HEALTHY coffee is my favorite way to start the day!

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Coffee11This morning after a late night at the Fleetwood Mac concert, which was such fun by the way, I really needed my morning coffee. My coffee is a necessity to give me a much needed boost of energy in the morning. It’s also warm, homey and comforting to me. It really is a hug in a mug! I have previously spoken of my love for coffee and it’s benefits but today I want to talk about the stuff that goes into your coffee and how important it is to keep those things healthy. Otherwise, you can add HUNDREDS of calories to your coffee, and it can easily go from a healthy start to your day to a caloric wasteland. Besides being high in calories, some of the things you can add to your coffee can be downright BAD for your health, full of chemicals that can’t even be pronounced. I wanted to use this opportunity to save you all the calories and chemicals, and show you what I use so that you can benefit from my experience and drink delicious, HEALTHY coffee.

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

1. Start with high quality coffee- If you can find organic coffee, by all means use that. I have an espresso machine that I’ve used for the last few years. I really enjoy espresso but I recognize that many people don’t like the intensity of it, so use whatever works for you. But for me the first step is to use really good coffee/espresso that doesn’t have any artificial flavors or additives in it (artificial flavors=chemicals). Nespresso sells high quality, sustainably raised coffee in their espresso cubes. You put the cube into the machine and it makes delicious espresso.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

2. Add REAL cream- I don’t use artificial creamers in my coffee. I will only use half and half, but the cool thing is that I use a milk frother. I pour the half and half into the frother, press the button, and it whips the milk up into a foamy deliciousness that makes me feel like I’m getting my coffee from a professional barrista! Of course I only use organic half and half also. I use an organic hazelnut half and half and add a splash of that to the regular half and half and whip them together so I get a bit of sweetness into the cream.

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. NO FAKE SUGARS- As I’ve said in previous posts, artificial sweeteners are bad for your health in MANY ways. They are full of chemicals and are NOT a component of a healthy lifestyle. In an effort to keep the calories down and impart sweetness to my coffee, I use a small splash of hazelnut half and half as I said above, and I also shave a small amount of Mexican hot chocolate into my coffee. I use a very small grater and shave no more than a half teaspoon of it into the coffee before adding the cream. I let the chocolate melt into the coffee, and then I add the cream and stir a few times to combine everything without adding too much air to take the fluffiness out of the foam.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

4. Add different flavors to enhance your coffee- Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom can really jazz up your coffee, adding a lot of flavor without adding calories. I add organic cinnamon to my coffee whenever I make it. Cinnamon is a healthful spice and has been said to help prevent diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and blood sugar spikes. It also is very warm and flavorful, and really complements the flavor of coffee. It’s a must for me!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

Well, that’s how I make a perfectly delicious and healthy cup of coffee. The idea is to add layers of flavor so that you get an amazing taste without adding a lot of chemicals or calories. Coffee can help enhance your memory and workouts, as well as preventing liver damage, helping to lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, lessen our stress, and add antioxidants to our bodies. So I am perfectly justified in indulging in my morning cup of Joe, and I know it’s good for me too. Drinking coffee with healthy additions to it can help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

Dark Chocolate- A HEALTHY Indulgence!

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My oldest angel!

My oldest angel!

For those of you reading this who know me personally you know that I’ve just moved both of my daughters into their college and as such am a first time empty nester. Now some parents look upon that with a bit of relief, like “whew I did my job and I’m ready to move on!” That’s not me. I have truly enjoyed every second of my parenting job. Spending time with my daughters is a pleasure and I miss them a lot. The dogs even seem bummed!

My baby angel!

My baby angel!

Well anyway, I’ve noticed during my adjustment to this new phase of my life that I’ve been craving chocolate more than usual. I’ve mentioned in past blog posts that I love chocolate and that it is a regular part of my healthy way of eating- dark chocolate, that is. But I wanted to write a bit more about chocolate so you’d know how healthy it really is. Let’s call it “My Ode to Chocolate”.

