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Found 5 results

  1. Dean Pomerleau

    So Why Don't We Brew Our Chocolate?

    All, So (dark) chocolate and other cacao-derived products (i.e. cacao beans, nibs, cocoa powder) have a lot of beneficial phytochemicals (polyphenols, flavonols, etc). These have been shown to be beneficial for both the cardiovascular system and the brain - this is pretty well established, so I'm not including references (I know you are disappointed...). Alright - maybe one reference [2] - a review of CVD benefits of chocolate. Later... - here is another [4], on brain benefits of chocolate. But as we've discussed recently, these chocolate products have some things we'd rather avoid ingesting, including saturated fat (except for cocoa powder), and potential heavy metal contaminants, especially cadmium. What other food items have this same "take the good with the bad" quality? Two spring to mind - coffee and tea. But in these two cases, we don't take the good with the bad. We process them in such a way as to get the good without the bad. I was reminded of this today when responding to this post on the potential heavy metal contamination associated with consuming matcha green tea - where the tradition is to eat the tea leaves. By brewing green tea, and discarding the leaves, we retain the beneficial tea polyphenols but eliminate the heavy metals. Similarly, in this discussion we talked about getting the benefits of coffee beans by brewing and then filtering them, with paper (or possibly? metal) filters to eliminates the cholesterol-raising diterpenes cafestol and kahweol that the beans naturally contain, while retaining the health-promoting phytochemicals in coffee. So why don't we do the same thing for chocolate? Namely, why don't we grind, brew and filter the coffee beans to extract that beneficial polyphenols into the water, while leaving (most?) of the heavy metals and saturated fat in the solid "chocolate grounds"? Well, I can think of one possible reason we don't do this - we like the taste and mouth feel of actually eating the chocolate. But putting that (admittedly big deterrent for some) aside, is there reason to believe this strategy wouldn't work to get most of the health benefits of chocolate without the potential downsides of heavy metals and saturated fat, not to mention the extra calories? First, regarding eliminating the 'bad stuff' by brewing and filtering chocolate. For heavy metals, it would seem no different from tea or coffee. Since the heavy metals appear to remain locked in the plant matrix of the discarded solids (coffee grounds or tea leaves), I see no good reason to think it would be different with the heavy metal contaminants in cacao beans. Anyone think otherwise? Regarding the other 'bad stuff' in cacao / chocolate - the saturated fat. Its hard to find nutrition information on coffee beans (as eaten) - without any chocolate coating... CRON-O-Meter comes up empty. But I did find two references to the calories in coffee beans themselves. The first lists 100g of coffee beans as having 406kcal, 10.2g of fat, with 4.8g of it saturated. Not too far from raw cacao beans in fact. The second also listed 10g of fat per 100g of beans, with somewhat fewer calories (300kcal). Either way, these illustrate that coffee beans themselves contain a lot of fat, but as we all know, brewed coffee has virtually none. So clearly fat doesn't get extracted to the liquid as a result of brewing and filtering coffee beans, so I would expect the same for cacao beans - right? What about the other side of the equation - should we expect the 'good stuff' in chocolate to get extracted to the water when brewed and filtered, like it does for tea and coffee? Again - I don't see why not. As I understand it, based on information from [2] (a very good source of info about polyphenols in cacao, BTW) and [3] (also a good source), the taxonomy of beneficial phytochemicals (with special emphasis on those in cacao) goes something like this: All Phytochemicals All Polyphenols All Flavonoids All proanthocyanidin? All Flavanols catechins - in either monomeric or multimeric (procyanidin) forms epicatechins - in either monomeric or multimeric (procyanidin) forms ... ... See here for list ... .. Note: I'm not exactly sure about this taxonomy, especially where proanthocyanidin fits in - the literature is very confusing. But the important thing is that the main phytochemicals in cacao are catechins and epicatechins, which should be familiar to people. They are (among) the healthy phytochemicals found in green tea. So clearly if they are water-soluble in green tea, they should be water soluble in ground cacao beans as well, it would seem. So, as a result of all this, it seems logical to me that grinding, brewing and filtering cacao beans should get rid of the bad stuff (heavy metals, saturated fat, and calories) and extract the good stuff (the polyphenols) into the resulting watery brew. Note - I should have said this earlier, we aren't talking about brewing hot chocolate here - where the cocoa powder is mixed in with the liquid and consumed. We're brewing ground cacao beans, filtering (with a paper filter) to separate the liquid from the grounds, then discarding the grounds and drinking the coffee-like chocolate brew. But what