Fitness: Discover the AVAC® Difference!

Cocoa Powder Health Benefits

Via Live Strong by Megan AshtonMany people crave chocolate and avoid it because they are under the impression that it is fattening and unhealthy. Although a lot of chocolate products are unhealthy and calories dense, it is due to the addition of substances such as sugar and not to the cocoa itself. In fact, cocoa powder, which comes from the cocoa bean, is highly nutritious, and it can provide numerous health benefits.

Cocoa Nutritional Facts

A 2 tbsp. serving of cocoa contains just 25 calories and 1.5 g of fat. It also provides you with 3.6 g of fiber, which is 14 percent of the daily value, and 8 percent of the daily value of iron and 14 percent of the daily value of magnesium.


Cocoa Antidepressant Effects

According to Elson Hass in his book “Staying Healthy With Nutrition,” cocoa may provide antidepressant benefits. He explains that cocoa contains the substance phenethylamine, which is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that acts as a mood elevator and natural antidepressant.The University of Michigan Health System (UMIM) states that cocoa may also have the ability to boost endorphins, which act as natural “happy” opiates and are responsible for the highs that are often felt after exercising, laughing, having sex or winning the lottery. Finally, UMIM says that cocoa may boost serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that antidepressants target in order to boost overall happiness levels.

Cocoa and Antioxidants

Cocoa also contains approximately 43.6 mg of flavonoids per gram. Flavonoids are part of a powerful group of antioxidants known as polyphenols, and according to Medical News Today, cocoa is one of the highest polyphenol-containing foods. In addition, hot cocoa contains more antioxidants per cup than a serving of red wine or tea, and Science Daily explains it may even be the healthiest choice of the three. Science Daily also states that drinking cocoa may help to fight cancer, heart disease and aging through its antioxidant boosting effect. Medical News Today warns however that most commercial cocoa powders have the antioxidant-containing flavonoids removed because they taste bitter; therefore, in order to obtain the health boosting benefits, consider buying raw cocoa powder, which is a minimally processed cocoa powder.

Additional Cocoa Benefits

In addition to the above possible health benefits of cocoa powder, UMIM says that cocoa may lower LDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of blood clots, increase blood flow to the arteries, lower high blood pressure, boost cognitive performance and provide essential minerals such as calcium and potassium.


Despite all of the possible benefits, UMIM warns that cocoa contains caffeine, which may have negative effects, such as insomnia, on caffeine-sensitive individuals. It also contains oxalates, and increased oxalate levels can contribute to the formation of kidney stones; therefore if you are prone to kidney stones, cocoa and chocolate should not be consumed.

Photo Credit:
Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images

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Core Connection: 5-Minute Ab Workout

via Fit Sugar by Lizzie Fuhr

Dedicate a handful of minutes a day to getting stronger and more defined abs. Perform each of the following exercises for one minute each. If you have 10 or 15 to spare for your future six-pack, then repeat this sequence two or three times.

Number 1: Mountain Climbers


  • Start in a traditional push-up starting position — shoulders over hands and weight on just your toes.
  • Bring your right foot forward, bending the knee and putting weight on the ball of your foot.
  • Switch legs, bringing the left knee forward while moving the right leg back. It feels a little like running in place in a plank position.
  • For an advanced variation to work your abs more, keep the ball of your foot off the floor as you bring the knee in toward your chest.
  • Quickly move through this exercise for as long as possible without taking a break — at least 30 seconds! Take a quick breather if need be, but pick up again until one minute is up.

Number 2: Plank With Side Step


  • Start on the floor, resting on your forearms and knees, and come up into a plank position. Contract your abs to prevent your booty from sticking up or sinking. Your spine should be parallel to the floor, your abs pulling toward the ceiling, and your feet should be close to hip-distance apart.
  • Once you’re in a strong elbow plank, step your left foot outward (about eight to 10 inches), keeping your core engaged and strong. Step your left foot back to the starting position. Now, step your right foot outward before coming back to center. This counts as one rep.
  • Complete as many reps as possible for one minute.

Number 3: Bicycle Crunches


  • Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground (pull your abs down to also target your deep abs). Put your hands behind your head.
  • Bring your knees in toward your chest, and lift your shoulder blades off the ground, but be sure not to pull on your neck.
  • Straighten your left leg out to about a 45-degree angle to the ground while turning your upper body to the left, bringing your left elbow toward the right knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows.
  • Now switch sides and do the same motion on the other side to complete one rep (and to create the “pedaling” motion).
  • Perform exercise for one minute.

Number 4: Elbow Plank With Twist


  • Come into a side plank on your right side, with your feet stacked one on top of the other and your weight on your right elbow with your fingers reaching away from your body.
  • Place your left arm behind your head, and inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale and pull your navel to your spine to engage your deep abs, and rotate your left rib cage toward the floor. Stay there for a second, and deepen your abdominal connection, pulling your navel in toward your spine even more.
  • Return to starting position, repeat for 30 seconds, and then switch sides. Repeat series again until a minute is up.

Number 5: Tabletop Lift


  • Start in a tabletop position. Your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders and your ankles underneath your knees.
  • On an exhale, lower your hips and straighten your legs so your hips are hovering above the floor. As you lower your hips and straighten your legs, your heels will rest on the ground. Flex your toes up towards the ceiling in order to engage your legs.
  • Hold for a complete breath, then inhale and push yourself back into first tabletop position. This counts as one rep.
  • Perform as many reps as possible, pivoting on your hands and heels, until one minute is up.

Healthy Snacking For Kids

via B-Inspired Momma

kid snacks

4 Steps to Healthy Snacking for Kids

  1. Provide Only Healthy Choices – Kids are more likely to be excited about something if they get to have a say in it.  Give them choices, but just make sure all of the choices are good, healthy options.
  2. Make Healthy Foods Accessible – Kids love to be independent.  Encourage that independence by having healthy snack options within easy reach so that they can serve themselves.
  3. Provide Portion Control – Make sure that accessible snacks are already in healthy portions for kids.  You can buy many foods pre-portioned or portion them out into single serving containers or baggies.
  4. Offer Balanced Snacks – A healthy snack should offer balanced nutrition; a combination of both protein and carbohydrates.   Make sure that easily accessible snacks have both.

Homemade Ketchup

via Chocolate Covered Katie


This DIY ketchup is healthier (no high-fructose corn syrup), easy to make, and it tastes amazing!

Healthy Ketchup
Loosely inspired by a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens

  • 3 cups grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced onion
  • scant 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • sweetener of choice, to taste, or omit for unsweetened ketchup
  • 1/8 tsp powdered ginger (omit if desired)
  • optional: pinch garlic powder or minced garlic

Preheat oven to 400 F. Roast first two ingredients 40-45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are shriveled and most of their liquid is absorbed. Then blend with all other ingredients. Let cool before putting in the fridge, and for thickest results leave uncovered a few hours even after putting in the fridge.