5 Reasons to Treat Yourself to a Daily Helping of Dark Chocolate

We’re all about maintaining a balanced lifestyle here at Yogi Surprise, meaning that we love encouraging our members and readers to adopt healthy habits that make then feel good without having to completely deprive themselves of their most beloved guilty pleasures—whether that involves indulging in an occasional piece of cheesecake, spending an entire rainy Saturday spent watching Netflix, or even splurging on some super chic yoga wear!

Chocolate is one of those things that falls into both categories of healthy habits and guilty pleasures at the same time, which is why you’ll often find some pretty unique chocolate treats in both of our monthly Lifestyle and Jewelry boxes. While excessive amounts of chocolate is bound to do more harm than good, a reasonable amount of chocolate (specifically dark chocolate) can actually be extremely good for you.

Here’s what the wonderful world of science has to say about the benefits of dark chocolate.

 

1. It can help lower bad cholesterol—especially if combined with almonds!

A study found that eating one-third a cup of almonds every day either on their own or combined with a one-quarter cup serving of dark chocolate and 2 1/3 tablespoons of cocoa led to significant reductions in and cholesterol among overweight and obese participants.

 

2. It helps to improve blood circulation and thus lower blood pressure.

The darker your chocolate, the more plant chemicals called “flavanols” that it contains—which helps your heart by causing a relaxation effect on the blood vessels. For chocolate richest in flavanols, make sure you go for dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa content.

 

3. It offers more nutrients than you might think.

When you opt for a dark chocolate bar that’s 70 to 85% cocoa instead of your typical milk chocolate bar, you’ll be fueling your body with a range of vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, copper, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and even a bit of fiber!

 

4. It might give your brain a boost.

The flavanols that dark chocolate can help your brain stay healthy in addition to your heart. Researchers have looked at long-term ingestion of dark chocolate in an elderly population and found that their intake of foods rich in flavonol was associated with better cognitive function.

 

5. It can improve your mood.

As if the taste of chocolate isn’t delightful enough, it turns out that chocolate contains many different mood-boosting components that help to induce those feel good chemicals in your brain. Out of eight studies on the effects of chocolate on mood, five showed either an improvement in mood state or a reduced negative mood state.

 

Remember to enjoy dark chocolate in moderation!

Dark chocolate is a very dense superfood at about 168 calories and 12 grams of fat (7 grams of which are saturated fat) per one-ounce serving depending on the specific brand or bar that you choose. Check the nutritional information before you indulge and stick to allowing yourself room for 100 to 300 calories worth of chocolate a day while maintaining a balanced diet the rest of the day and getting your daily yoga practice in.


3 Ways to Harness the Power of Yoga to Balance Food Cravings

3 Ways to Harness the Power of Yoga to Balance Food Cravings

Everyone knows what it’s like to crave something yummy without actually feeling hungry for it. Whether it’s sweet and decadent or salty and crunchy, sometimes our cravings cause us to lose our grip on our self-control and indulge in those guilty pleasures.

Food cravings are especially difficult to keep under control during the holiday season when baked goods, alcoholic beverages, and heavy comfort foods are abundant. Combine that with the stress of having to get all the holiday shopping, event planning, decorating, entertaining, and other tasks done in a matter of weeks and you’ve potentially got a high-sugar, high-fat recipe for disaster (no pun intended).

Believe it or not, yoga can help. Some research has shown that mindfulness-based interventions like yoga can help to enhance treatment, prevention, and recovery of addictions. And yes, that includes those food cravings that make us feel like we're practically addicted to eating.

So next time you find yourself pining for a bag or chips or an extra large piece of chocolate cake, look toward your practice. Here are three ways you can tweak your yoga practice to help you get through the holidays without packing on too much extra weight.

 

Practice Yoga to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety and stress cause us to reach for tempting foods in hopes that they’ll soothe (or at least dull) our emotions. They may work temporarily as a distraction, but you\re likely to end up feeling worse than before.

As a preventative strategy, you can target anxiety and stress imbalances by integrating yoga sequences into your practice designed to help you wring out negative energy from the body and mind. Think restorative poses like forward folds and empowering poses like the warrior poses.

