Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

In Trivial Pursuit Of Chocolate

Friday, September 2nd, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

In writing my new book, Choclatique (Running Press, 2011), a lot of exploration went into searching out the facts and myths, past and present, about everything chocolate. I traveled to over one hundred, thirty countries to uncover all of the hidden secrets about chocolate. Since I was limited to only three hundred pages a lot of good research went on to the editor’s floor. That’s the great part about writing a weekly blog and doing a FoodCast on A Million Cooks, nothing ever goes to waste.

I always choose the chocolate category when playing Trivial Pursuit and I always win. So here’s a chance to improve your Chocolate IQ. Let me share with you the little know and uncelebrated facts that will make you a winner, too.

  • Chocolate is a psychoactive food. If it wasn’t an ancient food, it would probably be regulated or rationed by the US FDA.
  • Chocolate is made from the seeds of the tropical cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. The cacao tree was named by the 17th century Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus. The Greek term theobroma means literally “food of the gods.” Chocolate has also been called the food of the devil; but the theological basis of this claim is obscure unless you’re addicted to Devil’s Food Cake.
  • Cacao beans were used by the ancient Aztecs to prepare a hot, frothy beverage with stimulant and restorative properties. Chocolate itself was reserved for warriors, nobility and priests. The Aztecs esteemed its reputed ability to confer wisdom and vitality. Taken fermented as a drink, chocolate was also used in religious ceremonies. The sacred concoction was associated with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. Emperor Montezuma allegedly drank fifty goblets a day.
  • Aztec taxation was levied in cacao beans. One hundred cacao beans could buy a slave. Twelve cacao beans bought the services of courtesan. I wish I could pay my taxes and bills. If our economy doesn’t improve quickly I may have to in Choclatique Chocolate Ingots.
  • The celebrated Italian libertine Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) took chocolate before bedding his conquests on account of chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac. Who needs Viagra when there’s Choclatique Chocolate?
  • More recently, a study of eight thousand male Harvard graduates showed that chocoholics lived longer than abstainers. Their longevity may be explained by the high polyphenol levels in chocolate. Polyphenols reduce the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins and thereby protect against heart disease. Such theories are still somewhat speculative, but it’s still a good excuse to eat Choclatique Chocolate.
  • Placebo-controlled test trials suggest chocolate consumption may subtly enhance cognitive performance. As reported by Dr Bryan Raudenbush (2006), scores for verbal and visual memory are raised by eating chocolate. Impulse-control and reaction-time are also improved. Send an old person Choclatique Chocolate today… right now… what are you waiting for? Don’t tell me you forgot.
  • A “symposium” at the 2007 American Association for the Advancement of Science—hyped as a potentially “mind-altering experience”—presented evidence that chocolate consumption can be good for the brain. Experiments with chocolate-fed mice suggest that flavanol-rich cocoa stimulates neurovascular activity, enhancing memory and alertness. I think chocolate should be on the Medicare formulary list.
  • Coincidentally or otherwise, many of the world’s oldest super centenarians, e.g. Jeanne Calment (1875-1997) and Sarah Knauss (1880-1999), were passionately fond of chocolate. Jeanne Calment habitually ate two pounds of chocolate per week until her physician induced her to give up sweets at the age of 119 – three years before her death aged 122. Life-extensionists are best advised to eat dark chocolate like Choclatique Q-91 rather than the kinds of calorie-rich confectionery popular in the US.
  • In the UK, chocolate bars laced with cannabis are popular with many victims of multiple sclerosis. This treatment of psychoactive confectionery remains unlicensed. Yeah man, what the hell, it’s cool in California… anything goes.
  • Chocolate as we know it today dates to the inspired addition of triglyceride cocoa butter by Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in 1879. The advantage of a butter is that its addition to chocolate sets a bar so that it will readily snap and then melt on the tongue. Cocoa butter begins to soften at around 75º F; it melts at around 97º F. I wonder if anyone ever tried to inject it.
  • Today, chocolates of every description are legal, unscheduled and readily available over the counter. Don’t tell Congress they’ll screw this up, too.
  • Some 50% of women reportedly claim to prefer chocolate to sex, though this response may depend on the attributes of the interviewer. Oh, that explains it all.
  • In 2007, a UK study suggested that eating dark chocolate was more rewarding than passionate kissing. More research is needed to replicate this result. I’m waiting, Ladies. I’m still waiting.
  • More than 300 different constituent compounds in chocolate have been identified. Chocolate clearly delivers far more than a brief sugar high. Yet it’s cocktail of psychochemical effects in the central nervous system are poorly understood.

