Guilty pleasures…

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Sweets, oily and junk food are always said to be extremely unhealthy for the body. In fact, too much of almost anything is unhealthy for the body. However, I have always believed that a balance of both food and exercise is better for the body. Eating junk food every day? Definitely no! But two – three times in a month is fine. One of our biggest complains is that the food that is the tastiest happens to be the unhealthiest. That is not true. Those who say this are clearly not exposed to really yummy dishes made from healthy foods. But what about guilty indulgences? Here I am referring to cheese and chocolate. Now we must have heard several times how both cheese and chocolate are harmful as they cause weight gain, headaches, increase in cardiovascular diseases and in some cases even addiction (due to anxiety and/or depression). But both these foods, if taken in moderation can be extremely beneficial. Those who are overweight and obese should however, completely refrain from both (a little cheese is okay but it depends more on the type).

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(Image source www.buzzle.com)

First let’s talk about cheese. Here are some benefits of cheese:

  • Since it’s made from milk, it is a rich source of calcium which in turn is extremely beneficial for our bones. Many people above the age of 35 have been prescribed calcium tablets as their weak joints and bones seem to be a hindrance in their daily activities. It also prevents osteoporosis (deficiency of calcium). Along with calcium it contains proteins, vitamins and several minerals which make it a great source of nutrients. Calcium can be obtained from several milk products and milk itself, so why cheese? It tastes like heaven that’s why!
  • It is also said to help in preventing cancer.  Cheese contains conjugated Linoleic Acid and Sphingolipids that are said to be helpful in cancer prevention. It also contains Vitamin B which helps our body perform its daily functions and builds our immunity, protecting our body from diseases.
  • Healthy weight gain is required by a lot of people. As it makes the bones strong, it also increases the muscle weight and bone density.
  •  It is helpful for women by letting them have a smooth pregnancy and getting through the ordeal of PMS.
  • It is beneficial for your skin. Cheese in your diet can make your skin supple, healthy, and glowing and maintain it.
  • In some cases, it helps with headaches. It also helps you get a good sleep.
  • It is good for your hair and keeps it healthy!
  • It helps in preventing cavities in your teeth.

Some of the healthiest types of cheese include feta, as it is lower in fat and other calories than most type of cheeses. Mozzarella is helpful as it isn’t processed and is low in fat and high in protein. But remember to buy only 100% mozzarella. Parmesan cheese is healthy too but is high in sodium so if your sodium intake is high avoid eating this one. You could opt for Swiss cheese comes in low sodium and low fat. Also it is high in phosphorous. Cottage cheese is another cheese very good for our health. It can be turned into a variety of dishes. Paneer is also a form of cottage cheese. Cheddar cheese is also an excellent option and very beneficial for health.

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(Image source www.istockphoto.com )

Chocolate has always been a huge target by several medical professional for its adverse effects but it has several benefits.

  • It can help in lowering your cholesterol level. A piece (a small one only) of dark chocolate can actually help in reducing your cholesterol. It can also reduce the risk of heart diseases and chances of dying form stroke.
  • It can help prevent memory decline.  Drinking a cup of hot chocolate can increase the flow of blood in your brain, hence preventing memory decline.
  • Dark chocolate is high in mineral like – potassium, magnesium, copper and iron.
  • The cocoa bean found in chocolate is helpful as it is –

–         Anti-inflammatory.

–         Anti-carcinogenic.

–         Lowers Alzheimer’s risk.

–         Anti-diabetic and anti-obesity.

–         Cardio – protective, including lowering blood pressure, improving lipid profile, and helping prevent atrial fibrillation.

–         Improved liver function for those with cirrhosis.

–         Neuro – protective.

–         Improves gastrointestinal flora.

–         Reduces stress hormones.

–         Reduces symptoms of glaucoma and cataracts.

–         Improves exercise endurance.

–         May help extend lifespan.

–         Protects against preeclampsia in pregnant women.

  • It keeps your skin healthy.
  • It helps psychologically in combating pain. (Be careful here, cravings for chocolate when in pain can lead to addiction and then obesity.)

However, one must remember that not all kinds of chocolate are good for you. Dark chocolates are the best option. But chocolates with caramel, marshmallow and nut filling should be avoided. In fact, chocolates with any kind of fillings should be avoided. Also, avoid variations of chocolate like chocolate ice – cream or dark chocolate cake. When chocolate is combined with milk and other products, it is solely a fatty food nothing else.

Eating both cheese and chocolate in moderation will help in satisfying not only your cravings but be good for your health. Coupling this with some exercise is an added benefit. Remember eating is good, binging is not!