Nicobella Lifestyle Blog

Can Chocolate Give You a Better Workout? Posted on 16 Mar 08:17 , 0 comments

There is a lot of evidence (both human and ... sad sigh ... animals) looking at dark chocolate and its effect on the cardiovascular system. It is well known that dark chocolate contains rocket high amounts of flavanols-beneficial phytonutrients that offer mega disease-fighting capabilities. One type of flavanol is epicatechin, which is responsible for giving dark chocolate its bitter taste as well as offering health benefits. (Side note: more than likely, the more bitter your chocolate, the higher the flavanol content.)

organic dark chocolate

Several studies have looked at the effects of epicatechin's ability to increase nitric oxide production within the body. Nitric oxide can be produced by eating dark chocolate, beets, celery and green tea, to name a few. It benefits the cardiovascular system by dilating the arteries, thereby increasing blood flow to the muscles as well as lowering blood pressure. Don't forget that the increase in blood flow also means increase in oxygen supply and healing nutrients that reach the muscles, heart and organs. 

A recent study found that cocoa epicatechins by itself produced a 30 percent increase in fatigue resistance (more energy!) and a 30 percent increase in new blood supply after two weeks of consistent consumption. When the cocoa epicatechins were combined with exercise there was a 50 percent bump in fatigue resistance via increased blood supply and capillary growth (which increases oxygen and nutrient supply). Another study looked a cocoa flavanols over a four week period and found the same benefit after consistent cocoa or epicatechin intake. 

What does this mean? Pretty much what we've been saying. First, more isn't better, but a little bit of dark chocolate daily may be good for you. We still stick by the 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily and, from these studies, consuming a bit before exercise may potentially enhance your workout and decrease early fatigue.

1-1.5 ounce people. Not a bar. :) 

ginger green tea truffles

References:
Epicatechin mediates beneficial effects of flavanol-rich cocoa on vascular function in humans. 2006 Jan 24; 103(4): 1024–1029.
Stimulatory effects of the flavanol epicatechin on cardiac angiogenesis: additive effects with exercise. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2012 Nov; 60(5): 429–438.

 


Chocolate Makes Happy Babies Posted on 09 Mar 09:19 , 0 comments

Does eating dark chocolate during pregnancy create a happy baby? Maybe! 

Scientists in Finland questioned 300 women during pregnancy before and after birth. The women were asked to rate their stress levels and the amount of chocolate they ate. The same women were then questioned six months later about their baby's behavior. The moms who ate chocolate during pregnancy reported that their babies laughed and smiled much more, and also had higher activity levels, than the babies of moms who didn't eat chocolate during pregnancy. 

They also rated stress levels in babies who were born to stressed moms. They found that the stressed moms who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy had babies that were less fearful than stressed moms who did not consume dark chocolate during pregnancy. 

The scientists believe that the happy baby outcome was due to the chemicals (specifically, phenylethylamine) found in dark chocolate that increase seratonin and dopamine levels. Others are skeptical saying that it may have been solely due to mom's satisfaction after eating dark chocolate. Nonetheless, the babies of chocolate-eating mamas were happier.

Expecting moms, as long as it's organic and dark (not milk) chocolate and limited portions, feel free to indulge in your 1-1.5 ounces during pregnancy. Not only will you be happier but perhaps you're make your baby happy as well. 

What does 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate look like? It's equivalent to one bag of nicobella munch or any of our three truffles. Shop here.

Journal reference: Early Human Development (vol 76, p 139)


DIY Chocolate Exfoliating + Moisturizing Facial Posted on 03 Mar 07:56 , 0 comments

Who doesn't love a DIY cacao facial scrub! It's a scrub that is good enough to eat. Had a bunch of cacao beans on hand and ran out of exfoliant so it was time to make a DIY super charged antioxidant cacao scrub.
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Ingredients
  • 1/3 c cacao beans or 1/4 c cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup raw oats
  • 2 springs rosemary, de-stemmed
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • squeeze of 1 lemon
  • 15 drops of your favorite essential oil (I used peppermint since peppermint + chocolate smell delicious together😋)

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Grind the cacao beans or nibs, oats and rosemary in a grinder. Melt coconut oil. Add the coconut oil, lemon and essential oil to the cacao mixture and stir. Once blended place the whole food based exfoliant in your favorite mason jar and enjoy as a scrub or mask for your face and hands.
 
Ingredient Highlights
  • Lemon for skin lightening
  • Chocolate for circulation
  • Coconut oil for moisturizing
  • Rosemary for antioxidants
  • Oats for exfoliation
Your face will feel like a smooth baby's bottom after just one use!

 

Take 15% off this weekend with discount code skinhealth! Offer expires Sunday, March 5 11pm PST. 

 

Is Dark Chocolate a Part of Your Daily Skin Routine? Posted on 02 Mar 14:28 , 0 comments

Everybody wants to know how to look younger, keep their skin looking fresh, and reduce wrinkles…right? Am I about to say that dark chocolate can do all of these things? Definitely not, but I do want to talk about another positive affect dark chocolate can have on the body.

The flavanols in some dark chocolates can be beneficial to skin health. Not only do these flavanols help to improve the overall health of your skin, but it can also help reduce the damage done by UV rays also known as sunlight. Now, I’m not saying that eating chocolate can take the place of sunscreen or keeping hydrated to keep your skin healthy, BUT it can be a part of healthy diet so why not be a part of a healthy skin regimen?

A study in the Journal of Nutrition examined UV exposure, cutaneous blood flow, hemoglobin concentration and oxygen saturation, and skin structure, texture, and hydration. The participants consumed flavanol rich beverages and the researchers concluded that dietary intakes could affect skin integrity and even aid in protection.

The takeaway here…moderation is always key. Don’t put away your sunscreen and moisturizers, but why not add in a little dark chocolate into your diet?

Heinrich , U., Neukam, K., Tronnier, H., Sies, H., & Stahl, W. (2006). Long-Term Ingestion of High Flavanol Cocoa Provides Photoprotection against UV-Induced Erythema and Improves Skin Condition in Women. Journal of Nutrition,136(6), 1565-1569. Retrieved February 27, 2017.

 

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!

 


March Rescue Partner: Barktown Dog Rescue! Posted on 01 Mar 12:24 , 0 comments

This month's rescue partner is Barktown Dog Rescue who has stepped up for so many medically challenged and injured dogs from high-risk shelters in metro-Atlanta and surrounding areas. They've recently rescued several dogs at the 11th hour who otherwise never would have had an opportunity of a loving life. Visit their website and see all of the wonderful things they are doing for homeless dogs in the southeast.

This week there were two dogs who almost didn't make it out of a local Atlanta shelter. Abel was just a quiet boy and overlooked in the shelter and Jasmine, big but gentle girl, was so scared that they couldn't bring her out to meet anyone. Barktown Dog Rescue came to both dogs' rescue and they are now happy in their fosters. If you are interested in learning more or adopting either dog, please contact the rescue for more details. (Bonus: When they are adopted from their foster, that opens up foster space for another shelter dog to be saved!)

 


 


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!