Nearly every week some study comes out about diet and nutrition, citing one or another food or drink and its effect on our health. Sometimes, the results are conflicting, so making sense of it all can be confusing. The fact is that some things are really good for us and others have some value when taken in moderation. Here’s a rundown of the latest reports on some controversial foods and drinks.
Who hasn’t reached for some chocolate when they’ve been feeling low? But chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can have some beneficial effects on more than just mood. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that protect cells from damaging free radicals that play a role in the development of heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Also, chocolate has been found to lower blood pressure. A recent study found two pieces of chocolate a week may cut cardiovascular disease by 37 percent.
Researchers believe compounds in cocoa solids provide the health benefits. Unfortunately, the chocolate we eat is processed, which strips out some solids. The lighter the chocolate, the less cocoa solids it contains. White chocolate has none. And, of course, chocolate is full of sugar and fat. Most researchers believe the health benefits of eating chocolate are pretty thin.
Conclusion: A little bit of dark chocolate once in a while won’t hurt.
For years we were told that coffee (or at least the caffeine in coffee) was bad for you. But now researchers are changing their tune. The latest buzz is that women who drink three cups of java a day may cut their risk of basal skin cancer by 20 percent. And people who drink three to four cups a day are 25 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who drink two cups or less.
That’s not all. A Swedish study released this last March found women who drank between one and five cups of Joe a day reduced their risk of stroke by 25 percent. What’s more, women who don’t drink coffee actually may increase their risk of stroke. Asthma sufferers can also feel up to four hours of relief after drinking a cup of coffee. That’s because it’s chemical structure resembles theophylline, a common asthma medication that relaxes the airway muscles and relieves wheezing, shortness of breath and other respiratory problems.
But the National Institutes of Health warns that caffeine in coffee, sodas and energy drinks raises blood pressure, increases feelings of stress and anxiety, and can cause insomnia.
Conclusion: Go ahead and drink your morning Joe. Just don’t overdo it all day long.
Milk, Cheese and Other Dairy Products
We all have heard of some women who have sworn off dairy products due to allergies, lactose intolerance, or concern about hormones and antibiotics fed to cows. But dairy products are a good source of calcium, protein and other nutrients, and yogurt contains high levels of probiotics that help in digestion.
Low-fat and fat-free dairy products have been touted as better for a healthy diet. But recent studies have found that whole milk contains certain nutrients found in fat that may decrease the likelihood of developing colon cancer and heart disease. Further, a study released last month concluded that high-fat dairy products contain a fatty acid that protects against type 2 diabetes. In addition research has shown that those with respiratory conditions, should avoid mucous-forming dairy foods, such as milk and cheese, which can exacerbate clogging of the lungs.
Conclusion: Dairy should be part of a balance diet. But many nutritionists say it’s too soon to change dietary recommendations promoting low-fat and fat-free products.
Red Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages
Red wine in moderation is known to be good for your heart because it contains resveratol, a substance found in red grape skins. But any kind of alcohol, regardless of its source, increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. A recent study found drinking the equivalent of three to six glasses of wine per week increased a woman’s breast cancer risk by about 1.15 times compared to women who don’t drink. Drinking less than that amount had no effect.
Conclusion: The risks and benefits of drinking should be based on your health history. If breast cancer runs in your family, you may want to limit your alcohol consumption.
Photo Credit: CHOCOLATES AND COFFEE © Radu Razvan Gheorghe | Dreamstime.com