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    Archive for the ‘cocoa powder’ Category

    Numbers Game: Answer

    891318One cup of cooked Swiss chard contains as much potassium as two medium bananas.

    FYI: The United States Department of Agriculture classifies medium bananas as those measuring anywhere from 7 to 8 inches.

    Score another point for dark, leafy green vegetables.

    Remember — they already get kudos for being good sources of calcium and vitamin K — two crucial nutrients for bone health.

    While most people equate potassium with bananas (and that’s not too off-the-mark; bananas are a good source of that mineral), other foods provide higher amounts.

    A medium banana contains approximately 420 milligrams of potassium (roughly ten percent of the daily requirement).  One cup of cooked Swiss chard, meanwhile, contributes 961 milligrams (slightly over a quarter of a day’s worth!).

    Take a look at these other potassium-rich foods that are often forgotten:

    • Spinach (1 cup, cooked): 835 milligrams
    • Lentils (1 cup, cooked): 731 milligrams
    • Edamame (1 cup): 676 milligrams
    • Nutritional yeast (3 Tablespoons): 640 milligrams
    • Baked potato (medium, with skin): 610 milligrams
    • Halibut (3 ounces, cooked): 490 milligrams

    A good list to keep in mind, particularly since the majority of adults in the United States do not meet daily potassium requirements.

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    In The News: How Many Misguided Nutrition Tips Fit In One Article?

    time_magazines_logoBack in August, Time magazine ran a bunch of ridiculous nonsense cover story which made the laughingly feeble case that exercise was not at all helpful for weight loss.

    In what seemed to be an essay right out of a middle schooler’s notebook, the author attempted to convince us of this theory by stating that on days when he exercises, he ends up eating more (and, apparently, he decided his personal anecdote somehow applies to the rest of the world).

    In any case, the folks at Time continue their bastardization of nutrition and health issues with their latest article (thankfully, not a cover one) titled “The Thoughest Diet”.

    In it, author Joel Stein talks to popular chefs who have managed to slim down despite working in kitchens  — and being surrounded by decadent food — all day.

    The article quickly goes South, though, when it turns into nothing more than misguided and inaccurate weight-loss tips from men who clearly have very little knowledge of nutrition.

    As can be expected when dealing with celebrity chefs, there is plenty of egotism, too.  In the second paragraph of the article, Food Network star Alton Brown credits himself and other television chefs for being “partly responsible for the fattening of America.”

    Uh, no.

    You want to talk about factors behind rising obesity rates?  Think crop subsidies, expanding portion sizes, food lobbyists, and issues with the National School Lunch Program.  Mario Battali’s alfredo sauce doesn’t even make the Top 100.

    Brown then goes on to make the following statement:

    “The old wisdom of everything in moderation was pretty much hogwash.”

    This from the man who has chosen to “boycott French fries” and  “now snacks incessantly on avocados, sardines, and almonds.”

    First of all, it is still very possible to gain weight while “snacking incessantly”.  Although avocados, sardines, and almonds are very healthy foods, they are by no means calorie-free.

    In fact, I recently spoke to somebody who didn’t understand why she wasn’t losing weight even though she stopped eating junk food.  A look at her dietary habits demonstrated that while she was eating healthier foods, she was getting just as many calories from those foods as she was in the days when potato chips, Skittles, and sugary cereals were staples of her diet.

    Furthermore, Brown’s example that moderation is ‘hogwash’ is based on the fact that he used to eat massive quantities of French fries, which sounds like anything but moderation to me.

    Then there’s chef Alex Stratta, who “decided to get off sugar, fatty meats, and carbs after his suit wouldn’t fit for an awards reception”.

    Sigh.  When I hear people say they “got off carbs”, I always have to count to ten and take deep breaths.

    Carbohydrates are not just in donuts, cookies, cakes, and 600-calorie muffins.  Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and healthy whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley are also “carbs”.

    Therefore, when people proudly beam that they “no longer eat carbs” , my response is often: “Wow, you stopped eating fruits, vegetables, and beans?”

    As for sugar — it is absolutely a source of empty calories, and undoubtedly overconsumed in the United States.

    However, what is with this notion of “swearing it off”?  Why not just set a goal of eating significantly less?  Besides, most people who I speak with who claim to be “off sugar” only mean white sugar, since they still consume honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup as if it somehow were calorie-free or chock-full of nutrients.

    Stratta’s “tips” get worse:

    “His new rules include starting the morning with a protein shake, having only three meals a day and never eating after 6 p.m.”

    It is “thanks” to ridiculous articles like these that I come across so many confused individuals at workshops and classes that I teach.

    In essence, what Stratta is doing is — are you ready for it? — eating fewer calories than he used to!  Wow, imagine that.

    It would be much more helpful if he simply credited that for his weight loss, because it is very possible to do the three things he does and still not lose a pound.

    Depending on what goes into it, a protein shake can have anywhere from 200 to 800 calories.  As for “three meals a day”, there are plenty of people who only eat three meals a day and gain weight because their total caloric intake for the day surpasses what they need!