So how does it work? That is the subject of next week exciting Choclatique blog.

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I Love The Smell Of Chocolate In The Morning

Friday, August 12th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Do you want to feel better? Just a whiff of chocolate can do it.

Just before you ripped the wrapper off your chocolate bar yesterday, did you take a moment to have a good sniff of the unwrapped bar?

While just eating chocolate is enough to put most of us in a good frame of mind and now latest research suggests “odor du chocolat” – just the smell of it – can improve your mood.

This happy news comes from the Human Olfaction Laboratory at Middlesex University, where Neil Martin, a reader in psychology, investigates the effects of room smells on human behavior. In his laboratory, Martin has a square box called an AromaCube, which heats up “odorants” and percolates the smell around the room. That is where Chocolate smells like a “great tasting” theory.

From that box, Martin discovered the power of chocolate in an experiment where he filled rooms with three smells, one of chocolate, a “malodor” of machine oil, which most people find unpleasant, and a lemony, pleasant-but-alerting odor, then monitored testers’ moods.

The aim was to compare the effects of pleasant and unpleasant ambient odors on stress, anxiety, depression and mood. The results proved that that the smell of chocolate really does make people less stressed and anxious, and more relaxed.

Chocoholics will also be pleased to hear about some of Martin’s earlier research. In another study he looked at the effect of chocolate on brain activity. People were presented with a range of smells, some artificial food odors and some real food odors, with both samples including chocolate. He used electroencephalography technology to record his participants’ brain waves as they sniffed the air, and found that in both experiments, the chocolate smell consistently led to a reduction in a particular type of brain activity called theta, which is thought to be an index of attentiveness. Theta levels dropped significantly across both indexes when testees smelled chocolate.

The experiment also shows there is no need for chocolate snobbery. We all know connoisseurs say posh chocolate, with a higher cocoa content, is better for your health, and it might be in some ways, but when it comes to the aroma of chocolate and its resultant relaxing effect, it was found it was the same however much milk the bar contained.

But some of his other scent findings provide more significant practical effects. It seems that scent can affect employment. One study found that a combination of perfume and formal dress worn by an applicant led interviewers to rate them as less warm, more manipulative and less presentable. The study also showed people perform less well on cognitive tasks and report more symptoms of ill health when smelling a “bad” smell.

As a result, people should be aware of their “olfactory environment” to control their feelings. People can use scents to improve alertness, well-being and reduce anxiety. “For example, another study showed that women in a dentist’s waiting room scented with orange reported less anxiety than those in an unscented counterpart.

In another experiment, PlayStations were loaded with a car rally game to test the effect of a lemon smell on driving ability. Men and women were invited to play the game on three different levels and in three different environments, one in an odorless room, one smelling of lemon, and one of machine oil.

The results showed that participants were consistently able to brake more safely and appropriately in the presence of the lemon scent. It’s perhaps because the smell is citrusy and alerting, and suggests that dangling a lemon-scented air freshener in the car could make you a better driver.

The psychology of aromas is like a Rubik’s cube—hard to pin down and more difficult to describe. The problem is science doesn’t really understand smells yet. We have vague terms for them, and say things like “it smells like this or that,” but we don’t have chemical terms for most odors.

One thing is certain, however. The effects of most smells tend to be short-lived. With the exception of chocolate, we get used to odors very quickly and after a while the odor disappears because we become habituated to it.