to do with the beans before grinding them? In particular, should they be roasted, like coffee beans are? Perhaps to reduce bitterness, but if one wants to maximize polyphenols, it seems from [1] that grinding raw beans would be best. You won't be surprised to learn that this isn't a novel idea. In fact, there are several commercially-available products for brewing cacao as you would coffee. The two most popular are Crio Bru and Choffy (cute name!). They are both a bit more expensive than coffee, although pretty close to the price of premium coffee beans. Not surprisingly, they are both roasted, presumably to improve flavor and reduce bitterness. They recommend using a french press to brew, which I have, but I wonder if the Aeropress will work as well (Choffy's website says yes! and gives instructions). Here is a good overview from a "chocolate geek" about brewing chocolate, including a review of Crio Bru and Choffy products. It sounds very promising, and not hard to do. You can also buy ground brewing chocolate from his website as well. In the long-run if I like it and the above reasoning isn't shot down..., I'll probably grind my own raw beans or lightly roast the beans myself before grinding (I've roasted coffee beans before using an air popcorn popper - its a piece of cake). But for now, I've ordered one of the Crio Bru varieties from Amazon (Choffy was more expensive and not available via Amazon Prime). It should arrive in a couple days and I'll let you know what it is like relative to coffee. In the meantime, I'm very curious about what other people think of this idea. I can certainly imagine people balking at the diminished enjoyment of drinking coffee-like chocolate rather than eating the 'real thing' or even drinking cocoa, but I'm most interested about people's thoughts on the health angle. Also if you've ever actually tried brewed chocolate, I'd love to hear what you think! --Dean ------------ [1] Food Chem. 2015 May 1;174:256-62. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.11.019. Epub 2014 Nov 8. Flavanols, proanthocyanidins and antioxidant activity changes during cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) roasting as affected by temperature and time of processing. Ioannone F(1), Di Mattia CD(2), De Gregorio M(2), Sergi M(2), Serafini M(3), Sacchetti G(4). The effect of roasting on the content of flavanols and proanthocyanidins and on the antioxidant activity of cocoa beans was investigated. Cocoa beans were roasted at three temperatures (125, 135 and 145 °C), for different times, to reach moisture contents of about 2 g 100 g(-1). Flavanols and proanthocyanidins were determined, and the antioxidant activity was tested by total phenolic index (TPI), ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP) and total radical trapping antioxidant parameter (TRAP) methods. The rates of flavanol and total proanthocyanidin loss increased with roasting temperatures. Moisture content of the roasted beans being equal, high temperature-short time processes minimised proanthocyanidins loss. Moisture content being equal, the average roasting temperature (135 °C) determined the highest TPI and FRAP values and the highest temperature (145 °C) determined the lowest TPI values. Moisture content being equal, low temperature-long time roasting processes maximised the chain-breaking activity, as determined by the TRAP method. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. PMID: 25529678 ---------------- [2] Nutrients. 2014 Feb 21;6(2):844-80. doi: 10.3390/nu6020844. Cocoa polyphenols and inflammatory markers of cardiovascular disease. Khan N(1), Khymenets O(2), Urpí-Sardà M(3), Tulipani S(4), Garcia-Aloy M(5), Full text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942736/ Monagas M(6), Mora-Cubillos X(7), Llorach R(8), Andres-Lacueva C(9). Epidemiological studies have demonstrated the beneficial effect of plant-derived food intake in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The potential bioactivity of cocoa and its polyphenolic components in modulating cardiovascular health is now being studied worldwide and continues to grow at a rapid pace. In fact, the high polyphenol content of cocoa is of particular interest from the nutritional and pharmacological viewpoints. Cocoa polyphenols are shown to possess a range of cardiovascular-protective properties, and can play a meaningful role through modulating different inflammatory markers involved in atherosclerosis. Accumulated evidence on related anti-inflammatory effects of cocoa polyphenols is summarized in the present review. PMCID: PMC3942736 PMID: 24566441 [3] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/590371 Quoting from it: The main flavanols present in the cocoa powder are catechins and epicatechins in either monomeric or multimeric (procyanidin) forms. --------[4] http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/blog/2014/10/26/flavanols-memory-decline/ "Dietary cocoa flavanols—naturally occurring bioactives found in cocoa—reversed age-related memory decline in healthy older adults, according to a study led by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) scientists. The study, published today in the advance online issue of Nature Neuroscience, provides the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention."
