Nicobella Lifestyle Blog

Have a winter cough that won’t go away? Chocolate can help! Posted on 23 Feb 18:14 , 0 comments

I know you’re probably thinking we’re lying just to sell more chocolate, but I promise the science is there. Around this time of year a tingly cough seems to make its way around. It doesn’t seem to be followed by the cold or flu, but also won’t always disappear with some over the counter medications.

There is actually a chemical in chocolate that has been shown to suppress the vagus nerve and coughing. What’s your vagus nerve? The vagus nerve is one of your twelve cranial nerves and is actually the longest. This nerve helps you breathe and perform other basic body functions but can also affect things like coughing.

A chemical found in cocoa – theobromine could actually suppress this vagus nerve and at the same time…suppress that tingly winter cough. Many studies have been done and although some have mixed results, if you have that winter cough that just wont go away, why not add in a little dark chocolate to your diet and see what happens?

dark chocolate mocha munch

References

 

Martã­nez-Pinilla, E., Oã±Atibia-Astibia, A., & Franco, R. (2015). The relevance of theobromine for the beneficial effects of cocoa consumption. Frontiers in Pharmacology,6. doi:10.3389/fphar.2015.00030

Vagus Nerve. (2015, April 15). Retrieved February 17, 2017, from http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/vagus-nerve

Guest blogger, Carli Barbo, is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in dietetics. She is currently a dietetic intern and graduate student at Georgia State University with hopes to eventually become a registered dietitian. In her free time she likes to try out new recipes, play with her puppy, Sampson, and scoping out Atlanta for new restaurants to try!


Dark chocolate can lower cholesterol? Say What?! Posted on 16 Feb 10:06 , 0 comments

We all know the news is riddled with fad diets, life changing foods, and often false information. Well I’ve got some good news and some more good news. Dark chocolate can have positive affects on cholesterol levels AND there’s science to prove this! I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty details of a scientific study, but through a double-blind placebo controlled study (what is this? only the gold standard of research studies), research dietitians found regular consumption of these cocoa flavanol dark chocolate bars led to a decrease in total and LDL serum cholesterol. On top of these dark chocolate bars affect on cholesterol, researchers also saw a decrease in systolic blood pressure.

So, what does all this mean? In short, it means you can have your dark chocolate and eat it too. Incorporating dark chocolate into an already healthy diet can have positive affects on your cholesterol and blood pressure. 

How? When? Where? Incorporating dark chocolate into your diet it easy! As long as everything is kept in moderation, you can find dark chocolate at all major and local grocery stores or online here at nicobella!

dark chocolate coconut munch

References

Allen, Robin R., LeAnn Carson, Katherine Kwik-Uribe, Ellen M. Evans, and John W. Erdman, Jr. "Daily Consumption of a Dark Chocolate Containing Flavanols and Added Sterol Esters Affects Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Normotensive Population with Elevated Cholesterol." The Journal of Nutrition 138.4 (2008): 725-31. Web.

 

Guest blogger, Carli Barbo, is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in dietetics. She is currently a dietetic intern and graduate student at Georgia State University with hopes to eventually become a registered dietitian. In her free time she likes to try out new recipes, play with her puppy, Sampson, and scoping out Atlanta for new restaurants to try!


Chocolate Flirtation: 9 Reasons You Should Be Enchanted by Dark Chocolate Posted on 14 Feb 10:21 , 0 comments

Chocolate has been an ancient tradition in many cultures for centuries and is often associated with love. One of the first links between chocolate and falling in love was established by the Mayans, who discovered a ritual beverage made from cocoa mixed with water, black pepper, vanilla and spices. Mayan brides and grooms shared the mixture during marriage ceremonies. This eurphoric elixir is also said to be associated with their god of fertility.

Although it’s always “sweet” to receive a delicious box of chocolates from the object of your affection, this treat also has many health benefits. Here are nine reasons why you and your honey should share a little dark chocolate this Valentine’s Day.