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Now They’re Gunning for Tony the Tiger

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Tony the TigerIn my April 28th blog, Colorless Food—It’s Enough To Make You Blanch, I discussed the meddling members of the government (Republican and Democrat) who can’t resist sticking their big fat noses into areas they know nothing about. It’s insanity how they just can’t resist tinkering with our foods when they should be coming up with a balanced budget. These Dopes de Cuisine now have their sights set on none other than Tony the Tiger, the M&M Boys, the Girl Scouts of America, and the corner lot baseball team.

The government’s Food Gestapo is now staging an all out war on marketing to kids. Tony the Tiger, some NASCAR drivers and cookie-selling Girl Scouts may soon be out of jobs unless food manufacturers begin to reinvent their products to satisfy this administration’s food police. The word is out say several federal regulatory agencies; either retool your recipes to contain lower levels of sugar, sodium and fats, or no more advertising and marketing to children or teenagers.

It’s not just the usual suspected foods that are being targeted, such as Thin Mint cookies sold by scouts or M&Ms and Snickers, which sponsor cars in the Sprint Cup, but pretty much everything on the menu.

Although the intent of the guidelines is to combat childhood obesity—a laudable goal—foods that are low in calories and fat and that some consider healthy foods are also targets, including hot breakfast cereals such as oatmeal, pretzels, popcorn, nuts, yogurt, wheat bread, bagels, diet drinks, fruit juice, tea, bottled water and even milk.

Both Consumers and food industries’ executives are in an uproar over the joint proposal written by the Federal Trade Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The most disturbing aspect of this interagency working group is that after it imposes multibillions of dollars in restrictions and “suggested” changes on our foods, there is no evidence there will be any positive impact on the scourge of childhood obesity. The more you tell children they can’t have something, the more they want it. It’s kind of like this… what happens when I tell you not to think of the color red. What is the first color you think of?

The Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children, Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulation Efforts says it is voluntary, but industry officials say the intent is clear: Do it, or else.

Unemployment isn’t high enough? It’s not just the food industry that will be impacted. Television shows that depend on the advertising revenue will be affected, critics of the proposal say—at a cost of $5.8 trillion in marketing expenditures that support up to 20 million American jobs.

Here again the “rule” of unintended consequences is rearing its ugly head. This is the culinary corollary to “Are we spending too much or taxing too little?” — “Are we eating too much or exercising too little?” Mom was right, “Everything in moderation.”

If the food is not reformulated, no more ads or promotions on TV or radio, in print, on websites, or other digital advertising such as e-mail and text messaging, packaging, and point-of-purchase displays and other in-store marketing tools; product placement in movies, videos, video games, contests, sweepstakes, character licensing and toy branding; sponsorship of events including sport teams and individual athletes; and, philanthropic activity tied to branding opportunities will be affected. That also includes softball teams that are sponsored by food companies and school reading programs sponsored by restaurants.

The sad part is many of the foods targeted in the proposal are the same foods approved by the federal government for the WIC nutrition program for women, infants and children.

Chocolate is an indulgent treat. It has a certain amount of fat and sugar which gives chocolate its distinctive flavor and texture. While at Choclatique we use natural ingredients, if we were to remove the pure cane sugar grown in Hawaii and the cocoa butter processed in California, you might as well suck on a bitter chocolate stone.

These are decisions that parents should be making for their own kids. These should not be government decisions. Now I ask you, does this make any sense at all?

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The Appeal of ‘Healthier’ Sweets

Friday, June 10th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

You don’t have to convince a kid to eat a piece of candy. But to help grown-ups justify indulging in a chocolate bar or a handful of jellybeans, candy companies are touting new health benefits of their products. Though health benefits are not the direct reason for consumers to grab up the sweet stuff, it is an added incentive.

At Choclatique, we know that consumers buy candy primarily for the taste, but it does factor in that consumers are more focused on their diets these days and are trying to eat more healthfully. We think it’s more than just an added benefit.

One of the best-known healthful treats is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate makers were among the first to educate consumers on the ‘better for you’ positioning, especially promoting the antioxidant content. But more recently, candy companies offering assorted fruit flavors have been getting in on the health trend as well.