  2. Dean Pomerleau

    Chilled Vegan Sweet Bean Macarons

    As most of your know, I'm not much of a cook - my regular diet is whole-food, plant-based, vegan and almost all raw. But occasionally I get a hankering for something sweet and crunchy that isn't a fruit or vegetable. By leveraging an amazing recent culinary discovery, coupled with a lot of tinkering in my basement laboratory/kitchen, I think I've finally succeeded. This recipe has got it all, as far as I'm concerned. Here are the main features it's got going for it: It is vegan. It has virtually zero calories. In its simplest form, it has only one quite healthy ingredient - but is infinitely adaptable. The "preferred embodiment" described below has only three, commonly available & healthy ingredients. Paradoxically, despite being healthy, this main ingredient is almost always discarded, even by CR folks who hate to waste food. The taste of the final product is hard to describe, but I find it to be an intriguing combination of sweet & savory. But it can go either way depending on your personal preference. It has a satisfying crunch when you bite into it, but then literally melts in your mouth. I hope that list of features has piqued your interest. Without further ado, here is the background and recipe for what I'm tentatively calling Chilled Vegan Sweet Bean Macarons. I bet you're wondering what the mystery ingredient is. It's the cooking water left over after boiling beans, or alternatively, the liquid from canned beans! I kid you not. This stuff is a culinary miracle. It's basically a near perfect vegan substitute for egg whites, particularly in recipes that call for whipping egg whites into soft or hard peaks. The chickpea variant of this cooking liquid even has a fancy haute cuisine name. It is called "Aquafaba" and it has entire websites and cookbooks devoted to using it in huge range of recipes. According to this article on Aquafaba from the May 9th, 2016 Food section of the NY Times, Aquafaba's miraculous culinary potential was discovered in 2015 by an Indiana vegan software engineer described as an "inveterate tinkerer" - a man after my own heart! But he says he got the inspiration from a french chef's cooking video using chickpea juice. See this detailed history of Aquafaba on the Aquafaba.com website if you're dying to know more about its history. The science behind this stuff, and in particular its ability to whip into hard peaks, is fascinating. Here is a brief description from the NY Times article, starting with how whipped egg whites hold their shape: The white is about 90 percent water and 10 percent protein. When whipped, those proteins unfold and bond together, trapping the air bubbles created by the whisk. This is what allows for relatively long-lived foams and, ultimately, delights like meringues, soufflés and angel food cakes. Apparently Aquafaba works similarly: How aquafaba works isn’t precisely understood. Mr. McGee said the key is its viscous mixture of protein and dissolved starch, which slows down the collapse of a foam, as well as chemicals called saponins. What a minute you might be saying, I've heard of saponins. Aren't they bad for you? Perhaps, if you're a cold-blooded animal or insect [1]. They can also give ruminants indigestion, and may (potentially) explain part of the reason legumes don't agree with some people, if you know what I mean. If you're one such person, you might want to start out slow with this recipe... But on the other hand, studies of saponins have shown they have have anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering and anticancer properties - so aquafaba has got that going for it! Saponins are found in many healthy foods including (not surprisingly) legumes, yams, oats, spinach, and quinoa in concentrations from 2-6%. In contrast, chemical analysis of aquafaba determined that it contains less than 0.03% saponins. So don't worry about it. Other analysis shows it contains zero fat and very little in the way of sugars and starch: If we add up all the carbs for the unfiltered version, we get 0.85g of total carbohydrates per 100ml of aquafaba. I haven't found analysis that quantifies the amount of protein in aquafaba, but if assume that, like chickpeas, aquafaba has 1/3rd as much protein as carbs, that puts the total carbs + protein at just over 1g/100ml (or 4kcals/100ml) of aquafaba. As you'll see, just a little of this miracle bean juice goes a long way, so its calorie contribution is quite negligible in this recipe. Guess what. After all that deep dive into chickpea aquafaba, I'm going to tell you know I haven't tried using it yet. Nope. While I do cook and eat chickpeas, what I've cooked most recently, and therefore being using for my culinary experiments, is the cooking water from black beans. As you'll see, it has all the same culinary properties as chickpea aquafaba, and I'm assuming the same nutritional properties (i.e. calorie count) as well. So when I refer to "bean water" or "aquafaba" below, assume I mean either the water from cooked or canned chickpeas or black beans, although as you'll see from the photos I used black bean water from canned beans in this recipe demo. I do plan to try using chickpea water next time I cook them, since I expect chickpea aquafaba will have a little less bean taste to it that the water from black beans. A milder flavor might be advantageous in the sweet version of this recipe. Which finally, the moment you've been waiting for - the actual recipe! