health benefits

  1. The right way to get your chocolate fix

    I always cringe when I read a news report on the health benefits of cocoa -- the takeaway is almost always "eat more chocolate."

    Sure, go ahead and eat more chocolate -- if you want to kill yourself.

    But if you want the health benefits, you'll need to stick to pure cocoa and get it the same way I do: so raw you have to steal it from a monkey.

    What's the difference? Glad you asked.

    Chocolate is a candy loaded with sugar, soy, and an alphabet soup of chemicals -- and if that's not bad enough, the cocoa used to make it has been treated, processed, and roasted until all the health benefits are literally baked right out of it.

    Any antioxidants that manage to survive this torture are purely accidental.

    Raw cocoa, on the other hand, is fermented and dried -- a process that preserves all the nutrients and gives the cocoa bean (which is actually a seed) 20 times the antioxidant power of blueberries and 120 times the power of bananas.

    It's a nutritional superfood that can protect your heart and arteries, boost your immune system, fight cancer, and prevent diabetes. It's also a great natural libido-booster used as an aphrodisiac for centuries by the indigenous Indians of Central America.

    Now, I'm sure all that has you hungry for some raw cocoa of your own. The good news is that this stuff is easier to find than ever -- you can get whole beans, nibs (chopped up beans), or raw cocoa powder.

    The bad news is that this is definitely not chocolate as you've ever tasted it before. It's got a depth and complexity that rivals wine, and can be an acquired taste for those raised on Hershey bars.

    Some people never acquire it.

    If that's you, don't give up -- try blending raw cocoa powder into your coffee and smoothies for that familiar chocolate taste with none of the added sugars or soy.

    It's so good you won't believe it's not bad for you.

  2. Massage beats pain meds

    I'm not one to question the health benefits of a good massage -- and if anyone wants to rub my back, I won't say no.

    Volunteers, feel free to drop me a line.

    Meanwhile, a new study finds that the hands-on treatment doesn't just feel great -- it can actually bring more relief for back pain than powerful drugs.

    Researchers assigned 401 back pain patients to either the "usual" care -- aka drugs and generic advice -- or one of two forms of massage: Swedish or structural.

    If you know anything about this stuff, you know that the Swedes aim for relaxation (it's in their nature), while structural massage tries to ease damaged tissue.

    If you forget which is which, don't worry -- because 10 weeks of either was enough to chase the pain away, boost mobility, and improve function better than the usual care.

    The researchers cut the massages off at the 10-week mark -- how cruel! -- but the benefits actually lasted for four more months.

    A year later, however, and the patients were back to square one -- but just how long do you expect 10 weeks of massage to last anyway? The lesson here is to keep at it as long as it feels good.

    I should warn you, however, that massage does come with at least one big drug-like risk: It can be highly addictive. I'm a massage junkie myself and I don't think I'll ever be able to shake the habit.

    I'll let you decide which addiction is healthier.

    Even if you're not battling back pain -- and congratulations, by the way, because you're in the minority -- don't feel left out: massage can ease stress, boost the immune system, fight depression and more.

    What I'm trying to say here is you don't need much of an excuse -- now go get yourself a massage.

    Doctor's orders.

  3. Go for the garlic

    If you want to get any benefits at all from this potent herb, you need fresh garlic, and a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows why.
  4. Drug Peddling Senior Citizens Syndicate

    I never thought prescription pushing would sink this low: A recent Associated Press article reveals that authorities in Kentucky have busted a drug peddling syndicate that rivals a New York narcotics ring - among senior citizens

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