LOL- True!

LOL- True!

Chocolate, oh chocolate, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways you are healthy and good for me!

1. Chocolate is heart healthy– According to an article in Women’s Health magazine, a study was done in Germany this year and it said that eating a square of dark chocolate a day lowers the risk for a heart attack or stroke by 39 percent and lowers blood pressure too! What a great deal! It’s because of the flavonoids dark chocolate contains, which are antioxidants that make your veins and arteries more flexible. Chocolate contains 5 times the flavonoids of an apple- wow! Now remember it has to be DARK CHOCOLATE NOT MILK CHOCOLATE because milk chocolate contains very little actual chocolate. The experts recommend not eating chocolate that contains any less than 70% cocoa so I eat the darkest chocolate I can because it makes me feel like I’m indulging in a healthy way! Also, chocolate contains sugar, milk, butter, etc so if you eat a lot of it you will gain weight. I eat ONE SQUARE OF DARK CHOCOLATE AND NO MORE!

I'm eating Godiva 72% dark chocolate almond right now!

I’m eating Godiva 72% dark chocolate almond right now!

2. Weight loss– Can you believe that if you eat chocolate you will lose weight? I didn’t believe it but a University of Copenhagen study showed that DARK CHOCOLATE makes you feel more full and satisfied than milk chocolate, and it lessened the craving for salty, fatty and sweet foods. Shut the front door, are you serious?!! That’s awesome! And a study out of Australia showed that people who eat chocolate high in antioxidants reduced the blood pressure raising effects of exercise in people that are overweight. So eat your dark chocolate and exercise safely, my friends!

Fran's Coconut Gold Bars are a far more delicious version of an Almond Joy!

Fran’s Coconut Gold Bars are a far more delicious version of an Almond Joy! Bobby Flay recommended them on the Food Network and we love them! They’re always a part of my girls Valentine gifts and I give them to myself as a birthday gift!

3. A Stress Reducer– Swiss (of course, Swiss!) scientists found that people who ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate after an emotional experience (like sending their youngest child off to college!) every day for two weeks, had their stress hormone levels reduced SIGNIFICANTLY, and the metabolic effects of stress on the body were partially reduced too. In addition, stress makes you gain weight because of the increased cortisol levels associated with it, so eating chocolate reduces stress which helps us stay slim and trim. Yay! I am almost required to eat dark chocolate now, right?! 😉

Dark chocolate dipped strawberries are another of my chocolate laden indulgences. Since the chocolate covers fruit it's even healthier! Win-win!

Dark chocolate dipped strawberries are another of my chocolate laden indulgences. Since the chocolate covers fruit it’s even healthier! Win-win!

4. Chocolate prevents diabetes– Wait, so eating candy helps to prevent diabetes? Makes no sense, does it? But here’s the thing, in an Italian study people ate a candy bar’s worth of chocolate every day for 15 days and saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. How, you ask? Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production which helps control insulin sensitivity. Mom, this one’s for you!

 

As I've said before I shave a bit of Mexican hot chocolate into my coffee each morning for a bit of chocolately, cinnamony goodness every day!

As I’ve said before I shave a bit of Mexican hot chocolate into my coffee each morning for a bit of chocolately, cinnamony goodness every day!

5. Higher intelligence– An Oxford University study of over 2,000 people looked at the long term effects on the brain of chocolate. They studied people over 70 years old and found that people who ate flavonol rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored higher on cognitive test than those who didn’t. I feel a lot smarter now that I eat dark chocolate almost every day!

Dark chocolate can also give you sun protection, cough relief and diarrhea relief as well. It’s truly incredible how something so delicious can be so good for you. Now remember to eat DARK CHOCOLATE with at least 70% cacao for maximum benefits, and don’t eat more than one square per day. Let me know what kind of dark chocolate you like to eat and thanks for reading my blog. It will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!