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Chilled Vegan Sweet Bean Macarons Prep Time: ~25-30 minutes. Chill Time: Two hours minimum. Overnight recommended. Yield: Makes 24 1-inch macarons. Calories: Less than 0.5 kcal per macaron. About 2/3rd from the cocoa powder and 1/3rd from the aquafaba. Ingredients: Required Ingredient: ½ cup (125ml) Aquafaba - The liquid from canned or home-cooked chickpeas, black bean or other legume. Equivalent to the liquid from one standard 15-oz can of cooked beans. Optional (But Highly Recommended) Ingredients: ½ Tbsp Cocoa Powder - Other dry or liquid flavors should work too - experiment! See notes below. 1 pinch Stevia Powder - This is pure stevia powder, like this - not the stuff that comes in packets. A pinch is 1/16 tsp. Other sweeteners will work too. Pick your favorite and sweeten to taste. Note: This combination of cocoa and stevia results in a pretty chocolatey, not very sweet macaron, especially using black beans aquafaba. It is sort of like dark chocolate. I like them this way, but if you prefer a sweeter taste, adjust accordingly. Also, I've found the more extra flavoring ingredients you add, the less firm and crunchy the macarons will be in the end. Note: If you are going to try other flavors or sweeteners, here is one piece of advice. Watch out for acidic flavoring ingredients (like lemon juice) which I suspect will interfere with the foaming ability of the aquafaba. But I haven't tried it so I could be wrong. Equipment: Can opener - If using canned beans Small saucepan - For reducing the aquafaba Stove or Cooktop - For reducing the aquafaba Stand Mixer with Whisk Attachment - I highly recommend using a stand mixer (e.g. KitchenAid) rather than a hand mixer, both because the aquafaba will whip better, and your won't tire out your arm. But if all you've got is a hand mixer, that should work too I expect. Plastic Storage Bag - 1-qt or 1-gal size. For piping macarons. If you are a fancy baker and have a piping bag already, use it. Scissors - to cut corner off plastic bag to turn it into a piping bag. Large Spoon or Spatula - For scraping & scooping whipped aquafaba into piping bag. Cookie Sheet - Standard size. Non-stick. If you don't have one, or don't have room in your freezer for a full-size cookie sheet, you can use one (or two) 9x11 baking pans or equivalent. Make sure they are non-stick. If not, line the sheet/pan with a silicone baking mat, wax paper, or plastic wrap. Freezer - For chilling and hardening the final macarons. You'll need enough room in the freezer for the cookie sheet / baking pan(s). Instructions: Step 1: Pick Your Bean You need to decide what type of bean to use to make your aquafaba. Here are a few options, and considerations for each: Chickpeas - The traditional source for aquafaba. Lighter in taste and color than black beans Black Beans - Produces aquafaba with a bit more 'beany' tasting than chickpeas, and a darker color. Complements cocoa powder for a more savory macaron which I like. Other Beans - I've tried cannellini beans and they work fine too - very similar to chickpeas. I'm skeptical whether lentils would work, but I haven't tried them. Step 2: Pick Your Bean Preparation Method Aquafaba is the cooking liquid from cooked beans. Note - this isn't the soaking/rinsing liquid. There are two methods of getting aquafaba. One easy, and one more labor intensive. Here are your options: Canned Beans - By far the easiest. The liquid packed in one 15-oz can of cooked beans is exactly the right amount for this recipe. But for those concerned with excess sodium, watch out for it on the label. Most canned beans have a lot of added sodium, and much of it stays with the liquid in the can. The other possible downside is Bisphenol-A (BPA) exposure from lining of the can, which tends to leach into both the beans, and the liquid. Home-cooked Beans - I personally cook my own dry beans in big batches, and have always thrown out the cooking water, despite it appears to contain many of the brightly (or darkly) colored phytochemicals that have leached out of the beans. That was part of the motivation for developing this recipe in the first place. I cook my own dry beans largely to reduce the sodium and the cost of the legumes I eat. But for many people rinsing, soaking and then cooking beans from scratch is too big a hassle. If you do cook your own, you can generate a lot of aquafaba by saving the cooking liquid, and make this recipe several times over. The extra aquafaba stores well in the fridge for a week and pretty much indefinitely in the freezer. Homemade aquafaba has a lot less sodium than aquafaba from canned beans. Plus there is no concern about BPA with home-cooked beans. If you are using canned beans, continue to Step 3a. If you're cooking your beans yourself, jump to Step 3b. Step 3a: Make the Aquafaba - Canned Bean Version It's really pretty trivial to get aquafaba from canned beans, especially if you're using beans like chickpeas or cannellini beans, where the liquid is easy to pour off. Simply use a can opener to open the can most of the way, but don't go all the way around to completely remove the lid. With the lid still attached and over the beans, pour the liquid into a small saucepan, straining out the beans so they remain in the can. Save the beans for use in another recipe. They freeze well so don't worry about using them right away. I find that black beans have a much thicker liquid that clings to the beans, so the above "pour it off" method that works for chickpeas isn't enough to get all the aquafaba out of the can of black beans. So here is what you do. Once you've poured off the liquid that