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  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."
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