Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chocolate may protect the brain from stroke (and this time it's the milk variety)

By Daily Mail Reporter

Eating chocolate may reduce the long term risk of stroke, research has shown.
Men who consumed moderate amounts of chocolate each week were less likely to suffer a stroke over a period of 10 years than those who ate none.

The difference was small, but significant. Study participants who ate the most chocolate, equivalent to about one third of a cup of chocolate chips, reduced their stroke risk by 17 per cent. A total of 37,103 Swedish men aged 49 to 75 took part in the study.

Their diets were assessed with food questionnaires, which asked how often they ate chocolate. The men's progress was then followed for 10 years, during which researchers recorded 1,995 cases of a first stroke.

Previous studies have shown that chocolate may help prevent diabetes, control blood pressure, and protect against heart disease. Healthy antioxidant plant chemicals called flavonoids are thought to explain the health benefits.

Dr Susanna Larsson, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who led the latest research, reported in the journal Neurology, said: 'The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate.

'Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. It's also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.
'Interestingly, dark chocolate has previously been associated with heart health benefits, but about 90 per cent of the chocolate intake in Sweden, including what was consumed in our study, is milk chocolate.'

The men who ate the largest quantities consumed a modest 63g of chocolate per week. This is about a third of a cup-full of chocolate chips, or just a little more than a Mars bar which weighs 58 grams.

Put into context, the 17 per cent risk reduction amounted to 12 fewer strokes per 10,000 participants over 10 years, or 100,000 "person years".

The research was followed up by a larger analysis of data from five studies in Europe and the US that included 4,260 stroke cases. This showed that people eating the most chocolate were 19 per cent less likely to have a stroke than those consuming the least.
For every increase in chocolate consumption of about 50 grams per week, stroke risk decreased by about 14 per cent.

In their paper, the scientists said further studies were needed before any recommendations could be given about chocolate consumption. They added: 'Because chocolate is high in sugar, saturated fat, and calories, it should be consumed in moderation.'

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Who doesn't love chocolate? (+recipes)

Celebrating that most wonderful of decadent ingredients.
Chocolate self-saucing individual puddings. Photo / Babiche Martens

Chocolate self-saucing individual puddings. Photo / Babiche Martens

Who doesn't love chocolate? There has always been a sense of luxury connected to it. Savouring the finest chocolate should be an exceptional experience. Much knowledge and effort goes into creating such a delicious product, compared to the mass-produced offerings that often taste disappointing. Try to buy the best quality chocolate you can afford, with the highest cocoa content, knowing that the end result will be considerably richer in flavour and texture.

The recipes today - a cake, muffins and a pudding - are delightful in their simplicity. There are no tricky ingredients but all the recipes are lovely for a winter's day.

Muffins can often be uninspiring, largely because some of those sold commercially are made from instant muffin mix, but if you come across lovingly made muffins with proper ingredients - and not too big - they make for a delightful accompaniment to one's morning coffee. I've added hazelnuts to this recipe because I love the flavour when combined with chocolate. Remember to fold the batter gently until just mixed so the result is soft and not overworked.

Everyone should have a perfect chocolate cake in their repertoire. This one suits me because of the lack of flour and the inclusion of ground almonds, which makes the texture short, the flavour superior and produces a cake that can be used for dessert, with a wee glass of dessert wine or port and a dollop of softly whipped cream.

A self-saucing pudding is one of the most decadent winter dessert recipes I can think of. It is really important to use dark chocolate and dark - preferably Dutch - cocoa in this recipe so the pudding is divinely decadent. Spooning through the crusty pudding top reveals a rich sauce and when paired with soft vanilla bean icecream or runny cream, the result is fantastic.

Chef's tip

I am not a great fan of the microwave. I don't own one because apart from heating up leftovers, I don't see the reason for one. But if you do, chocolate can be melted very successfully using a gentle heat and microwaving in 30 second increments until just melted, then only a slight stir is needed. Chop the chocolate first before heating.

By Amanda Laird | Email Amanda



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen: Dark chocolate is good for your muscles

By Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen, Special to the Province

The world’s most expensive piece of chocolate, from ­Knipschildt Chocolatier, is a $250 dark-chocolate truffle with a French black truffle inside. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend big to get big muscles from dark chocolate.

Turns out that in addition to its blood-pressure-lowering, cavity-fighting, heart-loving, blues-chasing powers, a double dose (we advocate ½ ounce or less twice a day) every day of dark (not milk) chocolate revs up power ­stations called mitochondria in each and every cell in your body. That makes your muscles stronger and increases your endurance.