will come out easily using the above technique, simply pry open the lid and add about ½ cup (about ¼ of the can) of water to the can, which still contains the beans and the stubborn aquafaba. Bend the lid back down to cover the beans, and then put your hand over the lid to keep the liquid from escaping while you shake it vigorously to rinse the aquafaba off the beans. Pour this additional aquafaba into the saucepan with the rest. If you bother to measure it (I usually don't), a single 15-oz can of cooked beans should yield about a cup (240 ml) of aquafaba using the methods described above. Don't worry though, it doesn't have to be exact. Because next you're going to reduce the aquafaba on the stovetop to get the right amount and consistency. You're ready now to jump ahead directly to Step 4, skipping Step 3b. Step 3b: Make the Aquafaba - Home-cooked Bean Version Rinse and soak your dried beans using your regular protocol. Put them in the pot and cover them with twice as much water (by volume) as beans. Cook in your usual way until beans are tender (20-60 minutes depending on the bean). But rather than pouring the cooking liquid down the drain, pour it into an airtight container. It will keep for at least a week in the fridge and many months in the freezer. When you are ready to make this recipe, measure out 8oz (240 ml) of the cooking liquid and pour it into a small saucepan. It can be warm, room temperature, or refrigerator temp - it doesn't matter. Step 4: Reduce the Aquafaba Put the saucepan on a stove or cooktop. Turn on the heat to medium until the aquafaba starts to boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. It should look like this while it's simmering: Leave it simmering for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent a 'skin' from forming on the surface. It should reduce down from an original 8 oz (240ml) to about half that, around 4 oz (120 ml). This step may not be entirely necessary, but I've found thicker, more viscous aquafaba makes for good final texture in the macarons. The reduced aquafaba should have the viscosity of heavy cream or half-n-half at this point. Remove from stovetop and go on to Step 5. Step 5: Whip the Aquafaba Now comes the fun part, where the aquafaba gets to do it's thing. First pour the reduced aquafaba from the saucepan into the bowl of your mixer: Starting on low to avoid splatter, slowly ramp up the speed of your mixer until it's maxed out. Let is whip on high for a couple minutes until it starts to thicken. Then pour in the cocoa powder and the sweetener: Starting on low again, ramp mixer back up to high making sure dry ingredients incorporate completely. Scrape sides of mixing bowl if necessary to incorporate. Continue mixing on high for 3-4 more minutes, or until 'stiff peaks' form in the whipped aquafaba. It should be the consistency of thick whip cream or ganache, and look something like this: Yum! In fact, you can stop right here and eat the aquafaba cream - at this stage it is a very tasty pudding! In fact, I encourage you to try a taste of it now to make sure the amount of cocoa powder and sweetener is the way you like it. If you need to make adjustments by adding more flavoring or sweetener, simply mix on high for a minute or two more to make sure your additions gets evenly incorporated. Don't worry about over whipping your aquafaba. Unlike egg whites, this stuff can be whipped all day and still maintain at stiff peaks. Step 6: Pipe the Cream to Form Macarons If you are going to use a plastic bag for piping, use a pair of scissors to cut about ½ " off one of the lower corners of the plastic storage bag: Now use a large spoon or spatula to scrape and scoop the aquafaba cream into the open end of the piping bag, like so: Seal the piping bag and gentle squeeze it to extrude approximate 24 1-inch turds dollops of the aquafaba cream onto the non-stick or lined cookie sheet / baking pan, like so: Here is what the cookie sheet should look like when you are done, depending on whether you are neat (top) or not (bot). These were two different batches. They had slightly different amounts of cocoa - hence the difference in color: Step 7: Chill The Macarons Slide the cookie sheet or baking tray(s) into the freezer. Leave them there to harden for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Then use a spatula to gently slide them off the sheet/tray. Store them in an airtight container in the freezer. Step 8: Enjoy! When you're ready to eat them, remove them from the freeze and enjoy! But do it quickly. They melt fast at room temperature, so you'll want to eat them while their are still frozen and have a nice crunch to them. Here is what the final product looks like, whole and with a bite taken out! I really like the way these taste and the mouthfeel. They are like chilled versions of the top and bottom shells of real macarons1. They crunch when you bite them and then quickly melt in your mouth. Even my wife, who has a discerning palate and usually hates what I eat, thought these were pretty good, and really liked the mouthfeel too. That's high praise from her! And at less than ½ kcal per macaron, they aren't going to break your calorie budget! ------------------ 1On the issue of whether these are real macarons. I will acknowledge for the serious chefs / bakers out there, that these are not complete macarons, which usually have two wafers like these with sweet ganache sandwiched between them. That's one difference. Another is that real macaroons are stable at room temperature☺. You could make these more like real macarons by