"The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare … neither knew chocolate," says Sandra Boynton, the author of the beloved birthday card "Hippo Birdie Two Ewes" and more than 50 children's books.
Is that another reason Americans are feeling blue? Could be. The kind of chocolate you and your neighbors eat is often super-processed milk and white chocolates, which are stripped of many of the magic bean's benefits — that's about as bad as (or worse than) having no chocolate at all!
Instead, enjoy 70 percent cacao dark chocolate. It's loaded with cocoa solids that contain health-boosting compounds like flavonoids. Enjoy hot chocolate made with walnut or almond milk (make sure they don't contain the emulsifier carrageenan) and natural, unsweetened cocoa powder. It contains more flavonols (a type of flavonoid) than cocoa powder that's Dutch-processed or alkalized.
Research shows that chocolate helps control blood pressure, fights cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, and improves athletic performance. But what it cannot do — at least not without help from other additives in a cough syrup — is treat your winter hack.
Despite headlines declaring chocolate is more effective than cough medicine, the researcher who published the study that gave rise to that claim makes it clear in an article on Health.com that the tested cough syrup, which contained the cocoa-based compound theobromine and antihistamine diphenhydramine, isn't the same as a chocolate candy or drink.
So enjoy a daily ounce of dark chocolate for its health boost and flavor, and see your doc for reliable treatments for a dry or wet cough.
Dodge diabetes by maintaining a healthy heart
Celebrity chef Paula Deen is known for her heart-stopping recipes, such as Lady's Brunch Burger: a beef patty topped with bacon and a fried egg then sandwiched between Krispy Kreme donuts. So, in 2012, when Deen informed the public that she has Type 2 diabetes, it was hardly a surprise. The food she'd cooked and eaten for years increased her risk for heart woes and diabetes.
Heart disease indicates that you may be making lifestyle choices that up your risk for diabetes. Poor glycemic control is linked to earlier disability, becoming housebound and earlier death for people with cardiovascular disease. Around 68 percent of people age 65 or older with diabetes die from heart disease.
The good news? Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle reduces your risk for Type 2 diabetes. A study published in Diabetologia assessed the heart health and diabetes risk of nearly 8,000 adults in comparison with their meeting, or not meeting, healthy benchmarks for Life's Simple 7 (similar to the Cleveland Clinic's and Dr. Mike's 6+2 Normals). That's maintaining healthy blood pressure, glucose levels and cholesterol; eating a healthy diet; exercising at least 150 minutes per week; not smoking; and maintaining a healthy weight. Those who scored in the recommended range for at least four of these factors had an 80 percent lower risk of developing diabetes 10 years later.
So protect your heart health and dodge the diabetes bullet, too! No red or processed meats; a plant-heavy diet with 100 percent whole grains and lean proteins; regular physical activity; and no first- or secondhand smoke.
Exercise, sweat and colas: a dangerous combo
In 2017, when Coke created an ad campaign using an animated virtual soccer player, Alex Hunter, from a digital game called FIFA 17, it made us wonder: Are real athletes and team owners getting smart about the health risks of drinking sweetened beverages? Seems not. That same year, Major League Baseball (the whole shebang!) announced a multi-year partnership naming Coca-Cola as the Official Soft Drink of MLB.
Well, a new study in the American Journal of Physiology shows just how harmful such endorsements are, not just to fans who fall for the sweet talkin', but for athletes everywhere. Researchers from the University of Buffalo looked at the effect of drinking a beverage with high fructose corn syrup and caffeine on the health of someone who is working or working out in a high-temp environment (it could be an agricultural site, a playing field outdoors, the gym or at work). In four one-hour segments, the study's participants worked out, took breaks and drank 16 or more ounces of the soft drink.
The results? Participants who drank soft drinks had higher blood levels of creatinine and a lower glomerular filtration rate -- markers for acute kidney injury. They also had elevated blood levels of vasopressin, which raises blood pressure, and were mildly dehydrated.
Prove you're smarter than MLB, and say: "No way I'm fake-quenching my thirst with kidney-dinging colas." Water will do, and maybe for extended workouts or hot weather jobs try water with electrolytes added (sodium, potassium, calcium). And grab a piece of fruit.
In what some consider the ultimate test of endurance, the Empire State Building Run-Up covers, from bottom to top, 86 flights of stairs -- for a total of 1,576 steps. Winners do it in about 10 minutes! In the sport of tower running, it's considered the most prestigious victory.
Now, we don't advocate running up and down the stairs in your 20-story office building (without careful training), but a recent study from McMasters University showed that those who work in buildings or live in apartment buildings and "vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening ... are getting an effective workout."
The researchers call these short runs up and down stairs fitness "snacks." They're a variation of interval training (regular pace, fast pace, regular pace, which you can incorporate into almost any exercise routine) that improves your cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength. It's so handy that if you have a set of stairs around, you can use them to improve your health any time you like.
If you're going to take a hike, we suggest getting some good running shoes, because going up and down stairs can be tough on ankle, knee and hip joints. Well-cushioned, supportive shoes can greatly reduce impact, and when you exercise without injury it, ensures that you'll do it more often. See you at the ESBRU?
Water, water, everywhere — so why aren't you drinking it?
In the 2018 Marvel movie "Aquaman," Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) learns that he is heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and realizes how he's been left high and dry by his land-locked life. He must take his rightful place as protector of the deep and savior of the world.
Water can do that for a person! A study in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology found a correlation between dehydration, thickening of the blood and damage to the arteries and the development of coronary artery disease. In 2011, a study in Nutrition Reviews outlined how drinking enough water helps protect your brain, kidneys, heart and skin. A paper presented at the 2018 American Physiological Society reveals that making sure you get enough water when exercising lets older adults gain the full cognitive benefits of physical activity!
Unfortunately, although American men and women drink a good dose of liquids every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about a third of it is plain water. A lot is from sugar-added and artificially sweetened beverages, not healthy choices and not as thirst-quenching!
So how much water is enough? Never let yourself get thirsty, especially when exercising. Dehydration is a major source of fatigue. Aim for around 91 (women) to 125 (men) ounces of water daily, more if working out or in a hot environment. If you have dark urine, dizziness, cramps or a headache, drink up! Drinking enough water to rehydrate reduces your heart rate and increases blood flow in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.