We’ve known for a long time that consumers read labels and look for confections with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors which are the basis for Choclatique products. They’re also interested in candy made without high-fructose corn syrup—using pure cane sugar instead. Now, we are finding many snack and candy companies are promoting products with additional antioxidants. Pomegranate and other fruits big on health benefits have become a popular addition to many candies. Some of the newest flavors of licorice include blueberry and pomegranate made from real juice. Chocolate manufacturers, while still marketing their dark chocolate for its health benefits, have also moved on to chocolate low in sugar or completely sugar-free and the blending of fruits high in antioxidants such as strawberry, orange, blueberry, cherry and pomegranate.

Pure Power BarsAt Choclatique, we make the Pure Power energy bar. Made with US-grown peanuts, peanut flour, cherries and blueberries, this healthy snack packs over 9 grams of pure protein and is high in antioxidants. Footed with a low sugar chocolate platform, all of the ingredients are commonly found in your own pantry. One great additional benefit is that Pure Power is also Gluten-free.

For some, price is a strong factor with consumers willing to choose a cheaper, less healthy product rather than pay a little more for something more healthful. But now, some health concerns are carrying over to the general public and consumers starting to understand that a piece of chocolate can be more than just a satiating snack. Market research shows that while healthier candies were once only reaching a niche audience… that audience is growing. There are groups, such as baby boomers and young families that are more inclined to look for health benefits than just price alone.

Elephant ChocolatesAt Choclatique, we feature Elephant Chocolate, Q-91 and Private Reserve Dark that are lower in sugar and higher in many of the healthful benefits than milk or white chocolate. We offer the appeal and benefits to a more health conscious consumer with functional chocolates while still maintaining tasteful indulgence.

If you have a passion or even an addiction to the brown stuff, let’s talk… you can look me up on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

Another Shameless Plug: I want to introduce you to my new book, Choclatique. It’s the perfect gift for brides, grooms, grandchildren’s birthday, anniversaries… actually Choclatique, both the book and the chocolate, are perfect for just about any occasion. Signed copies will be available after October 1st.

Choclatique is the first interactive cookbook. It is sprinkled with ChefSecrets which are highlighted with a QR Code. When you scan the QR Code with your smartphone, it directs you to a video where I demonstrate the “secret” technique. You can also purchase a chocolate tasting kit to compliment the book. Pretty cool!

CHOCLATIQUE by Ed Engoron ––––––––––––––– Full-Color Throughout 256 pages • 8 x 10 $27.00 /$31.50 CAN /£14.99 UK ISBN 978-0-7624-3964-5 • hc Available on the Choclatique Website and Book Stores, September, 2011

Full-Color Throughout 256 pages • 8 x 10 $27.00 /$31.50 CAN /£14.99 UK ISBN 978-0-7624-3964-5 • hc Available on the Choclatique Website and Book Stores, September, 2011

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Candy Is Dandy

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

There is finally scientific research that says it’s all right to have a little candy and chocolate in your diet.

While it may be hard to believe candy eaters tend to weigh less; have a lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumferences; and have decreased levels of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, according to a new study published in Nutrition Research.

“Candy is a unique treat that can provide moments of joy and happiness,” says Alison Bodor, senior vice president of public policy and advocacy for the National Confectioners Association. “Consumers should feel confident that candy, consumed in moderation within a diet balanced with regular physical activity, can be part of a healthy, happy lifestyle.” Isn’t that what mom always taught us?

The study showed that while candy contributes modestly to caloric intake when it is consumed, there was no association of total candy intake to increased weight/BMI — suggesting that over time, consumers were able to balance longer-term caloric intake.

It also found that diet quality was not affected by total candy or chocolate candy consumption when consumed within energy limits; chocolate candy was associated with a 15% reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and candy eaters had a 14% decreased risk of elevated diastolic blood pressure and lower C-reactive protein level than non-candy eaters.

However, I still believe in the old adage that mothers have been telling us for years, “All things in moderation.”