reserving some of the whipped aquafaba, flavoring it differently, and keeping it in cream form rather than freezing. You could then spread it between two of these frozen wafers to make a little sandwich. But that seems like too much trouble, and the combination is going to melt pretty fast anyway, spoiling the effect. It might be worth a try though. Also, if you are interested in real macarons, there are plenty of recipes out there using aquafaba instead of egg whites. Like these or these - which look a whole lot fancier and authentic than this recipe. But most of them (including those two) have lots of sugar, almond or white flour and other ingredients that many obsessively healthy folks try to steer clear of. @ Copyright: 2016 Dean Pomerleau - All rights reserved. Please share this recipe with others but please include this copyright & attribution notice. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I really hope people will give this recipe a try, both in its original form described above, and with alternative flavorings and sweeteners. I'll be very curious to see and try for myself what other combinations people discover. Please post about your results trying this recipe below. Also, if you've got suggestions for a better name, I'm all ears. Bon Appétit! --Dean -------- [1] Tava A, Odoardi M Saponins from Medicago ssp.: chemical characterization and biological activity against insects In: Saponins used in Food and Agriculture. Waller GR, Yamasaki K (eds.), Advances in experimental medicine and biology, Vol. 405, 97-109 [2] Cheeke PR Biological effects of feed and forage saponins and their impacts on animal production Saponins used in Food and Agriculture. Waller GR, Yamasaki K (eds.), Advances in experimental medicine and biology, Vol. 405, 377-385
  3. I expect by now we've all heard the news that beets and beet juice boost cardiovascular performance. I love beets, but for those who don't it appears you now have another, more palatable option - dark chocolate! This recent study [1] (popular press story) found in a randomized crossover design that daily consumption of dark chocolate (40g Dove Dark Chocolate, 50-60% cacao) for two weeks, but not the equivalent calories of white 'chocolate' <sic> (0% cacao), resulted in a 6% increase in VO2max relative to baseline in nine trained cyclists. These cyclists were able to cover 17 percent greater distance on average in a two minute maximum effort time trial relative to controls, but the effect wasn't statistically significant due to small sample size. It looks like the mechanism involved might be the same as beets - namely that the epicatechins in cacao increases nitric oxide levels in the blood, and boosting cardiovascular performance. --Dean ------------- [1] J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Dec 15;12:47. doi: 10.1186/s12970-015-0106-7. eCollection 2015. Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling. Patel RK(1), Brouner J(1), Spendiff O(1). Free full text: http://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-015-0106-7 BACKGROUND: Dark chocolate (DC) is abundant in flavanols which have been reported to increase the bioavailability and bioactivity of nitric oxide (NO). Increasing NO bioavailability has often demonstrated reduced oxygen cost and performance enhancement during submaximal exercise. METHODS: Nine moderately-trained male participants volunteered to undertake baseline (BL) measurements that comprised a cycle V̇O(2max) test followed by cycling at 80% of their established gas exchange threshold (GET) for 20-min and then immediately followed by a two-minute time-trial (TT). Using a randomised crossover design participants performed two further trials, two weeks apart, with either 40 g of DC or white chocolate (WC) being consumed daily. Oxygen consumption, RER, heart rate and blood lactate (BLa) were measured during each trial. RESULTS: DC consumption increased GET and TT performance compared to both BL and WC (P < 0.05). DC consumption increased V̇O(2max) by 6% compared to BL (P < 0.05), but did not reach statistical significance compared to WC. There were no differences in the moderate-intensity cycling for V̇O₂, RER, BLa and heart rate between conditions, although, V̇O₂ and RER exhibited consistently lower trends following DC consumption compared to BL and WC, these did not reach statistical significance. CONCLUSION: Chronic supplementation with DC resulted in a higher GET and enhanced TT performance. Consequently, ingestion of DC reduced the oxygen cost of moderate intensity exercise and may be an effective ergogenic aid for short-duration moderate intensity exercise. PMCID: PMC4678700 PMID: 26674253
  4. All, It's pretty much unimaginable that anyone reading this would not by now have heard about the cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate, both in terms of preventing cardiovascular disease and even improving cardiovascular (athletic) performance. And you've probably heard the news that chocolate is good for brain health & cognition as well. Nevertheless, this new study [1], posted by Al, is noteworthy for several reasons. In it, researchers followed 530 elderly people over four years to see how their dietary habits, particularly wrt chocolate consumption, correlated with cognitive decline. The first surprising thing was the magnitude of the benefits of chocolate on cognitive health. Even after controlling for a host of potentially confounding risk factors, they found that chocolate consumption was associated with a whopping 40% reduction in likelihood of cognitive decline over the four year period. