dark chocolateWe have all heard how dark chocolate is now “good” for us.  This was hard to believe at first but the more we learn about dark chocolate (cacao) the more healthful benefits are discovered.  This can be a dangerous bit of information if taken at face value.  We need to use the products that are pure raw cacao with it listed as the first ingredient.  Children generally love chocolate and chocolate treats.  Why not make them a healthy option?

On a personal note I began craving chocolate shortly after the birth of my second child.  Throughout my pregnancy I had anemia (an iron deficiency).   Dark chocolate, as I discovered has a high iron and magnesium content.  The body often craves what it needs and nursing and pregnancy come with a great deal of demands on the body.  Chocolate is also known to have a great anti-depressive effect on the brain.  This could be useful in staving off post-pardum depression.  In moderation, quality raw dark chocolate may be an excellent antidote to several issues regarding pregnancy and birth.  I do not feel my cravings for chocolate were a coincidence.

Often as parents we may not have the time and energy to develop complicated recipes.  Or we may be interested in cooking but feel intimidated.   It is important to teach our children an accessible way of appreciating and creating  good health.  By having a positive experience around cooking you are setting a strong foundation of good nutrition for life.  What better way to start than with chocolate?

I chose Navitas Naturals for my chocolate experiment because this company makes it easy and accessible to create chocolate concoctions.  Their website www.navitasnaturals.com is filled with excellent information and recipes.  It is a great resource for many of the super foods not only chocolate.  I called them directly as a consumer -confused as to why the Cacao Nibs I had purchased were not melting.  OK, I was stuck at home after a blizzard-craving hot chocolate and had some time on my hands.  Their customer service was very helpful and I began to enjoy these unsweetened cacao nibs in yogurt while I patiently awaited my cacao powder and Chocolate Kit to arrive.  Navitas products are available at Whole Foods and at the Vitamin shoppe as well as other smaller health food stores.

The Chocolate Kit by Navitas Naturals took all of 15 minutes to create our own home-made chocolate.  It involved a very light clean up as well. We used one that contained Golden Berries… another Superfood.  They have a tangy flavor that compliments the deep, rich chocolate flavor.  We used a little raw sugar granules which added  extra sweetness and a crunchy texture.  The result was a delicious, tart, and highly nutritious treat .   The cacao powder was even easier to use.  Simply melt in simmering milk and there you have some healthy hot chocolate easy-breezy!  My toddler loved this recipe-and so did I.

Sweet Chocolate Nibs come with a warning that you may not be able to stop.  They are a crunchy, sweet “good for you” snack.  Unsweetened Raw Cacao Nibs might taste unusual at first, but will certainly grow on you.  Eventually one may like them in shakes, yogurt etc.  They do not melt which is how my journey began.  The nibs add a crunchy texture.  They are also a good way for diabetics to enjoy and reap the many benefits that cacao has to offer.

Dr Andrew Weil on the virtues of incorporating Dark Chocolate into the diet:  “In this realm of antioxidant rich additives to the diet the one that looks best of all is dark chocolate.   It has greater antioxidant activity than either red wine or green tea and I’m not talking about truffles or chocolate candy.   Plain Dark Chocolate with a minimum cocoa content of 70%.  That should be the first ingredient, cocoa solids or chocolate liquor, not sugar.  If you’re eating 70% cocoa content or higher that’s got a very low glycemic load, it is a perfectly acceptable sweet treat and substitute for desserts that have less healthy things in them.  A moderate portion of dark chocolate on a regular basis is very healthy.”

For more on navitasnaturals, visit http://www.navitasnaturals.com

Often during a massage when working around the neck and shoulder areas, clients notice a “clicking-thing” at the top of their shoulder blade and ask me what it is.  They tell me no matter how much they have worked on it themselves it won’t go away.  “Is it a knot?” is often another question.  This is not a painful state I am referring to.  If there is pain consult a physician or a physical therapist.  I am referring to the medial and superior borders of the shoulder blade and the hardened tissue that can be palpated there.

The answer is that what they are generally paying attention to and noticing is the tendon of the Levator Scapula Muscle.  The tendon is where the muscle attaches to the bone and we want it to stay there!  This does not mean that tension and “knots” aka adhesion do not accumulate around this area.  They tend to for various reasons (please see my article entitled, “Why Are My Neck and Shoulders in Pain?”

A knot is also known as an adhesion and is defined as two tissues “stuck” together which ordinarily would not be.  I am mentioning this area of the scapula as often times a well-meaning massage therapist will continue to try to release this area at the request of a client.  The more one works on it the sorer it will be the next day.  The “clicking” won’t go away.  The obsession to do so is pointless-simply let it be.  One would be better off learning techniques to relax and strengthen the muscles around the shoulder.  There are many reasons why we accumulate tension in the neck and shoulders.  For details, read “Why are my neck and shoulders in pain?

There are many techniques to help relax and strengthen muscles of the shoulder.  Classes such as Pilates and Yoga when taught by a skilled professional are very useful.  Again, for acute and serious chronic pain please consult a physician or a physical therapist.  The use of a pillow that provides proper alignment of the neck is also very useful.  Please see my article entitled Bolsters and Pillows for Joint Support.

The important thing is not to over stimulate the tendons so they can do their very important job of attaching the muscle to the bone.  Consistently working on them can lead to a great deal of unnecessary discomfort.  A massage therapist can help release the whole area.  Just imagine opening a can of paint that is stuck.  The best way is to gently pry around the edges of the entire circumference of the can instead of forcing it from one specific point.  The latter can potentially create more tension in the body whereas the former is gentler and more effective.