can take many decades. Practically speaking, it’s much easier to go meat free than to fight powerful and wealthy corporations, such as the auto and oil industries. We all have it in our power to decide what to eat, but not all of us can afford to buy a more expensive yet fuel-efficient vehicle or live in an eco-friendly house. Reducing or eliminating meat is simple and it is effective!

Healthy Devil’s Food Cake

Categories: Desserts,Gluten-Free,Holidays,Recipes,Uncategorized,

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Given how much of a chocoholic I am and the challenging, yet far from impossible nature of making a devil’s food cake that is actually healthy, a recipe was not a maybe, it had to be a must! I made my own version using raw almond butter and almond flour and when raw batter hit my tongue on my first recipe test, I was blown away by how delicious it was. I used soy mocha (either store-bought or homemade is great!) and I love this version, but you can use coffee or nondairy milk instead. I also used extra dark cocoa powder, which makes the cake itself almost black. I love it!

A little culinary clarification and food history regarding devil’s food cake is here for you too. Classically, Devil’s food cake is a moist, airy, rich chocolate layer cake and is considered a counterpart to white or yellow angel food cake. Obviously, standard Devil’s food cakes contains butter, eggs, flour and sugar, all of which are ingredients to be avoided for ideal health! You will find healthy vegan substitutions in my version, which certainly isn’t lacking in decadent chocolaty flavor! Typically devil’s food cake is richer, denser and has more chocolate than regular chocolate cake and coffee is frequently added to devil’s food cake too. Historically, Devil’s food cake is prepared as a layer cake and so is mine! This may make Devil’s cake seem intimidating to prepare for a baking novice, but I assure you, it’s quite easy!

Some say that brownies play an imperative role in the net happiness of the world. If this is true, then chocolaty cakes like this one should have at least double the happiness enhancing effects of brownies. After all, this cake is beautifully layered and as delicious as the most delicious of chocolaty brownies. In addition, the mocha icing is to die for but don’t really die because you need to live for countless reasons, one of those reasons being to eat more healthy cakes and brownies. In my next book, I will have over 115 healthy dessert recipes and each recipe come with a poem. This is what happens when my love of writing and baking collide. 

Self-care is never selfish.
Your body is your home forever.
Never once to be anyone else’s,
in each and every personal endeavor.
Taking care of all aspects of you,
is a gift you give to others too.
All while being the most logical action,
to be taken constantly for maximum
individual moment to moment satisfaction.
An abundance of health in yourself,
means that you can spread more around.
Take care of your happiness first
and watch how the joy will compound.

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Ingredients:

20 medjool dates, pitted and soaked in water overnight to soften
½ cup soy mocha, coffee or nondairy milk of choice (can use chocolate milk! I like nondairy mocha from the coffee shop the best for this recipe)
1 ½ teaspoon ground coffee of choice (optional but highly recommended, I used dark French roast)
1 ½ tablespoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon ground vanilla or vanilla extract
¼ cup raw almond butter
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
½ cup apple sauce
2 teaspoons baking powder
⅓ cup cocoa powder
½ cup almond flour
1 cup oat flour
1 tablespoon coconut oil or cacao butter (optional)

Chocolate icing:

8 medjool dates, pitted and softened
½ cup cocoa powder
⅓ cup vegan dark chocolate chips, melted
2 teaspoons ground vanilla or vanilla extract
3 cans full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight and drained of liquid

Directions:

Prepare the cake first! Two batches will be needed for a large layer cake, one batch for a smaller cake. I used an 8 inch in diameter round Springform pan with removable bottom and made two batches, one after the other. Place the softened dates in a food processor along with the mocha, ground coffee, almond extract, vanilla, almond butter, ground flaxseeds, applesauce and baking powder. Process until thoroughly mixed. Add cocoa powder and process for another minute or so before adding the almond flour. Process almond flour in and lastly the oat flour before pouring the cake batter into a large mixing bowl. Using your clean hands, rub a bit of coconut oil or cacao butter over the batter as this makes it smoother and easier to work with. You can skip this step if you would like to keep the recipe oil-free. Pour the batter into your pan, smoothing the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes or until you can stick a fork or toothpick in the center and it comes out clean.