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that this benefit was only seen in participants who eschewed caffeine. In fact, if limited to folks who consumed less than 75mg of caffeine a day (~1 cup of coffee), the cognitive protection associated with chocolate was even greater - a 50% lower risk of cognitive decline. They don't report it explicitly in the abstract (full text not available), but presumably caffeine drinkers did not see a significant cognitive benefit (nor harm!) from also consuming chocolate. This suggests the cognitive benefits of chocolate overlap and are hence redundant with (and not additive with) the beneficial effects of coffee/tea polyphenols and/or the caffeine they contain. Nevertheless, I'm going to continue consuming both cacao and caffeine products, because this is only one study, and heck, I enjoy them both ☺. --Dean --------- [1] J Alzheimers Dis. 2016 May 6. [Epub ahead of print] Chocolate Consumption is Associated with a Lower Risk of Cognitive Decline. Moreira A, Di?genes MJ, de Mendon?a A, Lunet N, Barros H. Abstract Cocoa-related products like chocolate have taken an important place in our food habits and culture. In this work, we aim to examine the relationship between chocolate consumption and cognitive decline in an elderly cognitively healthy population. In the present longitudinal prospective study, a cohort of 531 participants aged 65 and over with normal Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE; median 28) was selected. The median follow-up was 48 months. Dietary habits were evaluated at baseline. The MMSE was used to assess global cognitive function at baseline and at follow-up. Cognitive decline was defined by a decrease =/> 2 points in the MMSE score between evaluations. Relative risk (RR) and 95% confidence interval (95% CI) estimates were adjusted for age, education, smoking, alcohol drinking, body mass index, hypertension, and diabetes. Chocolate intake was associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline (RR = 0.59, 95% CI 0.38-0.92). This protective effect was observed only among subjects with an average daily consumption of caffeine lower than 75 mg (69% of the participants; RR = 0.50, 95% CI 0.31-0.82). To our knowledge, this is the first prospective cohort study to show an inverse association between regular long-term chocolate consumption and cognitive decline in humans. KEYWORDS: Adenosine A2A receptors; Alzheimer?s disease; chocolate; cognition; prevention; theobromine PMID: 27163823
  5. In this post to a thread about nuts and mortality, I pointed out that the fatty acid profile in 'bakers chocolate' contains a significant amount of the (probably) harmful 16:0 (palmitic acid) saturated fatty acid than any of usual nuts/seeds that we normally consume, and in fact more than cheese. That got me started on an investigation on the composition, and potential health implications of various chocolate products. As everyone probably knows, the family of different chocolate products is extensive, and the processing that creates them is quite involved. Here is a handy flowchart showing the various steps and products in the chocolate processing pipeline: As you can see, the first step is the pods from the cacao plant are split open to separate the cacao beans, which are allowed to dry and ferment for a few days. These beans are the first edible form of chocolate, and are in fact how I get a significant amount of the chocolate I eat, purchased as 'raw' cacao beans from Nuts.com. Continuing with processing, these beans are split open to remove the 'nibs' and discard the shells, which are edible but mostly fiber (although see below!?) and so don't add much to what we consider the 'chocolaty goodness' - although I rather enjoy the crunchiness of the whole beans sometimes, in moderation of course . The nibs are then ground into what is called chocolate liquor, which is further separated into the fat-free cocoa powder (where most of the healthy polyphenols etc reside) and the cocoa fats called cocoa butter. This cocoa powder and cocoa butter are then mixed back together, along with various other ingredients, and tempered to form the wide variety of chocolate products that we know and love.We can make a list of the various, commonly consumed chocolate-containing products and their ingredients as follows: Cacao Beans = (unprocessed) cocoa powder + (unprocessed) cocoa butter + fiber Cacao Nibs = (roasted) cocoa powder + (roasted) cocoa butter Cocoa Powder = (unsurprisingly) cocoa powder Unsweetened bakers chocolate = (nearly) 100% cocoa powder + cocoa butter Dark Chocolate (70-85% cacao) = 70-85% from cocoa (powder and butter) + 15-30% from other stuff, mostly added sugar. Dark Chocolate (60-69% cacao) = 60-69% from cocoa (powder and butter) + 30-40% from other stuff, mostly added sugar. Milk Chocolate = Dark Chocolate Ingredients + milk or other dairy products With these seven forms of chocolate in mind, I became curious above the relative nutrient profiles of each. So I decided to try to build a scaled-down table like Zeta's table of nut nutrition, discussed in several threads, but the latest version of which (as of 11/7/2015) is available in this post. In fact, rather than reinventing the wheel, I figured I try to add these six additional items to Zeta's latest nut nutrition table (he already has included baker's chocolate). I realized I can't attach XLS files to posts, so I've emailed Zeta the updated table in case he wants to keep the chocolate items in it. But for the purpose of this