A Winter Favorite has Healthy Benefits
Few can say no to a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s night. “Enjoy!” say Penn State researchers. They have found that a little bit of cocoa may be a powerful diet aid in helping to control inflammation and ameliorate related diseases, including diabetes. Numerous current studies link obesity to inflammation in the body.
Cocoa, although a common ingredient of chocolate, by itself has low-calorie, low-fat and high-fiber content. The researchers fed laboratory mice the human equivalent of 10 tablespoons of cocoa powder—about four or five cups of hot cocoa—along with a high-fat diet for 10 weeks. The control group ate the same diet without the cocoa.
Lead researcher Joshua Lambert, Penn State associate professor of food science, says the study results surprised the team, which did not expect the “dramatic reduction of inflammation and fatty liver disease” associated with obesity. Although the animals lost no weight, the cocoa powder supplement reduced liver triglycerides by 32 percent and plasma insulin levels by 27 percent, indicating it might be a powerful obesity-fighting tool.
But there is a catch: Adding sugar, an inflammatory substance in itself, to healthy cocoa will likely neutralize the benefits. Try stevia as a sweetener instead; it’s been used for decades to lower blood sugar.
Online Database Identifies Safe Products
SafeMarkets.org offers a new clearinghouse of information gathered by advocates investigating toxic chemicals in food, baby products, toys, furniture, construction materials and other consumer goods. Families, municipalities, builders and businesses can use it to identify potentially harmful products and find safer alternatives.
Hosted by the Workgroup for Safe Markets (WSM), it’s a one-stop shop to provide information for consumers, retailers and manufacturers that are demanding safer products, says Beverley Thorpe, a WSM co-leader and consulting co-director for Clean Production Action.
Mia Davis, vice president of health and safety at Beautycounter, who is expecting her first child, sees it as a resource for parents to find a full complement of safe products for their families. “More than ever,” she says, “people understand how important it is to shop with companies they trust and to support businesses working to create truly safe products.”
Entertainment with Meaningful Purpose
Fun family games based on cards, trivia and charades are quintessential holiday activities. Now a new generation of games adds fresh dimensions of interest and goodwill. Online games—some are free—extend good tidings to people around the world, as well as our environment. Santa is thrilled.
Eco games galore: From determining our family’s carbon footprint to making ethical decisions as a business leader or learning how to help child populations vulnerable to pneumonia, EcoGamer.org is a gateway to enriching experiences. More than 20 entertaining websites employ informative, eco-related calculations, games and quizzes.
Assist African farmers: Heighten awareness and empathy by experiencing on a virtual basis the immense challenges of life on an African farm, including dealing with disease, drought, a lack of resources and war, at 3rdWorldFarmer.com/About.html. Free trials are available, plus links to international nonprofit organizations and relief groups.
Become a citizen scientist: At FilamentGames.com/projects/citizen-science, players travel back in time to investigate how a lake became polluted and what can be done today to protect our waterways. Developed by the National Science Foundation, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin, it illustrates business, lifestyle and social factors that can harm the environment.
Learn and feed: FreeRice.com allows players to automatically help feed hungry people with rice donations through the United Nations World Food Program. Players select from specific subjects: art, chemistry, geography, English, other languages and math. Each correct answer donates 10 grains of rice as participants watch the contents of a virtual bowl gradually fill.
Tabletop games: Bioviva (Bioviva.com), Destruct 3 (UncleSkunkleToys.com), ReThink: The Eco Design Game (PlayReThink.com), Xeko (Xeko.com) and Endango (search Amazon.com) are all new takes on the traditional pastime of board games. Some are made of recycled materials, to boot.
Shoe Insert Generates Electricity
Two Carnegie Mellon graduates, Matt Stanton and Hahna Alexander, are the founders of SolePower, a company making a shoe insert that stores the power generated by walking and running into a battery that can be instantly accessed via a USB port. Beta testing on the prototype has begun, with release expected next summer.
The insert can be paired with any shoe type and feels like a regular, cushy insole, according to Stanton. The battery attaches to the ankle or the top of the shoe, and is charged after 2.5 miles of footsteps with enough power to run an iPhone. Runners needing to power heat-producing mittens in the winter could also benefit.
Another application is emergency charging of cell phones and radios during power outages. People in developing nations likewise will have a reliable power source for mobile phones and other essential small electronics.