By Roberta Lee M.D.,
Author of The SuperStress Solution
If you love chocolate, you're not alone. It turns out that the average person in the United States consumes approximately 12 pounds of chocolate a year. That might sound like a lot of chocolate, but I actually recommend that my patients -- especially those who are chronically stressed or what I would describe as SuperStressed -- indulge in 1 ounce of high quality and high cocoa mass chocolate a day, and that actually adds up to well more than 12 pounds over the course of the year. Sure, chocolate is a calorie laden food (with most of the calories coming from the cocoa butter), but in my opinion, the benefits of this treat outweigh the caloric load as long as you keep the portions small. Here are the benefits:
- On a gram for gram basis, chocolate has a terrifically high concentration of antioxidants known as flavonoids. More than berries and spinach, even. Flavonoids have been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.
- Chocolate is rich in magnesium and potassium, two minerals that help promote the "relaxation response," as well as iron and zinc, which are minerals that many people don't often get enough of during the course of the day. Chocolate also contains a good amount of selenium, which enhances immune health.
- Chocolate contains several psychoactive compounds being studied and debated as responsible for the mood lift many of us experience when eating it. First, there's phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural trace amine that is a stimulant that is elevated in the brain when we are in love and is low when we are depressed. Secondly, there's theobromine, a compound that imparts energy and a sense of alertness. Finally, chocolate contains a small amount of a chemical known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine, a substance that keeps our endogenous happiness molecules -- or endorphins -- from breaking down. In other words, if we are happy, we just might stay happier longer with a little chocolate.
To reduce stress, and avoid SuperStress, try this today:
Simple as it sounds; focused breathing -- during which you think about your breath as you inhale and exhale -- is a very effective stress-management technique. A slow, full breath triggers physical and cognitive changes that promote relaxation. Deep breathing helps release tension and anxiety and is a great energizer because the deeper the breath, the more your body is flooded with life-fueling oxygen. A full breath begins with the diaphragm pushing downward so that the stomach extends out. As your lungs fill with air, your chest expands. When you exhale, the reverse occurs -- your chest settles first and then your stomach.
* When anxiety strikes or you find yourself focusing on negative thoughts, immediately exhale through your mouth.
* Now, open your lungs, and breathe in through your nose, drawing in a fresh, cleansing air to the count of four.
* Exhale again slowly to the count of five.
* Repeat four times.
Copyright © 2009 Roberta Lee M.D., author of The SuperStress Solution
Roberta Lee, M.D., author of The SuperStress Solution, is vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine, director of Continuing Medical Education, and co-director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel's Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Lee attended George Washington University Medical School and is one of the four graduates in the first class from the Program of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona conducted by Andrew Weil, M.D.
For more information please visit www.superstresssolution.com