post (comparing chocolate products) here is a stripped down, rearranged, slightly augmented version with only the chocolates, and only for the fields I was able to dig up and willing to enter (click to enlarge): First, the easy observation. If you are going to eat chocolate in bar form, the four bar options at the bottom show you're getting more chocolate (likely a mixed blessing since it includes the saturated fats) and less added sugar the darker the chocolate you eat. Not surprisingly, as you can see from the two green arrows, fat content drops, and sugar content increases, as you go down in cacao content. The manufacturers are basically substituting sugar (and other ingredients) for real chocolate components as you move away from the darkest form (unsweetened baking chocolate). So, ignoring the (controversial) saturated fat, from a health perspective its probably "the darker the chocolate the better". This web page has good information about the details of dark chocolate, for those interested in learning more about what "cocoa %" really means. Next, another easy observation. If you want to avoid the saturated fats in chocolate, but still get the healthy polyphenols etc, your best choice is to eat your chocolate in cocoa powder form. Without the fat, it is a lot less calorie dense, and has a lot more fiber than the various chocolates in bar form. Obviously palatability is an issue, but I find mixing it into coffee, perhaps with a little sweetener (I prefer erythritol or pure stevia), makes it quite pleasant. See the bottom of this post for other suggestions in this regard. Now the complicated bit. I was disappointed with the nutrition information I could find on the two least processed forms of chocolate - raw cacao beans and cacao nibs. If fact, I'm skeptical about the nutrition information for these two listed in the table above, especially for the beans. But let me first address the nibs. I expected the nibs to be pretty nearly equivalent to unsweetened baking chocolate in composition, and therefore nutrient content, believing baking chocolate to be (more or less) the melted down nibs formed into bars/squares. But at least if the available nutrition information is to be believed, this isn't the case. Somewhere between nibs and unsweetened baking chocolate, quite a bit of fiber is removed, and (perhaps) replaced by cocoa butter. As you can see from the kcal/g comparison of the two, the baking chocolate is significantly more calorie-dense than the nibs. So, if you're looking to get the good stuff from chocolate, while retaining the "mouth feel" of the fat chocolate normally contains, I'd say its better to go with the nibs rather than baking chocolate. With the nibs, you get more chocolatey-bang for your calorie-buck, and they are less refined than baking chocolate, which is probably a good thing. Finally, my personal favorite, the least refined of all, the raw cacao beans. As I said, I was disappointed with the dearth of nutrition information, and the conflicting information that is available. There is definitely something fishy, which you can see if you compare the beans with the nibs in the table above. The biggest red flag can be seen in the kcal/g comparison. According to the available nutrition information, the beans are more calorie-dense than the nibs. I'm virtually certain this isn't the case. First off, as you can see the nibs are where all the fat is - with the beans containing about half the total fat per 250kcal as the nibs. How can the beans be more calorie dense when they contain half the amount of the densest macronutrient? Something strange is going on. The second red flag with the bean data is that the fiber content per 250kcal is virtually identical between the beans and the nibs (17.9g vs. 17.3g). This seems crazy, since the difference between the dried beans and the nibs is that the beans contains both the nibs and the shells, and the shells have got to be relatively high in fiber. Finally, and most mysteriously, the nutrition data for the beans seems to be missing a whole lot of calories. If we use the (admittedly somewhat naive and inaccurate) Atwater equations for converting from grams of fat, net carbohydrates (i.e. total carbs - fiber) and protein to calories (i.e. calories = 9 * fat + 4 * net_carbs + 4 * protein) we get (9 * 12.5) + (4 * (25 - 17.9)) + (4 * 7.1) = 169.3 kcal. But according to the nutrition database, we're supposed to be looking at a 250kcal portion! So that's 1/3rd of the calories missing. Even if we give a calorie or two per gram for the fiber, there is still quite a few calories missing from the available nutrition data. In contrast, if we apply the basic Atwater equation to the nibs, we get 246.3 kcal for what is supposed to be a 250kcal portion size - i.e. almost perfect, even without adding any extra calories from fiber. So what I started out this investigation most interested in discovering, namely how the nutrition of raw cacao beans compares to other forms of chocolate, ends up being left pretty much unanswered. I'm going to continue to consume a mixture of (ground) cacao beans and cocoa powder (with more cocoa powder than beans) in my coffee, to get both the pleasure and the health benefits of chocolate. Speaking of health benefits, for anyone who's gotten this far, Dr. Greger just sent a good write-up on the cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate, with links his own recipes / strategies for getting the health benefits of chocolate without the saturated fat. --Dean
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