To prepare the icing, add softened dates, cocoa powder, melted dark chocolate chips (you can melt them by placing them in the microwave for a minute) and ground vanilla in a cleaned food processor and processing thoroughly. Pour this mixture out of the food processor and into a large bowl. Once this is done, use only the thick coconut cream from the cans and pour this into another large mixing bowl. You will use them to prepare coconut whipped cream!

Open the cans of refrigerated coconut milk and scoop out the hardened coconut mass, leaving the liquid behind. The coconut water that remains can be used in any recipe that calls for nondairy milk, so you don’t have to throw it away! Using an electric or manual mixer, start whisking the coconut mass. I used an electric mixer and it is much faster and easier this way. Using an electric mixer, it should not take more than a minute. If using a manual mixer, it will take a bit longer, but can be done. Once a nice cream is created, whisk in the chocolate mixture slowly. Again, using an electric mixer will be much easier for this job, but you can absolutely use a manual mixer. It was a fun process for me to see the chocolaty mixture stir into the coconut whipped cream, giving it a cool coffee hue and turn into beautiful chocolate icing.

Spread the chocolate icing in between your cake layers and over the cake! It might get a little bit messy, but it is fun! Garnish with your favorite toppings, such as flowers, cocoa powder and/or berries. The cake will last for up to a 1-2 weeks if stored in the fridge and 3-4 weeks if stored in the freezer. Enjoy!

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Dark Chocolate: Heart Disease Defender, Skin Cancer Protector and More!

Categories: NUTRITION IQ,Nutrition Tips,Nutrition Tips,Talia's Must Read,Uncategorized,

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Recipe for this healthy Devil’s Food Cake is coming to this website very soon!

Dark Chocolate and Heart Disease Prevention

What makes dark chocolate so special is its abundant supply of a type of antioxidant called flavonoids, notably one called epicatechin. Flavonoids are potent health defenders of all cells in our bodies and these microscopic chemicals have been linked to enhancing the power of vitamin C, protecting our cells from oxidative damage (oxygen damage accelerates the aging process), and the prevention of cancer, heart attack, asthma stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They do an extraordinary job of fighting free radicals, and in doing so, they boost our immunity to viral and bacterial diseases, stave off cancer, and reduce excess inflammation. Free radicals are what cause us to age and lose our health over time, so any substance that fights them is very good for us. More than 6,000 different flavonoids have now been discovered; they come in different classes with scientific names like flavonols, flavones, and anthocyanins (and other names you don’t need to know). The only thing you need to remember is which foods are richest in these compounds. Dark chocolate is one of these essential foods!

Epicatechin is an incredible substance, because when we consume it, it triggers the release of other chemicals that increase blood flow in our arteries, prevent cholesterol from building up in blood vessels, and weaken the immune response that leads to clogged arteries. In fact, consuming just 30 calories of dark chocolate each day has been shown to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The more efficiently our blood can flow, the greater the health of our hearts will be. To put it simply, dark chocolate consumption can protect us from atherosclerosis and, hence, heart disease. Heart disease is the #1 killer in America, taking the lives of almost 600,000 Americans annually.

A 2004 study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco found that the specific flavonoids found in dark chocolate improve blood vessel function by preventing stiffness, and as such, provide us with enhanced protection against cardiovascular disease.

Dark Chocolate and Skin Cancer Prevention

A study conducted by German researchers at Heinrich-Heine University found that women who drank a dark chocolate hot cocoa, versus a “chocolate” placebo beverage devoid of flavonoids, had smoother and moister skin compared to those drinking the placebo beverage. Upon exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, the skin of the women drinking the dark chocolate hot cocoa did not become as red, which is an indication of skin damage. The women who drank the high-flavonoid cocoa had a 15 percent less skin reddening from UV light after 6 weeks of hot chocolate drinking and 25 percent less after 12 weeks on the trial. The women drank the cocoa drink once every day along with breakfast. I officially adore this study!

