Vegan Diet: Out with the Old, In with the New

Have you finally decided that you want a taste of the so-called vegan diet? No doubt, veganism is gradually carving its own niche in today’s popular culture. You must have heard of a lot of individuals—entertainers, top Hollywood celebrities, musicians, and movie stars picking up the now becoming popular vegan lifestyle. For quite some time, Oprah herself has had a vegan challenge for one straight week. So, what is veganism all about? Why does it sound too appealing? What is there in veganism that seems to hook a lot of people to try it out? Yes, being all too strict about your lifestyle, and abiding by the ‘no animal product diet’ rule may not be simple, or glamorous for some reasons. But hey, you should know that a bunch of benefits are waiting in line!

Getting to Know its Upside

First things first. Veganism reminds you that basically, you don’t harm animals, or you don’t partake in harming them, just to satiate your craving for any sort of dish. There are obviously a number of concerned organizations that swarm the food industry, with PETA being the most remarkable among them.

Secondly, a vegan diet is nothing but healthy. Such isn’t comprised at all of a ton of fat from any animal product. Neither is there a fraction of processed food too. The entire American continent is basically slumped with one of the major health problems, that is, obesity. And the last thing a person like you who wants to get in top shape need are doses of hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and saturated fats. Indeed, adopting this kind of diet allows you to cut them out from invading your system.

Thirdly, a vegan lifestyle is more cost-effective. You know for certain how meat can be too expensive these days. So if you are up to saving some bucks, patronizing veganism is the way towards keeping hold of your hard-earned cash.

Unraveling the Daunting Process of Getting Vegan

Going vegan is easier said than done. In truth, it isn’t a simple process. You don’t turn into a vegan lifestyle enthusiast overnight. It is just hard to resist that aromatic turkey during Thanksgiving, or restrain yourself from eating some comfort foods such as cupcakes or chicken nuggets after a long and tiring day. The key here is to switch into veganism following a gradual transition. So, how do you do that?

Little by little, cut out meat and fish in your daily diet. Say for example you get to consume a slab of meat for lunch. What you should do is to consume only half of it, until such time that you learn to eat only a little portion, and eventually remove it from your menu. As meat and fish are known sources of protein, you can come up with an alternative: tofu. The tofu, by nature, is able to absorb flavor easily. You can cook it anyway you like your meat to be.

Cut back on cheese. Surely, baked potato is more luscious when there is melted cheese on top. But your way towards a vegan lifestyle is to forget its taste! Your salad can be as delicious as it is without cheese. You can try looking for non-dairy cheese alternatives in the vegan section of the supermarket.

Let go of the butter. Again, while butter may not be easy to give up, you can always go for the dairy butter substitutes.

Forget those eggs. Eggs are generally animal products. If you want to become a vegan, then it is time you quit munching on that omelet for breakfast.

The transition isn’t something you can expect to take place all at once, or in the course of one day. As a rule, always be on the lookout for substitutions. You can try out Tofutti, a notable brand which is known for its non-dairy products: cream cheese, ice cream, pizza, and sour cream. You can always visit the Whole Foods section for better alternatives, whenever you shop for your provisions.

Going fully vegan is essentially tough, and challenging to be exact. You may not be willing to quit eating some animal and processed products, but since you have made up your mind to be one, then you should strive hard to part with the foods you have grown up with, and have made a part of your existence. You said you wanted change, so let it be. Now is the best time to do it.
But then again, adopting the vegan diet means giving up all those animal products.

Cacao And Chocolates: Solution For Depression and PMS

Health experts believe that cacao and chocolates offers plenty of nutritional benefits that can help fight mental and behavioral problems, like depression and PMS — only if it is used in moderation of course.

A Brief History Of Chocolates

Chocolates are made from chocolate solids and butter that is a result of processing cacao beans. Cacao was introduced to the world by Mesoamerican tribes, like the Mayans and Aztecs.

The Mayans believed that the cacao is a gift from the gods, giving it the scientific name Theobroma which means “food of the gods”. The Mayans hold a celebration to thank the god of cacao every April. The Aztecs deem the cacao to be a precious necessity, even to the point of using it as a form of currency during the peak of their civilization.

The cacao tree grows to a maximum of 6 meters in height and only grows in tropical countries, like South America, Mexico, Philippines, and so on.

How Chocolates Are Made

Chocolates are made from processed cacao beans. The fruit is harvested when it reaches proper ripeness; the bean is dried, roasted, peeled, and ground, then eventually liquefied to produce chocolate liquor and duly processed to produce the ingredients called chocolate solids and chocolate butter.