What is it about chocolate? It’s packed with flavonoids, a plant-based chemical that’s a pro at anti almost everything: ­antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-platelet, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and anti-Alzheimer’s.

It’s also adept at affecting cell-signalling pathways that ­regulate the growth, proliferation and death of cells.

Megasurveys show that folks who eat the most ­chocolate cut their risk for heart disease by 37 per cent, diabetes by 31 per cent and stroke by 29 per cent.

How much is enough?

Our favourite is 70 per cent cacao semi- or bittersweet. And no more than an ounce a day, or you’ll wander into the dark side of dark chocolate — too many calories and too much fat. (Make sure it takes the place of other calories, so it doesn’t add to your total).

If you want to get some of the benefits and fewer calories, even as little as a quarter ounce a day will help make your heart and other muscles stronger and head smarter.

How sweet it is!

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Love chocolate? That may be good news for your waistline


Most people trying to manage their weight don’t eat chocolate on a regular basis for fear of consuming too many calories, not to mention excess fat and sugar.

But new study findings published earlier this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggest you don’t have to ditch chocolate from your diet. According to the researchers, frequent chocolate eaters actually weigh less – not more – than people who seldom eat it.

Chocolate, in particular dark chocolate, has previously been linked to a lower blood pressure and cholesterol level. Regular chocolate consumption has also been shown to improve how the body uses insulin, the hormone that sends glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into cells where it’s used for energy.

High blood pressure and elevated blood glucose are two features of metabolic syndrome, a disorder believed to double the risk of heart attack and increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes by fivefold.

Having a large waist circumference is another part of the metabolic-syndrome picture.
For the study, researchers from the University of California in San Diego wanted to find out if the benefits of chocolate also extended to reducing body fat, offsetting its extra calories.

They obtained dietary data from 1,018 healthy men and women, average age 57. Participants were also asked how many times per week they ate chocolate. Body weight and height were measured to determine each participant’s body mass index (BMI).

BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by his height (in metres squared). BMI values from 18.5 to 24.9 are defined as normal weight and linked with a lower risk of health problems.
Adults who ate chocolate more frequently had a lower BMI than those who consumed it less often, despite eating more overall calories. In fact, BMI was one point lower among people who indulged five times a week compared to not at all. One point on the BMI scale translates to seven pounds if you’re 5 foot 10, or a five pound difference if you’re 5 foot 3.

The lower BMI of the frequent chocolate eaters was not explained by exercise nor did they appear to have a healthier diet. They didn’t exercise any more or any less than non-chocolate eaters and they didn’t eat more fruits and vegetables, one indication of a healthier diet.

Dark chocolate’s potential health effects are thought to be due to flavonoids, natural compounds in cocoa beans, which give dark chocolate its bittersweet taste. The more chocolate is processed and the less cocoa it contains, the fewer the flavonoids. Dark chocolate has a high concentration of flavonoids, milk chocolate contains fewer because it’s diluted with milk, and white chocolate contains none.

Researchers suspect that one flavonoid in chocolate called epicatechin may help explain the lower body weight finding. In animals, epicatechin has been shown to boost metabolism, increase muscle mass and reduce weight without changing calories or exercise.

In other words, these findings suggest the quality – rather than just the amount – of calories may impact body weight, an interesting concept but certainly one that has not been proven. Calories do matter when it comes to weight control.

Flavonoids do have beneficial heart effects: They inhibit blood-clot formation, help blood vessels relax, and slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (oxidized LDL cholesterol is thought to be a more dangerous form of cholesterol).

If you love chocolate, the findings from this week’s study may seem like good news. But they don’t mean you can eat as much chocolate as you want. The researcher, Dr. Beatrice Golomb, told me her analysis hinted that the more chocolate eaten at one occasion had less favourable effects on body weight.

Nor do these findings mean eating chocolate will help you lose weight. They are simply a correlation and don’t prove cause and effect.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Chocolate Wars

Let's agree to agree: chocolate is delicious, and it's also good for you. But, like all great love stories, this one has a twist: in order to reap any health benefits, the chocolate you eat should be dark, dark, dark.
Here are some Real Facts paired with some Julie Facts about dark chocolate.

- Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and helps to lower blood pressure... but only in people of a certain age who already have mild to high blood pressure. I have pretty low blood pressure, and I like to think that's because I have been eating chocolate all my life. I find that eating dark chocolate relaxes me and that's why I always have some on my person. I also like to think that I am not "of a certain age" yet.