 

Breathe to Mindfully Observe Your Cravings

In yoga, we move our bodies to the rhythm of our breath, but conscious breathing alone increases awareness. Sitting in easy pose while focusing on your breath may be all that you need to become aware of where your cravings are really coming from.

If you’re interested in trying other forms of pranayama, nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing), is a powerful breathing technique worth trying. It’s thought that this breathing technique helps to restore balance between the two hemispheres of the brain to promote greater physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

 

Meditate to Focus on the Foods You Desire

You’d think that to avoid giving into cravings, doing your best to ignore and avoid temptation would be the key to success. Interestingly, a study suggests that the opposite may be true.

When study subjects consciously imagined food first before given the opportunity to indulge, their food cravings were curbed and they indulged in smaller amounts compared to subjects who were asked to imagine scenarios unrelated to food. This suggests that using mindfulness meditation to focus on tempting foods before actually eating them may actually help you want less, so you can eat less.

 

While we always encourage our readers to do their best at seeking to balance their indulgent food choices with moderation, we understand that many could use a little extra help around this time of year. For this reason, Yogi Surprise members will be receiving their very own copy of Sugar Detox: Three Weeks to Healthier, Happier, More Balanced Life by Filippa Salomonsson in their December Lifestyle boxes to help them star the New Year off right.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


5 Healthy Comfort Foods to Indulge in This Autumn & Winter

5 Healthy Comfort Foods to Indulge in This Autumn & Winter

The cold weather is here, and nothing feels better than settling in with a hot bowl or plate of your most favorite dish that’s heavy, fatty, and oh-so-satisfying. Well, it's certainly oh-so-satisfying until of course you realize you're so full you can barely move!

Believe it or not, comfort foods can be tweaked so that they’re much less heavy and contain far fewer caloriesthan their full-fat counterparts. Check out some of the healthy comfort food ideas below and suggested recipes to bring warmth and nourishment to your body all throughout the autumn and winter months.

 

Vegetable soup

Skip the canned soups instead for your stock pot or slow cooker and lots of fresh veggies. Making your own vegetable with vegetable/chicken broth and optional chicken and/or noodles will help you cut down on the sodium content often found in canned varieties.

Try adding veggies like onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, and anything else you think would go lovely in a soup. Here’s a loaded vegetable soup recipe to try if improvising isn’t your thing.

 

Vegan mac n’ cheese

Whether it’s from a box or homemade, regular mac n’ cheese certainly packs a lot of calories and fat from all that dairy. But making it vegan with a cheese substitute is a much healthier alternative—and it still tastes amazing!

Nutritional yeast is what you’re going to need, along with some almond milk, spelt flour, your pasta of choice and a few more ingredients to pump of the taste. Follow this easy, cheesy vegan mac n cheese recipe to get it just right.

 

Pita pizzas

You could order a pizza from your favorite pizza place… or you could just break out a few pitas and use them to make your own mini personal pizzas. This way, you have complete control of all the ingredients that you decide to top onto your pizzas.

Pita pizzas mean no dough making and no mess. This five-minute pita pizza recipe uses pocketless pita flatbreads. Best of all, you can make them in a toaster oven if you’d rather skip preheating the big oven.

 

Baked sweet potato chips

Settling in for a movie night calls for snacks, and chips are often a first choice. But instead of grabbing a bag from the grocery store, why not make your own healthier baked variety from sweet potatoes?

All you need is a mandolin slicer, a bit of olive oil, some kosher salt, and of course a sweet potato. This baked sweet potato chips recipe will show you how to turn that sweet potato into yummy chips in just 20 to 25 minutes.

 

Veggie lasagna

Lasagna sure is delicious when it’s loaded with ground beef, noodles, and lots of yummy cheese, but you can make a healthier version by at least swapping both the beef and noodles for veggies (and go easy on the cheese, please). Instead of noodles, use zucchini slices!

Veggies like spinach, eggplant, bell peppers, and onions turn this comfort food casserole into something much more nutritious yet still very filling. Take a look at this recipe to make it in your slow cooker!