Dark unsweetened chocolates are made from these ingredients without the addition of sugar. Milk or white chocolate is made from 100% chocolate butter. Sweetened chocolates today are made from both these ingredients but with the addition of sugar and other additives.

Solution To Mental and Behavioral Problems

Medical studies revealed that chocolates and its raw ingredient, the cacao bean, contains compounds that helps cure mental and behavioral problems, like depression and PMS. These compounds are:

1.   Serotonine

This compound is found in both chocolate and cacao beans. Serotonine is a compound that increases brain activity. Patients that are suffering from depression and PMS patients are often found to have a low level of serotonine.

2.   Phenylethylamine

This compound, according to recent studies, mimics the substances produced by our adrenal glands that increases both brain and body activity. Phenylethylamine is a mild anti-depressant that is a common staple for patients suffering from depression and PMS. This is one reason why a lot of people tend to feel happy and active after eating chocolates.

3.   Anandamide

Another anti-depressant compound found in chocolates and cacao, anandamine often leave a person alert and active. This also used with patients under depression. Along with phenylethylamine, this compound is often termed as “bliss” inducing drug that keeps patients with mental illnesses happy.

Used In Moderation

Aside from treating depression and PMS patients, chocolates must be used in moderation since it can be addictive and may also lead to health-related problems. Unsweetened chocolates are the healthiest among other selections due to its low sugar content and other additives.

However, sweetened chocolates that are a favorite of both young and adults today are known to be more effective cure for depression but must intake must be controlled with the recommendation of your doctor or dietician.

From Cacao To Chocolates – A History

Chocolates are made from cacao — a tree that is commonly cultivated today. The fruit is a celebrity in Mesoamerican cities — Mayans celebrate the deity that they believed to have given them the fruit every April and Aztecs once used this as a form of money and business.

What Is Cacao?

The Theobroma cacao is a small tree with a maximum height of 6 meters. This tree thrives in tropical climate, which is one reason why a majority of their numbers are found in South America. There are 20 countries known to cultivate cacao as a means of supplying chocolate-related business with raw materials for their concoctions.

There are three types of cacaos. Criollo cacaos are said to be of the highest quality and quite rare — equating only to 10% of today’s chocolates. The predominant group is the Forastero. Around 80% of the world’s chocolate is made from this type of cacao. A combination of both Criollo and Forastero is the Trinitario.

Cacao and Chocolates

The most common use of the cacao is to serve as primary ingredient for chocolates. Cacaos are harvested when ripe, dried, cleaned and roasted, removed from the shell, ground then liquefied to become a solution known as the chocolate liquor.

The liquor may then be used as ingredient for cocoa butter or cocoa bars which makes up a complete chocolate. Today’s chocolate includes a healthy portion of sugar as an added ingredient to the mix. White chocolate is made wholly out of cocoa butter.

Another variation of the chocolate mixture is the dark chocolate, which is not a popular choice of today’s younger generation. This chocolate is made from pure cocoa beans without any sugar or milk — commonly termed as unsweetened chocolate. This may either come in the form of cocoa powder or chocolate bars. Health experts all agree that dark chocolates retain most of its nutritional compounds even after processing.

Nutritional Value

Many believe that chocolates are healthy because of the nutritional value common in cacao beans. Well, this is more of a misunderstanding than truth. An average chocolate made with milk and sugar retains only 1% of the nutrients found in cacao beans. Dark chocolates made from pure cocoa contain around 70% of its beneficial compounds so if you’re looking for health benefits from chocolates then you might want to go for those of purer quality.

Nutritional Facts

Cacao is practically one of the healthiest fruit today. There are over 300 compounds in a single cacao bean that is beneficial to the body. Some of them are even used by pharmaceutical companies to developed drugs to combat behavioral and emotional problems or as a stimulant for a more active body.

In most case, magnesium is the predominant compound found to be of most benefit to the human body — especially to Americans who are known to have low magnesium content in their bodies. Magnesium helps strengthen bone structure.

Also, it was found out that chocolates are addictive due to the presence of anandamide and phenylethylamine (PEA). The latter is known to cause an increase in heart rate and boost circulation that often leaves us alert and focused. The former is called chocolate amphetamine that is often used to treat patients that is suffering from depression.

Cacao Nutritional Facts For A Healthier You

We can never deny the fact that cacao or cocoa is packed with nutrients to keep our body in top shape. Chocolates on the other hand, which comes from processed cacao beans, may have some of its original health compounds but it may have some more ingredients that might deal cause some adverse side-effects. Its fine time to learn all about cacao and chocolates to get some good use out it — aside from giving in to our sweet tooth.