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Colorless Food—It’s Enough To Make You Blanch…Boring!

Thursday, April 28th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

I don’t know what’s in the water in Washington D.C. or what drugs the members of Congress take to make them want to stick their noses into areas they know nothing about. It makes no difference—Republican or Democrat—they can’t resist tinkering with our foods. I call these meddling politicians Chefs de Ignorance or Dopes de Cuisine. They have investigated saccharin, Alar, tropical oils, salt, flavors, butter and margarines and now, colors… again. If they all had their way we would be living in a drab, colorless world of foods. Yes, now they want us to eat black and white, colorless foods.

What would the United States look like in a world without food coloring? Cheetos would look like the shriveled larvae of a large insect. Not surprisingly, in taste tests people derived little pleasure from eating them. Their fingers did not turn orange. And their brains did not register much cheese flavor, even though the Cheetos tasted just as they did when bright Cheddar orange. What you should know is even natural Cheddar cheese is tinted orange. Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University and director of the university’s Food and Brand Lab, says, “People ranked the taste as bland and unsatisfying and said that they weren’t much fun to eat.”

Naked Cheetos would not seem to have much commercial future. Nor might some brands of pickles. The pickling process turns them an unappetizing gray. A tint is responsible for their robust green. Gummi worms without artificial coloring would look, like, well, muddily translucent worms. Jell-O would emerge out of the refrigerator a jiggly, watery beige.

No doubt the United States would be a considerably colorless place without artificial food coloring. But might it also be a safer place? The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a radical advocacy group, asked the government last month to ban artificial coloring because the colors that are used in some foods “might” worsen hyperactivity in some children. Old news. This is the same bogus research that is being rehashed once again to try to scare people.

“These dyes have no purpose whatsoever other than to sell junk food,” Marion Nestle (she can’t be a part of that famous family, can she?), a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

A government advisory panel concluded that there was no proof that dyes caused problems in most children, and that whatever problems they might cause in some children did not warrant a ban or a warning label beyond what is already required—a disclosure on the product label that artificial colors are present.

We believe that color is such a crucial part of the eating experience that banning it would take much of the pleasure out of eating. The question is would we really want to ban everything when only a very small percentage of us are sensitive? I don’t think so. Indeed, color often defines flavor in taste tests. When tasteless yellow coloring is added to vanilla pudding, consumers say it tastes like banana or lemon pudding. And when mango or lemon flavoring is added to white pudding, most consumers say that it tastes like vanilla pudding. Color creates a psychological expectation for certain flavors that is often impossible to dislodge. In fact, color can actually override the other parts of an eating experience.

Even so, some food companies have expanded their product offerings to include foods without colorings. You can now buy Kool-Aid Invisible, for instance, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Organic White Cheddar—both by General Foods. Some grocery chains, including Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, refuse to sell foods with artificial coloring.

As yet, natural colorings have not proven to be a good alternative. They are generally not as bright or stable as artificial colorings, which can remain vibrant for longer periods of time. Natural colorings can fade within days.

Todd Miller, the executive pastry chef for Hello, Cupcake! in Washington, said he was dedicated to simple, natural ingredients. His cakes are made with flour and butter, and his red icing gets its color strictly from natural strawberry purée.

But the sprinkles that top many of his creations have colorings derived artificially. And he has no intention of changing that because the natural stuff just isn’t as, well, colorful. “I could live without sprinkles, but why would I want to?” he asked. “They’re cupcakes. They’re supposed to be fun.”

Gubble BumCounty Fair LimeadeSo are the rest of the foods we like to eat, including some of Choclatique’s most colorful truffles. Our Spring Collection, perfect for Mother’s Day, bursts with the colors and flavors of the season, in addition to being dusted with edible 24-karat gold. Our fanciful Carnival Collection wouldn’t be nearly as whimsical or thrilling without the bright blue of Cotton Candy, the verdant green of County Fair Limeade or the pink and blue swirls of Gubble Bum. Pomegranate Creme Caramel GarnetWithout color, our striking chocolate Gemstones, with the deep crimson of our Pomegranate Crème Caramel Garnet, the royal purple of California Plum Cream Amethyst or the glittery gold of Gold Toffee Crunch would not be nearly as mesmerizing nor beautiful. Color is an essential component of the foods we eat, which adds a necessary element of fun to our lives.