  1. Boost brain power: Dark chocolate contains the same type of antioxidants found in red wine and green tea, which have both been shown to boost brain activity. Researchers have found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.
  2. Increase circulation: Epicatechin is a flavanol which has been shown to reduce hypertension, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. How? Epicatechins stimulate nitric oxide production within the body, which dilates blood vessels and reduces blood clots. Researchers have shown a direct relationship between the amount of flavanol-rich dark chocolate and epicatechin levels in the body. More epicatechin equals more antioxidant power.
  3. Eliminate winter cough: Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which has been shown to relieve cough symptoms by suppressing vagal nerve activity. A cousin to caffeine, but not as potent, theobromine can also help you feel more alert and awake. (Contrary to popular belief, the caffeine content in chocolate is quite low with approximately 26 mg per 1.5 ounces of chocolate compared to 160 mg per 8 ounces of coffee.)
  4. Lose weight: In one research study, those who enjoyed dark chocolate ate 15 percent fewer calories compared to those who ate milk chocolate, and reported feeling fewer cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. Love what you eat and lose weight!
  5. Experience healthy, glowing skin: Flavanoids, natural antioxidants found in cacao, help protect plants from environmental toxins and repair damage. When we consume flavanoid-rich chocolate, those same benefits help our body fight toxins, free radicals and oxidative DNA damage. Chocolate facial anyone?
  6. Alleviate PMS: Craving dark chocolate during certain times of the month? There may be a reason. Dark chocolate contains magnesium, a mineral that may help alleviate PMS symptoms, including cramps, water retention, fatigue, depression and irritability.
  7. Lower LDL cholesterol: Studies have shown that subjects who ate about 1.25 ounces of dark chocolate a day had lower LDL levels compared to those who did not. The researchers attribute this to dark chocolates’ potent antioxidant content.
  8. Decrease Stress: Swiss researchers found that subjects who ate dark chocolate when feeling stressed were able to significantly reduce their stress hormones. (By the way, grabbing ice cream or milk chocolate when stressed doesn’t count!)
  9. Make happy babies: Really? Possibly. Women who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than those who avoided dark chocolate. One Finnish study claimed happier babies of moms who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy.

Although there is no recommended ‘dose’ for dark chocolate, it’s perfectly fine (and, in fact, good for you) to eat a daily 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day. (Remember, choose dark, organic and dairy free as milk protein binds to the healthy components in cacao).

One ounce of dark chocolate from nicobella looks like this:


 


Three of Our Fave Spices for Healing: Cinnamon, Turmeric, Cayenne Posted on 09 Feb 16:59 , 0 comments

Okay, guys, you better get the cinnamon turmeric spice truffles while they last. Not only are they only available for a limited time (from October through March), but I tend to take a secret stash home with each batch that we make. (Yes, like a chocolate dealer who steals from their own stash and loses the profits.)  The ingredients in this super high anti-oxidant truffle were specifically curated to work synergistically to warm, energize and heal you. In addition to the healing benefits below, dark chocolate and cayenne are natural aphrodisiacs making them the perfect pair this Valentine's Day. 

Turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne and chocolate could individually have their own spotlights due to the many healing compounds found within each one. Here are our top three favorite healthy aspects of each of these superfood ingredients:

