Stress Relief Chocolate

Prescription for Stress Relief: Chocolate

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Want to reduce high blood pressure without giving up your favorite foods, exercising more or shedding pounds?  Then you might love this scientifically supported method to reduce hypertension:  eating chocolate.

Researchers at Rio de Janeiro State University found that people who were overweight and suffering from high blood pressure found relief in the sweetest of places:  a chocolate bar.

The polyphenols in dark chocolate significantly reduced blood pressure in people with stage 1 hypertension, according to the report in the issue of the International Journal of Hypertension.

Participants in the study, which included overweight people from age 18 to 60, were instructed to eat 50 grams of dark chocolate — 70 percent cocoa — for four weeks.  That’s a little less than 2 ounces of chocolate, about the size of an individual chocolate bar you could find at Trader Joe’s or similar health-minded grocery store.

Researchers didn’t say whether the participants gained weight on their chocolate diet, but given the improvement in blood pressure, perhaps no one cared.

For the record (but you may want to skip over this) you could gain the benefits of polyphenols without indulging in chocolate.  Other foods rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, including blueberries, grapes, melon, and dark plums, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

And, if you’re looking for absolutely calorie-free methods to relax, here are five to choose from:

1. Spend some time in a spa.

This doesn’t mean you have to take an exotic vacation (but doesn’t mean that you can’t either).

You can enjoy the benefits of a spa at your local gym or in a backyard hot tub.

Living close to water relieves stress, according to the Health Journal.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter, involved participants who lived in coastal towns.

But with a hot tub in your back yard, you can immerse yourself in the benefits of water every evening (or morning or afternoon.)

2. Laugh

Real laughter, not a dignified tee-hee or a polite chuckle, but an honest-to-goodness belly laugh, is the ultimate stress reliever.

It is physiologically impossible to laugh and experience stress at the same time.

So, do whatever takes to fill your daily quota for laughter. Watch a marathon of The Office, hang out with your funniest friends or surf the Funny or Die website. But get yourself on the laugh track!

3.  Take a Walk

If you can’t get motivated to make walking a daily habit, get a dog — or volunteer to walk a friend’s pooch.

Purely from an activity standpoint, walking (and any type of exercise) is a good way to reduce stress.  But add in the benefits of communing with a furry creature and you get a double helping of stress relief.

4.  Get Organized

Dr. Manny Alvarez, a physician, and consultant for Fox News says that organizing your life helps combat the harmful effects of stress, which include obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.

Activities such as cleaning out a closet, sorting through old mail and cleaning up your desktop can help restore balance to a hectic life.

5.  Sleep

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces adrenaline to help you stay alert.  But this survival tactic (dating to cavemen times when alertness was essential to stave off attacks from wild beasts) eventually turns against you.

In the modern age, we have less to fear from wild animals than from the harmful effects of stress.

So, grab a bar of chocolate, soak in a hot tub, take a stroll, alphabetize this list and go to bed!

Here is another informative article on reducing stress: Two mantras for stressful days

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