We all know that good health relies on us following a healthy lifestyle. Eating, drinking, sleeping and exercising in moderation will keep us on the straight and narrow. But healthy living isn’t just about green salads (hold the dressing!) and power walks; there are some indulgences that are actually good for our health (like chocolate!) that you really won’t mind adopting into your lifestyle. Here’s five of the best:
Want to protect your body from aging? Then eat a little dark chocolate each day. Research has shown that 45g of dark chocolate each day can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.
It has to be dark, there are no health benefits to eating milk or white chocolate I’m afraid. Dark chocolate contains plant phenols, which are responsible for the lowering of blood-pressure. It also contains antioxidants, which protect the body against cancer and heart attacks.
To enjoy the good health effects of dark chocolate, don’t eat it while drinking milk. The milk blocks our ability to absorb the antioxidants in chocolate, which is why milk chocolate doesn’t have the same health benefits.
While no-one is ever going to suggest that going overboard with alcohol is going to do you any good, a glass or two of red wine each day has got the tick of approval from medical researchers. Red wine contains the antioxidant, resveratrol, which protects against the effects of aging. Red wine lowers the risk of heart attack by 30-50% and can prevent additional heart attacks if you have previously suffered one.
Red wine has beneficial effects on cholesterol too. It raises the good cholesterol (HDL) and stops the bad cholesterol (LDL) from forming. Drinking red wine can also help protect against blood clots and blood vessel damage.
It turns out that laughter really may be the best medicine! Aside from promoting a sense of wellbeing, laughter also has a beneficial effect on our hormones. Laughing reduces the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. On the flip side, it increases the level of feel-good hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters. A good belly laugh also boosts our immune system by increasing antibody-producing cells and the effectiveness of T cells, which play a vital role in the maintenance of a strong immune system.
We all know that good sex makes us feel good. But aside from strong pelvic floor muscles and restorative sleep afterwards, there are other health benefits to sex . Having sex once or twice a week can actually protect you from catching colds and other infections because of the antibody, immunoglobulin, that is produced.
Sex is great for easing pain too. Headaches, PMS and arthritic pain have all been shown to improve after sex as a result of the hormone oxytocin being released into the bloodstream. With higher levels of oxytocin in your system, endorphins (the feel-good hormone) increase and these block pain.
You know that with a good night’s sleep you feel like you can tackle anything, right? Well, there’s science to back up the way you feel. Sleeping well plays a key role in the maintenance of our metabolism, memory, learning and immune function. While our bodies rest during sleep, much work takes place to repair the damage caused by stress. Tissue repair also occurs during sleep so sleeping well really does make your skin look better!
Hormones are also regulated while we sleep so too little sleep will have a detrimental effect – particularly in children because human growth hormone is only released during sleep.