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Chocolate Milk—The Better Energy Drink

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

The Olympic Games have been tarnished with controversies over blood doping, steroids, performance improving drugs and supplements. Even athletes who have taken an over the counter cold medication have been disqualified for a medal.

What I learned when researching for my new book, Choclatique, that the American swimmer Michael Phelps, who won fourteen career Olympic gold medals—the most of any Olympian—figure it out. He played it safe by drinking chocolate milk between races in Beijing.

In a recent study if was found that chocolate milk may be as good, or even better, than sports drinks at helping athletes recover from strenuous exercise. Chocolate milk has the optimal ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which helps refuel tired muscles. And let’s face it: it tastes much better than those sugary-sweet, expensive sports beverages.

So, say no to Monster and Red Bull, and yes to chocolate milk. That’s what two University of Connecticut researchers, studying the effects of different beverages on young people has concluded. Nancy Rodriguez, who researches the science of endurance sports, says chocolate milk has proved to be an effective post-workout drink for restoring muscle tone. The study, funded by the National Dairy Council and the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board, was focused specifically on what chocolate milk can do for athletes.

So what does chocolate milk do that plain white milk doesn’t? Rodriguez says, “The chocolate adds a little more sugar, and hence carbohydrates. Carbs—that’s still the energy that helps the muscle do the work. But you want milk to rebuild the muscle.” Rodriguez cautions that the extra sugar isn’t optimal for everyone, but athletes can benefit from it.

For the study, moderately trained male runners ran for 45 minutes at least five days a week for two weeks. Some drank chocolate milk while others drank a carb-only drink such as Gatorade or Powerade; each drink had the same number of calories. Breath and blood samples taken after the first and second weeks indicated that the chocolate milk drinkers had greater muscle rebuilding.

Most important, she said, is for athletes to realize that milk—whether plain or sweetened—is as good and often better than many of the significantly more expensive products sold at nutrition stores. Many of the products marketed to athletes for energy and endurance are just souped-up versions of old-fashioned milk. Despite the many claims of supplements, it’s hard to beat all-natural.

Milk also has bioactive compounds—things that we don’t really know, but probably provide some nutritional value. Likewise, chocolate has over 300 beneficial chemical compounds which appear to complement milk.

And stay away from energy drinks like Red Bull, warns Yifrah Kaminer, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at University of Connecticut. He published an article in the journal Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America in July on the dangers of caffeine for young people.

Kaminer said that 30 percent of young people between ages 12 and 17 regularly consume large quantities of energy drinks. Some of the super-caffeinated drinks, like Spike Shooter and Wired x505 (a whopping 500 milligrams of caffeine), carry warning labels that the product isn’t recommended for anyone under 18.

“Energy drinks’ much-touted exotic ingredients—taurine and guarana—give the drinks mystical flavor and image,” Kaminer said. But it’s really caffeine and sugar that do all the heavy lifting. Caffeine levels in energy drinks can range from 80 milligrams in an 8.2-ounce can of Red Bull to 300 milligrams in an 8.4-ounce can of Spike Shooter. To compare, a small McDonald’s coffee has 100 milligrams, while a large Starbucks has 330 milligrams and a 12-ounce can of Coke has 34 milligrams.

“The big difference between coffee and energy drinks,” Kaminer said, “is that young people are more apt to consume energy drinks. Also, they tend to drink many of them.”

So, stick with no or low fat milk—chocolate milk—for improved muscle tone, building and peak performance… and go for the gold!

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Chocolate is Brain Food

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

White HouseWith all the nutritional news coming out of the White House these days, I only have one thing to say to Michelle Obama, “There is no evidence to implicate cacao bean consumption with obesity.” Cacao beans contain no sugar and only between 12 and 50% fat depending on variety and growth conditions.