Turmeric 
Curcumin, the compound in turmeric that gives it its beautiful bright hue, is also responsible for the spice's medicinal properties. 
  • Help prevent Alzeimer's disease-turmeric contains natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaque that slowly obstructs cerebral function in Alzheimer's disease.
  • Alleviate arthritis-Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including six different compounds that inhibit the enzymes that promote pain, swelling and inflammation. Studies are showing that turmeric supplements may even replace pain medication through its pain-relieving results.
  • Help prevent cancer-There are more than 200 studies showing the anti-cancer effects of either the turmeric or curcumin extract as being just as effective as pharmaceuticals to help interfere with several important molecular pathways involved in cancer development, growth and spread.
Cinnamon
The distinct smell and flavor of cinnamon is due to the oily part, containing a compound called cinnamaldehyde, which is also the substance responsible for its healing properties. 
  • Regulate blood sugar-Cinnamon has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin regulates blood sugar when working efficiently, and cinnamon helps insulin do its job. 
  • Lowers blood sugar-Cinnamon has also been shown to lower blood sugar after a meal by interfering with the sugar absorption from the digestive tract to the bloodstream, as well as mimicking insulin at the cellular level, creating greater glucose uptake by your cells.
  • Help reduce fungal and bacterial infections-Cinnamaldehyde, the main active component of cinnamon, may help fight various kinds of infection. Cinnamon oil has been shown to fight respiratory infections, bacterial infections, tooth decay and bad breath. (Ditch the Listerine and chew on a cinnamon stick!)
Cayenne
The ultimate metabolic booster, you only need a pinch to get its full effect. Cayenne peppers have a high concentration of capsaicin - the substance that causes their fiery hot sensation.
  • Anti-inflammatory-Capsaicin inhibits substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammation and pain, which is why you may find this ingredient in a lot of topical analgesics used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, and shingles. 
  • Increase Thermogenesis-Cayenne pepper can promote cardiovascular health by stimulating the circulatory system. It may also help to suppress the appetite and increase the burning of body fat. 
  • Boost Immunity-Cayenne is an excellent source of powerful antioxidants. It's abundant in beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and vitamin E, which are all powerful antioxidants that can help prevent free radical damage and support immune function.
Dark Chocolate
Okay, you know we can go on and on about our greatest love of all. But we will limit it to three. :)
  • Boost brain power: Dark chocolate contains the same type of antioxidants found in red wine and green tea, which have both been shown to boost brain activity. Researchers have found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t. 
  • Get healthy, glowing skin- Flavanoids, natural antioxidants found in cacao, help protect plants from environmental toxins and repair damage. When we consume flavanoid-rich chocolate, those same benefits help our body fight toxins, free radicals and oxidative DNA damage. Chocolate facial anyone?
  • Increase Nitric Oxide-Nitric oxide is a gas molecule that dilates the arteries, resulting in reduced blood pressure and increased blood flow. It’s not found in food, however certain foods can stimulate nitric oxide production within the body. Cayenne pepper, dark chocolate and beets may all stimulate nitric oxide production. For a pre-workout energy boost, try eating some nitric oxide producing foods.

You can get all of these stimulating, healing and energizing ingredients in one tasty and delicious cinnamon turmeric spice truffle! But since they contain only 45 calories a piece and are power packed with healthy nutrients, we suggest three :). 


Eat Dark Chocolate, Lower Blood Pressure Posted on 02 Feb 14:47 , 0 comments

Yep, it's true. Eating dark chocolate can increase circulation and lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate has even been studied during pregnancy, showing that expecting women who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy had a lower incidence of high blood pressure, which equates to a healthier pregnancy and fetal outcome.

(Note: 1 oz a day is great! One chocolate bar a day may not be. Women in their third trimester, check with your doctor before consuming dark chocolate daily.)

What is in dark chocolate that helps to lower blood pressure? Polyphenols are naturally found plant nutrients in cacao (same healthy nutrients found in red wine and green tea) that offer many health benefits, and one of them is to help with blood pressure. Polyphenols are the main source of antioxidants in cacao. Crazy fact: there are more than 8000 phenolic compounds in cacao! The class of polyphenols that are responsible for increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure are catechins and epicatechins. These substances decrease blood pressure by helping to produce nitric oxide within our body. Nitric oxide allows the blood vessels to relax and dilate, and oxygen flow to increase. It also helps to decrease clotting and reduce inflammation.

It's important to choose dark chocolate because the milk in milk chocolate binds with the polyphenols making them unavailable for their healing affects. It's also important to choose organic as organic cacao has been shown to be higher in polyphenols than non-organic varieties. Sorry guys, that doesn't mean more chocolate is better. It's still recommended that you stick with 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day. But enjoy that little bit of dark every day!

 


Support Full Circle Farm Sanctuary ♡ With Each Purchase in February Posted on 31 Jan 22:47 , 0 comments

During the month of February, feel good, not only knowing that nicobella chocolate is good for your health, but is also helping animals in need. A portion of all sales will be donated to the sweet animals at Full Circle Farm Sanctuary. We have spent time at the beautiful Sanctuary, meeting all of the rescued animals who, despite their neglected and abused pasts, are affectionate, welcoming and full of loving kindness. There is nothing that warms your heart more than the moment when you are approaching a gentle rescued farm animal and your eyes lock with theirs. In that moment you realize that you are one. Their heart beats along side yours. Their soul is touched by yours. Their past may haunt them like yours, but they hold no grudges or bitterness. A few may be bit fearful and unable to completely trust humans yet (one can only imagine what they've been through), but they still only encompass pure love and peace. If you remain open as you approach them, your heart, soul and entire body will be entrenched in their love and you will leave feeling elevated and inspirited. This is the gift these gracious beings give to us. 

