February is often considered "The Month of Love."
With every new year comes a sense of rebirth, of starting over and of course, change. Tradition and good health are seldom friends where excessive eating, and binge drinking is involved.
Make your Valentine's Day tradition different from the excess of the recent holiday season. Changing your traditions as you age is the mindful way to living longer with vitality and viriliy.
But Valentine's Day is different. From the beneficial ingredients found in dark chocolate, down to the various stress-relieving hormones that pounce into action with the beat of your heart, this celebrated occasion may contribute to not only a healthy relationship but a healthy body, too. Of course one day each year won't reverse a year-long binge on bad habits, but there are intriguing hints that the minor steps encouraged by this romance-centric holiday can add to a healthier life.
A box of chocolate has long been a favorite Valentine's gift, but it was an Indian Tribe from Panama that made dark chocolate a hit with doctors. Professor of Medicine Norman Hollenberg reported in the 2007 International Journal of Medical Sciences on cocoa therapy. Researchers from Harvard discovered that the Kuna Indians, who live on a cluster of idyllic islands along the Panamanian coast, have an extremely low rate of hypertension and heart disease, despite eating plenty of salty foods. The reason has to do with the five to six cups of raw cocoa the Kuna have each day, which they boil with their drinking water.
Researchers have since identified the main heart-boosting ingredient as flavanoids, an antioxidant that is found in less succulent things, like green tea. Because flavanoids are bitter tasting, most candy makers just take them out. "You lose them with milk chocolate, which is the chocolate most tend to prefer," says Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg of Tufts University. He recommends gourmet dark chocolate that is made with plenty of cocoa powder. "The connoisseurs like the more bitter taste," he says. This is why we so love our Xocai Healthy Chocolate.
Remember to Give
The man/woman who makes special plans weeks in advance, remembers to buy the flowers and compliments his/her date has far better days in store than just Valentine's. Indeed, studies show that a person who is thoughtful, organized and delays gratification to the benefit of others is likely to drink less, not smoke, keep the weight off and live years longer.
While this may make for a pretty boring short-term date, the log term upside is that conscientious people lead to a stabiity that can last long after the immediate passion is gone.
Creating and maintaining healthy relationships is still more art than science, but at a basic biological level, social bonds are linked to a hormone known as oxytocin. This brain chemical is pretty much the direct opposite of the stress hormones that raise the risk of heart disease and depression. A cortisol imbalance can manifest as an inability to make the right decisions. Most people with low cortisol levels feel as though they are simply at the end of their rope and any departure from their routine is just too much for them to handle. Furthermore, because cortisol is a glucocorticoid and one of its jobs in the body is to maintain blood sugar levels between meals, when the levels are lower than they should be it can lead to low blood sugar, foggy brain and sugar cravings which are likely to sabotage your best intentions. Looking at women who reported more frequent hugs with their partners, researchers in North Carolina found that the higher oxytocin levels resulted in lower blood pressure.
Testosterone is the hormone most closely associated with male sexual characteristics. With advancing age comes a normal decline in levels of testosterone production. Additionally, there are other factors that can cause a premature drop in testosterone levels, which can lead to a loss of the sex drive, erectile dysfunction, fragile bones and loss of muscle mass.
The His Advanced Plus Hormone Profile can help give you answers. There are also many foods that appear to boost testosterone production. Oxytocin may also explain the health benefits from what many consider the perfect ending to a Valentine's Day date. In a recent study from Scotland, researchers measured how people dealt with stress after having sex.
Compared to those who practiced abstinence—or had oral sex—those who took part in more intimate forms of intercourse responded better to stressful events a full week later. Dr. Stuart Brody, who led the study, suspects that this type of closeness causes the release of more oxytocin after an orgasm.
Valentine's day, in other words, is meant for sharing, which can be beneficial all year around.