Cacao is remarkably rich in sulfur and magnesium. In fact, the nutritional aspects of cacao show the beans to be the number one source of magnesium of any food. This is likely the primary reason women crave chocolate during certain times of the month. Magnesium is known to balance brain chemistry, builds strong bones and is associated with increased happiness. What’s more, magnesium is the most deficient major mineral in the Standard American Diet—with over 80% of Americans chronically deficient in Magnesium!

Cacao is also high in the “beauty” mineral sulfur. Sulfur builds strong nails, hair, shiny skin, detoxifies the liver and supports healthy pancreas functions. Anecdotal reports indicate that cacao consumption can detoxify mercury because it is so high in sulfur content.

Cacao contains small amounts of natural caffeine and theobromine. However, experiments have shown that these stimulants are far different when consumed raw than when processed.

Cacao seems to diminish appetite, probably due to its monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors). These are different from human digestive enzyme inhibitors found in most nuts and seeds. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MAO inhibitors also facilitate staying younger longer and even have powers of rejuvenation. Does this mean a chocolate fountain is the fountain of youth? Well, the jury is still out on this claim.

Phenyethylamine (PEA) is found in chocolate. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical compound that is also created within the brain and released when we are in love. This is one of the reasons why love and chocolate have a deep correlation. PEA also plays a role in increasing one’s focus and alertness.

Recently, a neurotransmitter called anandamide has been isolated in cacao. Anandamide is also produced naturally in the brain. Anandamide is known as the “Bliss Chemical” because it is released while we are feeling great. Cacao contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease our bodies’ ability to breakdown anandamide. This means that the natural cacao anandamide may stick around longer, making us feel better longer when we eat chocolate.

And don’t be so worried about chocolate allergies. A recent study showed that only 1 out of 500 people who thought they were allergic to chocolate actually tested positive. Allergies to chocolate are quite rare. It is typically that the person is in fact allergic to nuts, milk and dairy products rather than chocolate.

Q-91 IngotSo, you see there are lots of great reasons to include chocolate in a well balanced diet. At Choclatique, we all enjoy an Ingot or two a day of Q-91, our functional chocolate that is low in sugar and has many of the health benefit listed above.

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Welcoming in the Healthy New Year with Chocolate—2011

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

2010 has come to an end and this is the beginning of a promising new year—2011. It is an appropriate time to look back at some of the events that have taken center stage in our lives over the last year. Don’t worry… I am not going to carry on about health care, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; the START Treaty or even the drubbing the Democrats took during the November election. About the only subject on a political note I have is over my concerns of tragic unrest in Ivory Coast which has the vast potential to disrupt the lives of many innocent people and further destabilize cocoa prices which are already at an all-time high.

What I do want to address are new learnings about chocolate this past year. The cacao genome map is being studied and we are discovering so much more about this wonderful, ancient and magical plant, including all of the health benefits that can be derived from eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate each day.

We read about a new cocoa-based drug that has the potential to treat persistent coughs. The drug is a joint development by United Kingdom-based SEEK, and United States-based Pernix. This new drug contains theobromine, an ingredient naturally present in cocoa and chocolate. The drug is entering the final stages of human clinical trials and could be on market within a little more than two years. This will be the first effective non-opioid treatment for persistent or chronic cough in two decades. Human trial research in South Korea has shown that theobromine has none of the side effects associated with standard drug treatments for persistent cough.

Persistent cough is a very common condition, afflicting over 800 million people worldwide, with an estimated 12% of the general population having the symptoms. Failure to treat a cough can lead to enormous consequences in terms of loss of one’s heath and well-being. Theobromine, a key compound in chocolate, has been shown to inhibit the inappropriate firing of the vagus nerve, which is a key cause of a persistent cough.

I, for one, have had a persistent, nagging cough since a bout with pneumonia several years ago and take at least one Choclatique Q-91 square—our functional chocolate—to dampen it down. As good as Q-91 is, I am still looking forward to concentrated chocolate flavored cough drops or syrups.