The founder of Full Circle Farm Sanctuary (FCFS), Kayla Worden, first adopted a vegan lifestyle in 1989 when she immersed herself in protecting farm animals through her activism both nationally and internationally. Kayla's vegan lifestyle and a very strong conscience are what spawned the commencement of FCFS in 2010. She started with four rescue animals and now there are more than 100 residents living at the Sanctuary in Warm Springs, GA. (Side note: If you are ever passing through Atlanta, or anywhere in the southeast, definitely take time to visit!)

There are many projects in the works for FCFS: a bed and breakfast, yoga retreat, monthly events and more. Sign up for their newsletter or follow them on Facebook to be the first to learn about new residents, get to know long-time residents and stay on top of Sanctuary happenings. 

Read more about FCFS, their story and mission. 

Friday, February 3 through Sunday, February 5 11pm PST, take 10% off all purchases with discount code PureLove

Here are some of the sweet animals we had the honor of meeting. 


What Makes Chocolate Vegan? Posted on 26 Jan 10:42 , 0 comments

We get this question a lot and it's a great one! We've been inundated with the notion of creamy milk chocolate for decades so why would we think that chocolate is naturally vegan? As you know, cacao comes from a plant. The bean itself is a bit bitter. Cacao beans (or nibs found within the bean) contain high amounts of theobromine, flavonoids and other healthy phytonutrients. The beans are roasted then made into a thick paste, or chocolate liquor, and may then be mixed with cocoa butter and sugar to make dark chocolate. At this time, the chocolate is still vegan. :) 

Typically, the higher percentage of cocoa (or cacao) in chocolate equates to greater health benefits; and the more sugar or cocoa butter that is added the lesser the percentage of cacao. 

image courtesy of Barbara Dolan

Milk chocolate contains milk solids, which obviously makes it non-vegan and it often has more sugar and a lesser percentage of cocoa. The milk and sugar take away the natural bitterness of cacao...and it also replaces the natural healing nutrients of cacao. What's more, milk proteins bind with what's left of the healthy nutrients of cacao (flavonoids), making those phytonutrients unavailable for their healing properties (such as lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, lowering cholesterol and more). 

Next time you go to purchase a chocolate bar, take a look at the ingredient label. The simpler the ingredients the better. We typically recommend two to three ingredients in a plain chocolate bar or five ingredients or less in dark chocolate that is mixed with other ingredients. Ideally, look for organic cacao solids and organic cane sugar. It may also contain vanilla for flavoring.

Truffles are a little different since they have the creamy ganache center. Typically that ganache is made of cream, butter and sugar. Nicobella truffles use coconut milk and/or coconut oil to make our ganache creamy. Then we add wholesome high antioxidant foods such as blueberries, walnuts and sunflower butter to make it even better for you (in some cases we use more of the whole-food ingredient than the chocolate, such as the case with our walnut truffle). We use all whole foods, no flavorings or additives, to provide the flavor. Finally, our truffles are enrobed in 70% organic and Fair Trade dark chocolate.

pure cocoa bliss dark chocolate truffle

Our munch products are made with five ingredients or less. For example maple nut munch contains dark chocolate (organic cacao solids and organic cane sugar), pecans, maple and sea salt. We use just as many nuts as the dark chocolate in our munch products so that they are high in protein and fiber, making them the perfect snacking chocolate.

nicobella organics dark chocolate munch

Our goal is to start with high antioxidant dark chocolate and make it even healthier by adding whole vegan foods. We wanted to create something tasty that you can feel good about eating, while also knowing you are doing good for the planet and our animals.

Today through Sunday, January 29, 11 pm PST, take 15% off your purchase with discount code EatMoreDark.

"Make a list of important things to do today. At the top of your list, put "eat chocolate." Now, you'll get at least one thing done today." - Gina Hayes


Cacao: From Tree to Chocolate Posted on 19 Jan 16:15 , 0 comments

Here is what a cacao pod looks like.
It can range in color, size and texture depending on where it's grown and the type of gene (see types of Theobroma trees below). The Theobroma tree stands 4-8 meters tall and is native to the Americas. Within each pod you'll find 20-60 seeds which contain 40-50% cocoa butter, the fatty component in cacao. The bean contains 10% polyphenols, much of which is disease-fighting epicatechin. Within the seed there is 1% theobromine which is one of the substances that gives you the blissful feeling after you've eaten dark chocolate. 