 Difference Between Cacao and Chocolates

There is a big difference between cacao and chocolates though the former is the main ingredient for the latter. Cacao is harvested, dried, roasted, and ground to produce chocolate solid and butter that is a staple for chocolate concoctions today.

There are three types of chocolates made from cacao – the sweetened chocolate made from both chocolate butter and solids with sugar; the milk chocolate made from 100% chocolate butter; and the dark chocolate made from both ingredients but without the sugar. The latter is called unsweetened chocolates which is more nutritious that the other two.

 Sugar and Fat

Many consider chocolates to be unhealthy and can be the cause of many health-related problems, like diabetes or high-blood pressure. Keep in mind, however, that not all chocolates results to these conditions. The main reason why you acquire diabetes or suffer heart problems is due to sugar and other additional ingredients mixed with chocolate butter and solids to produce the favorite sweets of younger generations and adults alike.

Cacao bean and cocoa powders only have 2% sugar. Sweetened chocolates, however, may have 45% to 50% sugar — that is why it is bad if you eat too much of it. Also, cacao and processed cocoa contains 50% fat — fatty acids and mono-saturated fat. These do not cause your blood pressure to rise. However, other chocolate varieties, like those made with milk and other additives can.

Antioxidant and Heart-Friendly Properties

Cacao beans are great antioxidants. The non-fat portion of cacao beans contains polyphenols commonly found in wine. These antioxidant properties are called flavonoids, which include epicatechins, catechins, and procyandins. These compounds reduce the risk of blood clotting that is a great way to avoid heart attack and stroke.

Another compound found in cacao bean is the Theobromine. It is known as a mild diuretic that increases urine production. Doctors utilize this compound to reduce the possibility of heart attacks caused by increase fluids in the human body.

Mental and Behavioral Solutions

There are also compounds in cacao beans that help in relieving mental and behavioral illnesses, like depression. A substance called Serotonine that is found in both chocolate and its raw ingredient is known to increase brain activity. This is often used with patients that are suffering from PMS, depression, or anxiety.

Also, both chocolates and cacao beans contain phenylethylamine. This compound is a known anti-depressant and acts as a stimulant that mimics those produced by our adrenal glands.

Cacao Facts 101 – Health Benefits of Cacao

Contrary to popular belief, chocolates are one of the healthiest foods today if used properly. If you think that chocolate is healthy, then you will be more amazed if you find out that its main ingredient – the raw cacao — is actually the source of its nutritional benefits.

This article aims to provide factual and simple information on the nutritional benefits of raw cacao. Though there are more than 300 compounds in a single cacao bean, we will tackle those that are commonly used in the medical field and beneficial to our bodies.

Difference Between Cacao And Chocolates

Before we delve into the nutritional facts of cacao, we have to understand that there is a big difference between the raw variety and its chocolate counterpart.

For starters, chocolates made from processed cacao along with sugar are said to only have 1 to 5 percent of the nutritional value found in its raw ingredient. Meaning, sweet chocolates aren’t that healthy to begin with; unless of course you go for dark chocolates made from raw cacao retaining a majority of its healthy compounds.

Behavioral And Emotional Effects Of Cacao

There are more than 300 compounds found in raw cacao. Among these includes magnesium that is perfect for developing strong bones — a must for Americans who are said to have low magnesium levels compared to other races.

Also, raw cacao contains compounds that directly affect our emotional and behavioral patterns. The PEA or phenylethylamine is a compound found in cacao that helps increase pulse rate and blood circulation for added alertness and focus. PEA is also released by our adrenal gland but in lesser quantities compared to raw cacao.

Another compound found in cacao that directly affects our emotions is the anandamide. This compound is known to increase our blood pressure and sugar levels that lead to excitement and alertness. This compound is a common ingredient in anti-depression drugs.

Solution To Heart Problems

According to medical research, cacao contains a compound called Theobromine that directly affects our nervous system. There is much debate regarding this compound considering that it is somewhat similar to caffeine in terms of stimulants.

In most cases, Theobromine is a mild diuretic that can help decrease the probability of heart attacks. Through the increase of urination caused by this compound, heart attacked caused by increased in body fluids can be averted.

Other Health Facts

Aside from the health benefits above, cacao is also a great antioxidant that ranked first among the 10 known fruits with antioxidant properties today. It contains 4 times the anti-aging compounds commonly found in a Goji berry which makes it a potent solution for those who wants to get rid of harmful radicals in their body that contributes to wrinkles, scars, weak and pale skin, and so on.

Despite the potency of cacao as a superfood, keep in mind that there is a big difference with raw cacao and chocolates sold in the market today. It all depends on what types of chocolates you eat to get the most benefit out of it. Dark unsweetened chocolates made from raw cacao are the best since most of its compounds are retained even after processing.