- If you eat the recommended 100-gram, 450-calorie chocolate bar
a day, you could significantly lower your blood pressure... and/or you could gain a lot of weight. Gaining weight might make you stressed out and, therefore, elevate your blood pressure. So don't eat a whole chocolate bar every day, please, unless you are under medical supervision or unless you for some reason want to get chubby to fit back into your pregnancy jeans.

- Did you know that you cannot eat that dark chocolate with a glass of milk, because the milk actually counteracts the benefits? This is why I try to wash down my dark chocolate with a glass of red wine, thereby doubling my antioxidant intake and maximizing my chances of clean living. Not to brag, but I'm super healthy like that.

- According to a new study, "more frequent chocolate-eaters had smaller BMIs, a ratio of height and weight that's used to measure obesity." This study doesn't even mention that the chocolate has to be dark! What's next to magically improve my life? A study finding that unicorns are real?

Chocolate makers read the science section of the New York Times just like we do, and so they know that we know that dark is the way to go. Ever since hearing that the average chocolate-eating public might start buying dark, these modern-day Willy Wonkas have been hard at work perfecting the taste of high performing, high-cocoa-percentage chocolates. If you've ever paid for items at a gourmet deli or Barnes and Noble, your eye has probably passed over the point-of-purchase displays of chocolate bars that whisper, "Buy me" and "Eat me." You can even buy a chocolate bar while paying for your bras at Lord & Taylor, though I'm not sure why you'd want to. But you can! I bet you are a discriminating consumer like me, noting evidence of the artisanal chocolate bar craze, and wondering how the different brands stack up. Maybe you've even sampled a few.

If you don't mind me asking, how fierce is your chocolate bar? Can you withstand 72% pure cacao? Do you like "intense dark chocolate," as one Balducci's bar says, or "really intense dark chocolate," like another bar reads? What's next after that, I wonder... holy hell chocolate? Crazy f*&%ing strong chocolate? We-dare-you-to-eat-this-and-talk-straight-afterwards chocolate? Some of these bars are downright scary.

So, to take the fear and the sting out of the morass of options, I would like to bring you the best of the bunch, in a very unscientific taste test. I have been conducting this hard work over the past few weeks, just in time for bathing suit season.

Godiva offers 3 dark options, a 72% plain, a 72% with almonds, and a 50% with sea salt, each $5.00. I'm a sucker for sea salt, so while I was buying some books at Barnes & Noble (a store lovingly re-named Nook & Godiva by my friend, comedienne/writer Karen Bergreen) I grabbed a bar. It was super-yum. I now carry Godiva dark chocolate pearls in my handbag. (25 calories for 8 pieces!)

Vosges Haut Chocolate wishes you peace, love and chocolate with every bar and actually comes with instructions for "How to enjoy an exotic candy bar" on the back label. The steps include "breathe, see, smell, snap," and, finally, they let you "taste." Still being a sucker for salt, I went for the Black Salt Caramel Bar. This bar should come with instructions saying not to eat it while driving a car because I ended up with caramel all over my hands and on the steering wheel. Weighing in at 70% cacao, this bar did have a "glossy shine" to it, as the instructions suggest a good bar should, with a smooth and silky texture. Vosges has the most creative combinations out there. It would be fun to try a bunch of them with friends as an after-dinner treat, instead of a more traditional dessert at a dinner party or BBQ. Break apart some bars!

Balducci's makes several options that try to psyche you out with their sheer intensity. I found the 54% dark chocolate with salt a bit too salty, although the more I ate of it, the better it tasted. The "really intense" bars also come with pomegranate and raspberry flavoring. Balducci's carries about 400 kinds of chocolate bars, though, so you can go nuts... or nut-free.

There are also several of what I'd call "Feel Good, Do Good" brands out there, including Sweetriot and Prestat. Both brands are committed to fair trade, helping farmers in Latin America and West Africa. The Prestat 71% Dark Chocolate English Mint Crunch has what I'd call a "grown up" flavor that I imagine British royalty enjoy. Sweetriot's Pure 60% Dark Chocolate with Crunchy Nibs had a strong, earthy, bitter flavor that I can't honestly say I liked, but maybe you will. I had to wash that one down with some Godiva. Sweetriot also makes an 85% dark chocolate that I was too afraid to try.

My favorite dark chocolate treats are the Brookside fruit and dark chocolate pieces, which can be found at most health food markets. There are several flavors, from Gogi with Raspberry to Pomegranate and Açaí. They are all delicious and they make me feel like I am eating fruit when I am definitely not. They come in a handy re-sealable baggie for snacking on-the-go.
So... where do you stand on The Chocolate Wars?


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