Tag Archives: Environment

Freaky Friday: Chocolate’s Health Benefits

by Richard

‘Tis the season to start gulping down chocolates like they had been out of style for 63 years and you were trying to spark a revival, but no one was interested so you were downing chocolates by the handfull every second you were out of the house. Well, either that or it’s Valentine’s Day and chocolate is the traditional gift of the holiday.

I bring good news to those who don’t keep up with the science. Turns out that chocolate might actually be good for you.

Great news. Well, for the wives at least. I mean, sure, I like chocolate, but it’s not something I’ll go out of my way to buy or even ask for. If I really wanted something sweet to celebrate a holiday, I’d just as soon order a cookie bouquet. Still, let’s hear it for flavonoids. Yeah, I know. It sounds like the invading aliens from some horrible 1950’s SF epic. But, no. They’re actually naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods recognized as exuding certain health benefits. And they’re what makes chocolate good-ish for you.

Flavonoids provide important protective benefits to plants, such as in repairing damage and shielding from environmental toxins. When we consume plant-based foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power.Antioxidants are believed to help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals, formed by normal bodily processes such as breathing or environmental contaminants like cigarette smoke. When the body lacks adequate levels of antioxidants, free radical damage ensues, leading to increases in LDL-cholesterol oxidation and plaque formation on arterial walls.

Well, in dark chocolate at least. That’s the — you should pardon the expression — skinny so far as we know it. Dark chocolate, having more flavonoids, is better at promoting good health. Not only is it good for reducing damage caused by free radicals, it also has other supposed benefits:

  • Lower Blood Pressure: Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure.
  • Lower Cholesterol: Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent.

All in all, not bad.

But what about all the fat? you ask. Well, it’s actually not that bad. See, the fat in dark chocolate is made up of three different kinds of fat and, it turns out, only 1/3 of the fat is the bad, saturated, kind of fat that hurts your arteries and heart.

So, let’s hear it for chocolate. In moderation of course. Like that ever works.

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The Perfect Christmas Tree

by Richard

Every year I face the same dilemma. Do we go with sparkly, shimmery fakery, or do we go with pine-smelling, needle dropping realism? That is, do we have a plastic Christmas tree, probably bought at a Walmart someday at about 3 a.m., or a real tree, bought from some roadside stand or the other, strapped on the roof of my car and prayed over the entire time, hoping madly it won’t come leaping off and plow into a car behind us?

As you can see, I’m a bit ambivalent about both methods. I mean, the only time I can really contemplate buying and using a fake tree is in the dark hours of the early morning when I’ve had far too many little glasses of Santa’s helper. I grew up with the real thing, dude. It’s hard to contemplate switching to a manufactured tree.

But then there’s the whole thing about the environment. Is it really green to purchase, and by purchasing support the whole industry, a tree planted specifically for the purpose of being basically cut down and thrown away in a couple of weeks? Should I be worried that more bits of the Earth’s lungs are being put down and then cut down with every Yule celebration?

On average, says the National Christmas Tree Association, between 25 and 30 million Christmas trees sold in the U.S. every year. There are close to 350 million Christmas trees currently growing on Christmas tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers. Oddly enough, the National Christmas Tree Association is very bullish on the benefits of real versus plastic. I mean, they’re talking about all the toxic materials in plastic trees and, oh so slyly, letting us know that most plastic trees are made in. . . China. Horrors. Like that’s not true of most of our stuff we get for Christmas.

I know it’s a bit of propaganda, but I think I’m going to stick with the real trees. At least for a while. After all, there’s that wonderful smell. At least until the tree stops taking water and starts drying out, usually on the floor of our living room.

Which means that we’ll be celebrating the purported season of life by killing something and then displaying the corpse in our house. Sounds like a plan to me.

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