A leafy-green vegetable rich diet has also been found to provide skin protection in an enlightening study conducted in Australia. Researches analyzed the diet, skin color, and sunlight exposure of 1,360 adults, aged 25-75, who participated in a community-based skin cancer study from 1992-2002. Two main eating patterns were identified: a meat and fat pattern and a vegetable and fruit pattern. Interestingly, the meat and fat pattern diet was positively associated with development of skin cancer, and even more strongly associated in participants with a skin cancer history. Increased consumption of the vegetable and fruit dietary pattern reduced skin cancer occurrence by 54%, with the protective effect mostly attributed to the consumption of green, leafy vegetables. In conclusion, the researchers deemed that a dietary pattern characterized by high meat and fat intakes increases skin cancer odds, while a dietary pattern characterized by higher consumption of green vegetables decreases it.

Dark Chocolate and Brain Health

The risk factors for standard dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are actually the same risk factors that predispose one for heart disease. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries that occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other nasty substances build up in the walls of arteries), decreased oxygenation due to circulatory impediment, and inflammation due to oxidative stress (free-radical activity) are the primary causes of both types of dementia. It makes sense when you think about it. The heart is the messenger of essential elements to many parts of the body, the brain being one of them. Excess cholesterol in the blood leads to increased cholesterol in the brain, and this increased cholesterol in the brain promotes the production of plaques. One study found that high blood pressure increased the risk of Alzheimer’s by damaging blood vessels. And you can bet that being overweight or obese is also a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s, just as it is a risk factor for heart disease.

Random chocolaty fun facts:

1) Chocolate was viewed as an aphrodisiac in the French royal court. Casanova, the infamous womanizer, was known to drink chocolate before his romantic escapades.

2) In 1868, the first Valentine’s Day box of chocolates was introduced by Richard Cadbury, the second son of the Quaker John Cadbury, founder of Cadbury’s cocoa and chocolate company.

3) There is no evidence that chocolate actually acts as an aphrodisiac. Chocolate does contain phenylethylamine (PEA), a.k.a. “the love drug,” which has been linked to the regulation of physical energy, mood, and attention. However, we have no evidence that the PEA in food increases PEA levels in the brain. Hmm I know some people may disagree!

How much dark chocolate is enough for protection? 

Even just one .35 ounce square of 88% dark chocolate by the Endangered Species Chocolate Company is enough! This is less than 2 tablespoons worth, so a little can go a long way! I eat a cocoa-containing homemade muffin, cookie or pie slice a few times per week and that does the trick. Check out the recipe section of this website for some great chocolaty recipes. To be noted: I am editing a healthy desserts cookbook with plenty of chocolaty recipes as I write these words!

Fair Trade Chocolate is the way to go! 

Some cocoa shipped to the United States is from West Africa, where child slavery is commonly practiced. Children are abducted from their families or sold for a pittance to cocoa farm owners and work 80-100 hour weeks without pay, much food, any education or contact with their families. Many of them are physically abused. You can easily avoid buying chocolate produced via these inhumane practices by only purchasing chocolate that has a Fair Trade certification label on it.

Eudaimonia: Uncovering the secret to true happiness

Categories: Uncategorized,

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Happiness is something we all want, but it definitely isn’t as easy to sink our minds into long-term happiness as it is to sink out spoons into {nondairy!} rocky road ice cream. Human emotions fluctuate and we are very good at adapting to even the best of fortunes, so what really leads to sustainable happiness? While dairy-free rocky road ice cream has its place, true happiness is possible and it can be ours every single day, but it is not from the sources most people in our modern, money-hungry and materialistic world seek.