There are three types of Theobroma trees:

Criollo

  • Mesoamerica origin
  • Rare
  • Less bitter
  • Aromatic
  • Represents 5-10% of chocolate today
  • Pointy pods, warty, plump shape, mellow complex taste

Forastero

  • Represents 80% of chocolate today
  • Began in Amazon basin 18th century
  • Thick skinned pods, smooth, rounded, flat shaped beans, bitter harsh taste

Trinitario

  • Blend of criollo and forastero
  • Represents 10-15% of chocolate today

How Chocolate is Made From the Tree to Chocolate

The Theombroma tree sprouts flowers and the flowers sprout pods. The pods yield a sweet white pulp and seeds. The seeds are removed from the fruit-like pulp (which is eaten in some countries and quite delicious!). The seeds are then fermented and dried. From there the seeds may be roasted or left raw. The cacao nibs are removed from the seeds they can be eaten as is or ground into a chocolate liquor. At this point additives such as sugar, spices or other flavorings can be added to create a variety of chocolates!


Fun Facts About the History of Cacao Posted on 12 Jan 19:48 , 0 comments

Calling all chocolate lovers! Join us each Thursday as we explain exactly why you should be eating dark chocolate every day for good health. Before we begin the journey, it's important to know why chocolate was so important in ancient Mesoamerican history. For centuries, its been used for its medicinal properties, before there was any research to back the anecdotal homage. Here are some fun facts about cacao and how it was used by indigenous cultures before it became what we know today as chocolate. 
But first, we should let you know that any orders place today through Sunday will receive a free sample of our Chocolate Chip Power Bites! No discount needed, we will automatically add them into your package. 
Okay, read on...
  • Theobroma tree:” food of the gods” was named in 1737
  • Some scientists believe that cacao's origin is from Mesoamerica, which included Central and South Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and western Honduras, while other scientists believe its origin is from South America.
  • Analysts have detected cacao in pottery that was used in ceremonial rituals from Mesoamerica dating all the way back to 600-400 BC.
  • Cacao was illustrated as a symbol of wealth and power in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
  • Gifts of cacao were exchanged during agricultural ceremonies to help produce healthy and abundant crops. The Theobroma tree thrives on water, the shade of other trees and helps to preserve rain forests, therefore provides a healthy eco-system.
  • A traditional drink of cacao and corn was offered during marriage ceremonies representing wealth, success and fertility.
  • The Florentine Codex (a manuscript depicting the history of Central Mexican society) noted an Aztec remedy using cacao, corn and spices that were used to decrease a fever, shortness of breath and heart disease in 1590.
  • Cocoa brought to Europe in the 16th century
  • When the Spanish brought cacao back to Europe from Mesoamerica in the 16th century, they created over 100 medicinal uses using the seed.

where there is cacao, there is life”-Venzuelan plantation worker

Want some potent chocolate? Check out our 75% organic and fair trade Mocha Munch below. It's been out top seller since it's launched!

 


10 Benefits of Dark Chocolate Posted on 08 Jan 10:05 , 0 comments

Happy New Year!
 

Looking for the easiest New Year's resolution ever? We have your answer...eat more dark chocolate! Eating 1 - 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily is good for you because chocolate may help to:


1. Lower blood pressure
2. Boost HDL (good) cholesterol
3. Curb your appetite and maintain a healthy weight
4. Increase cognitive function (aka boost brain power)
5. Relieve stress (and decrease stress hormones)
6. Reduce inflammation
7. Decrease risk of stroke
8. Boost your mood
9. Increase exercise capacity
10. Curb sugar cravings

Bonus #11! Get glowing skin.


Do we have you convinced? Here is what a 1-ounce serving looks like:



Today take 15% off your purchase with discount code EatMoreChocolate. Discount code ends Sunday, January 8 11 pm PST. 

Want to know more about chocolate and all of its powerful benefits? Follow our blog - keep an eye out next Thursday for the detailed chocolate scoop where we will dive deeper into each health benefit. Cheers! 

Love and light to you for a peaceful, blissful and cheerful new year!