During the year we continued to hear about the expanded benefits of chocolate which has been used a vasodilator, or blood vessel widener, a diuretic, a heart stimulant, a cavity inhibitor and even a way to improve bad breath.

We also learned this year that Flavanol compounds derived from cocoa boosts the beneficial bacteria in the intestine. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrates the effect of cocoa flavanols on select stomach bacteria in humans and, “suggests the potential prebiotic benefits associated with the dietary inclusion of flavanol-rich foods have a beneficial effect through their selective metabolism in the intestinal tract.”

Q-91Scientists from the Nestlé Research Center reported earlier this year that a that daily consumption of just 40 grams of dark chocolate like Choclatique’s Q-91 significantly increases a person’s metabolism to help control weight maintenance. Dr. Jeremy Spencer from the University of Reading said that implications of the study are “that subtle changes in dietary habits, such as eating dark chocolate, can benefit long term health.”

Manufacturers’ interest in the active compounds in cocoa started about 20 years ago when scientists sought to understand the flavor components of chocolate. The bitter and astringent compounds were isolated, and further study and clinical work showed the health benefits of the monomers and the tannins, particularly epicatechin.

Scientists active in the area are keen to stress that chocolate and cocoa are very different in terms and not interchangeable. Cocoa is the non-fat component of cocoa liquor (finely ground cocoa beans) which is used in chocolate making or as Cocoa liquor contains approximately 55 per cent cocoa butter and together this comprises cocoa solids, often referred to on chocolate packaging. cocoa powder (usually about 12 percent fat) for cooking and drinks. Chocolate refers to the combination of cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, etc. in a solid food product.

Choclatique CrewAll of us at Choclatique thank you—our loyal readers and valued customers—for a great 2010 and we wish you all a healthful and prosperous 2011 filled with sweet dreams and chocolate wishes.

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“Origins” – The explosive new science of pregnancy

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

From obesity to diabetes, how startling discoveries about the womb are changing the way we think about health.

Women have heard for years all the things that are bad to eat when pregnant, but now we are learning that chocolate may be just what the doctor ordered.

We know childhood diabetes, teenage obesity, chronic depression and heart disease afflict millions of Americans in nearly epidemic proportions. And now, according to Annie Murphy Paul’s new book, Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives, we are just starting to learn that those conditions may originate, at least partly, in the womb.

We’ve all heard about the effects of thalidomide exposure and fetal alcohol syndrome, but in recent years, the burgeoning science of “fetal origins” has made some surprising new discoveries about how conditions in the uterus can affect an adult person’s health in the future.

For instance, pregnant women who were close to the Twin Towers on 9/11 and developed post traumatic stress disorder gave birth to babies with low levels of cortisol, a hormone that regulates stress. Women who are depressed while pregnant are likelier to deliver premature babies with low birth weights. These scientific discoveries reinforce the notion that, while a person’s genetic code only offers a template for development, the conditions in the womb fine-tune the expression of those genes. It is the perfect welding of nature and nurture.

Origins investigates the consequences that the nine months of gestation have for infancy, childhood, adulthood and even old age. We get our DNA at the moment of conception, but the way our genes behave and the way they’re expressed, can still be affected by the environment. Now we’re learning that this kind of epigenetic modification, as it’s known, happens most consequentially in the uterus.

And not at all surprising, we are what we eat or you are at least what your mother has eaten 9 months prior to your birth.

Chocolatique BarThe expectant mother should eat fish, making sure it’s low in mercury. And here’s the best part—Moms-to-be should also eat a moderate amount of, you guessed it—chocolate! Chocolate is associated with a reduced risk of preeclampsia (hypertension and related problems during pregnancy).

Expectant mothers should also perform a moderate amount of exercise, because that gives the fetus a workout, too. And, moms and the people around them should help maintain a moderate level of stress because that actually accelerates fetal brain development.

But the bigger message is to keep an open mind. We are constantly learning new information about diet and its effects on our day-to-day lives. It seems that our mothers and grandmothers were correct when they told us “everything in moderation” including a little chocolate in your everyday diet.

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