For many, life goals revolve around attaining high social status, great wealth, fame, prestige or other ego-driven desires granted via external approval and validations outside of ourselves.  Yet, this is not what leads to the greatest amount of satisfaction both on an every day basis and at the end of our lives. That’s why I found this subject just as blog worthy as a report on the latest scientific findings on nutrition or a new delicious healthy recipe.  Obviously, happiness is a universal human desire, no matter what age we are or where we come from ~ we all seek as much happiness as possible. However as much as we all crave it, how to obtain the most happiness out of life remains elusive to most people and misguided in our culture at large. Why aren’t we taught how to achieve true happiness in schools? Why is math more important in the education system than life fulfillment?! Bah, I didn’t like math very much and I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do believe most people assume happiness can be found in experiences, like enjoying a drool-worthy bowl of ice cream, watching a comedy (Princess Bride, Men in Tights or Zoolander, anyone?), getting a massage or traveling abroad to an exotic location. Yes, and sex, wealth, and status are also associated with happiness in the minds of most people. Buying a penthouse, saying at an luxurious hotel, driving the hottest car, etc. Who wouldn’t want those things? The assumption is that pleasure increases positive emotions and will provide us with the many smiles we seek.

However, as anyone who has attempted to overcome sadness with a pedicure or box of dark chocolates will tell you (cough, cough), feeling good doesn’t come from pleasurable, yet fleeting sensations.  It doesn’t even come from owning a penthouse in NYC. Although, I cannot see how this would hurt! It’s true, they might make us feel good while we are experiencing them and a penthouse might make our view quite a bit brighter, but these really are not the keys to finding ultimate, sustainable bliss. Even if we sought a continuous, hedonic treadmill of one pleasurable experience after another, we are still not likely to attain lasting happiness in our hearts or our souls.

IMG_0254Lucky for us, the path to true, authentic happiness, the type of happiness that really sticks with us day after day, can be found simply and actually makes so much sense when understood.  Genuine happiness is very similar to fulfillment and life purpose. Psychologists in the emerging field of positive psychology, have been studying the concept of happiness for some time now and have adopted Aristotle’s term “Eudaimonia” or the Good Life, to mean a life in which you employ your strengths and efforts towards a goal or passion that you believe is larger than yourself.  Now this is a type of happiness worth talking about!

I was enthralled by this term and its brilliant meaning, which I first learned about when I took a Positive Psychology course when I was a student at Cornell U. It tied for my favorite class along with Human Bonding. I love learning about relationship dynamics too. Eudaimonia first made an appearance in the world when Aristotle coined the word. Oh how I love reading about Aristotle’s work, who was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. This is what eudaimonia is in a nutshell {thank you, Wikipedia and Google}:

“A Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare: however, “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation. Etymologically, it consists of the words “eu” (“good”) and “daimon” (“spirit”)….blah blah blah….Aristotle deemed happiness to be a vulgar idea, stressing that not all desires are worth pursuing as, even though some of them may yield pleasure, they would not produce wellness.”

Eudaimonia is associate with having a meaningful life, one in which we use our strengths in the service of something greater than ourselves. This means working on developing our potentials and skills and learning new things to help others and the world at large. Eudomonia’s main principle is that happiness is a final end or goal that encompasses the totality of one’s life. It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like pleasurable sensations. It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this moment, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being.

“For as it is not one swallow or one find day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.” ~ Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Eudaimonic motives include pursuing personal growth, development of your potential, achieving personal excellence and contributing to the lives of others. Psychologists have found in multiple studies that these types of Eudaimonic activities were the ones that lead to the most happiness, rewarding experiences and life satisfaction over time.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t need research to tell me that helping other people feels good!  Naturally, pleasurable, comforting and enjoyable activities have their place, yet they are no match for having a strong life purpose and using our abilities to enhance the lives of others.

As a lover of fashion, environmentalism, writing, cooking, living a healthy lifestyle and quite a bit more, I don’t plan on giving up pleasurable activities any time soon {okay and I wouldn’t mind living in a penthouse}, yet I know what I really need to do with my life if I want to live with no happiness regrets. If you aren’t feeling your best, the greatest way to feel better is to remind yourself that you have so much power to make positive changes in the lives of others {on a large or small scale!}, the planet {educate yourself} and any other cause you believe in. Seriously, I have noticed that moments of gloominess really do drop significantly the more we perform selfless acts and practice reaching our potential with meaningful activities.

This article is about true happiness. Now what does it meant to be truly intelligent?

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