Does this sound familiar? Countless hours on the tread mill, tenacious resistance to chocolate indulgence, all in the name of heart health and a lifestyle of wellness. But are either necessary?

No!

Let’s begin with chocolate.

Who doesn’t like chocolate? There is just something magical about chocolate; the smooth, rich deliciousness somehow soothes the soul, melts away anxieties, calms the nerves, puts a smile on your face and yes, it does fuel the body for a lifestyle of wellness that includes a healthy heart. So let me say it clearly…

Chocolate SHOULD be a part of your healthy heart nutrition!

There are a few things you should know, however, before you dive into that Snickers bar you have your eye on. First, the percentage of cocoa used is a direct determinant of nutritional value; the higher the percentage the greater the value.  But look carefully at the other ingredients. There should be few and the top three should be cacao mass, also listed as chocolate in some instances, cocoa butter and cocoa. Sugar and milk should be last on the list. Any other ingredients you cannot pronounce should lead to an immediate response to place the product back on the shelf.

And make sure the source is quality. Consider factors like fair trade and organic when making a purchase for a healthy heart.

“It’s more than wishful thinking — chocolate can be good for you.”

 The fact is, that studies show eating chocolate, primarily dark chocolate, contributes to a healthy heart and a lifestyle of wellness. Packed with natural antioxidants, dark chocolate and cocoa sit in the same good-for-you category as green tea and blueberries.

Additional studies have proven that dark chocolate and cocoa reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, show mild anti-clotting effects and may help prevent plaque formation in arteries. Now that is what I call working for a healthy heart.

But just eating chocolate is not the answer. For a truly healthy heart, there is another element that must be in practice as well. Exercise.

Cardio is a common form of exercise and the most familiar consideration for heart health and a lifestyle of wellness. . Many of you, I am sure, have spent tireless hours on the treadmill just wishing and hoping for smaller hips, thinner thighs and a shrinking waist. It is boring as, well…it is boring. And frankly, not so effective.

Our bodies are designed for movement, and not always slow methodical movement either. So, to shed some light on this element of a healthy heart, I want to show you 5 forms of cardio, explore their potential and show you how to implement each one into your lifestyle of wellness strategy.

The Slow Burn

 Old School…those are the best words to describe this technique. It requires what seems like endless hours and miles on that boring old treadmill sitting in the stale cold garage or shoved in a crowded spare room corner. You yawn your way through it, dread it with passion and wonder when in the world it will end once you’ve managed to begin.

 The fact is that research has shown that this form of cardio does not do nearly as much for a healthy heart as we all hoped even after 45-60 minutes of the activity 3-5 days a week.

The High Intensity Burn

By definition, high intensity means you work as hard as possible until you have burned at least 400 calories in a workout. To do this you’ll sweat your buns off, pant like a thirsty tiger for about 40 minutes. This is still not the best healthy heart exercise or lifestyle of wellness approach though a far cry better than the SLOW Burn.

The Interval Burn

 For this workout, you simply do alternating intervals of high intensity and easy exercises with little rest time in between. For example: After a 5 minute warm up, complete a minute of cardio at a level about 20% higher than normal. Then, decrease to cool down level for a minute before hitting it hard again. Repeat this process at least 5 times before cooling down.

 You’ll pant a while, get a reprieve, pant some more, sweat like a pig and torch the fat as your heart races in your chest. It’s a good thing that leads to a health heart!

 The Tabata Interval Burn

 This is a time sensitive, power packed workout that will leave you breathless but all the closer to a lifestyle of wellnessr. Derived in Japan, this method is accomplished by doing 20 seconds of HARD cardio work followed by 10 seconds of cool down/recovery. Repeated 8 times, this workout takes 4 whopping minutes. So, you get to do it several times during the day…hehe! And believe me, it works.

The Bodyweight Burn

This workout, not truly cardio, uses common resistance training movements with your body only but gets your heart pumping. Here is how it works.

Let’s start with jumping jacks. After 20-30 reps, alternate between 3 lower and 3 upper body movements such as squats, pushups, lunges, pullups, rows, and mountain climbers. Then finish it all off with a total body movement like jumps, burpees, star jacks or running in place.

There you have it, 5 cardio workouts for a healthy heart and a lifestyle of wellness. Now, it is time to hit the gym or that dedicated space at home and sweat a bit. Then you get to have a BITE of chocolate a bit later! Ready, set, GOOOO!

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Who likes chocolate chip cookies? Maybe better asked: Who doesn’t like warm gooey chocolate chip cookies? I love them especially when packed with chocolate. But, let’s face it, as yummy and soothing as they are, they don’t exactly register on the charts of a healthy, nutritional choice. Ah…but stop the press. I have a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that will satisfy the need for a gluten free choice, one that actually does provide nutritional benefits and still pleases your sweet tooth. What do you think about that?
 Here’s what you need to make these AWESOME chocolate chip cookies:
• 2 cups blanched almond flour (you can make your own by simply grinding raw, unroasted almonds)
• 3 tablespoons coconut flour
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 fresh free range egg
• 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (GF)
• 1/2 cup coconut oil
• 1/2 cup raw organic honey
• 3/4 cup organic, Fair Trade 85% dark chocolate chunks
• 1-2 tablespoons cocao nibs

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a mixing bowl combine your almond flour, coconut flour, sea salt, and baking soda and mix well.

In a smaller mixing bowl, combine your egg, vanilla, coconut oil and raw honey and mix well.

Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and incorporate all of the ingredients together.

Fold in your chocolate chunks and cocao nibs.

Using a tablespoon, scoop the batter onto a parchment lined cookie sheet leaving room for the cookies to spread.

Place in the oven and bake for 13-15 minutes or until your home baked chocolate chip cookies are golden brown.

Remove and place the cookies on a cooling rack.

Easy enough right? So make your list, go shopping and whip up a batch of gluten free chocolate chip cookies and then let me know what you think!

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