    Rules like “never eating after 6 p.m.” are not only unnecessary, but also overly rigid.  Munching on a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts at 8 p.m. is not going to make the magical weight-loss fairies disappear into thin air.

    Another example of misguided advice?  The article states that renowned chocolatier Jacques Torres (who intelligently lost a total of 32 pounds by joining Weight Watchers) “stocks up on 70% cocoa chocolate bars, with the goal of always having a low-sugar options on hand.”

    Let me be perfectly clear — chocolates with a high cocoa content are great.

    The intense flavor often helps one satisfy cravings with small amounts, and they offer some added health benefits as a result of having more cocoa than milk chocolates.  Low sugar values, however, are irrelevant.

    The reason why high-cocoa chocolates are a better snack than those with lower figures?  They are higher in fat, which means they take a longer time to digest, therefore allowing you to feel full with a lower amount of calories.

    And then the magazine industry wonders why it’s going down the drain…

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    In The News: Chocolate Milk Good For The Heart?

    ni-milk-0607p16-mChocolate milk certainly appears to be this week’s A-list beverage.

    Not only is an expensive campaign championing its virtues, the New York Times claims it may help reduce inflammation.

    In case you’re wondering what inflammation has to do with health, many degenerative diseases are intensified, if not directly caused, by cellular inflammation.

    So does chocolate milk deserve such health claims?  Depends on your definition of chocolate milk!

    The study referenced by the New York Times was conducted by Spanish researchers and recently published in the renowned American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    Alas, a review of the study reveals that participants weren’t exactly drinking chocolate milk.  They were drinking skim milk with cocoa powder.

    As far as I’m concerned, this is an “apples and oranges” situation.

    The 40 grams of cocoa powder that certain participants were drinking on a daily basis contained 7.6 grams of fiber, as much potassium as a medium banana, and a high amount of polyphenols and flavonoids.

    Commercial chocolate milk, meanwhile, offers less than a gram of fiber per eight-ounce serving, significantly less potassium, and very little in the way of flavonoids (the cocoa in chocolate milk is alkalized, which drastically reduces flavonoid content).

    These are two very different beverages!

    If it’s cocoa’s health benefits you are looking for, you are better off utilizing it in its whole form, like in this delicious dessert recipe.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Chocolate With Benefits

    6a00d83451b19169e20115701502e1970b-500wiHow much truth is there in the idea that chocolate can be a health food?

    If it’s true, does that mean I am getting some health benefits from any chocolate product?

    — Alice Costello
    (Location Withheld)

    To answer this question, it is important to differentiate between cocoa and chocolate.

    Cocoa refers to the seed from the cacao fruit.  Chocolate, meanwhile, is a term that describes a product that, among other ingredients, contains cocoa.

    In the vast majority of cases, chocolate is composed of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, milk, and other additional ingredients (i.e., almonds) or flavorings (i.e, vanilla).

    Many articles on this topic inaccurately mention the health benefits of chocolate.  In reality, the focus should be on cocoa.

    Cocoa contains a variety of flavonoids — a type of antioxidant — that have been found to have a protective effect on blood pressure and cardiovascular health.

    To get the most out of cocoa, buy pure unsweetened cocoa powder and include it in a recipe (such as this no-bake brownie bites recipe I posted back in February).

    Flavonoids are negatively affected by processing, which is why you get negligible amounts in popular milk chocolate products like M&Ms or Kit Kat bars.

    That said, some chocolate bars contain higher flavonoid levels than others.  Here are some guidelines to help you find them:

    • Look for “cocoa powder” on the ingredient list.  If you see “alkali-treated” or “Dutch processed” varieties of cocoa powder listed, you are looking at major flavonoid loss
    • Look for chocolate bars that are comprised of at least 75% cocoa
    • Ideally, look for chocolate bars that are milk-free (such as Endangered Species) or contain negligible amounts (such as Dagoba), since certain components in milk appear to limit the absorption of antioxidants from cacao.

    If you seek out cocoa flavonoids in chocolate bars rather than cocoa powder, be sure to keep an eye on calories.

    And, also, as wonderful as the flavonoids in cocoa are,  there are plenty of other foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and seeds) that offer various other varieties that are just as beneficial.

    Remember, health is determined by the totality of your diet, not the inclusion of any one food.

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    You Ask, I Answer: What Is Up With Saturated Fats?

    40709058coconutI know that unsaturated fats are very good for us. I know that trans fats should be avoided at all costs. I know that saturated fat isn’t so hot for us, but I’m not sure to what degree.

    Although there is a certain percentage of daily intake allowance for saturated fat, should one try to limit that as close to zero as possible?

    — Mackenzie (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Wonderful question!  The answer isn’t super straight-forward, so I recommend re-reading it once or twice.

    The first thing you need to know is that “saturated fat” is an all-encompassing term for many different types of saturated fats.

    Saturated fats differ from one another depending on the amount of carbons they contain.  In nutrition circles, this is referred to as their “chain length.”

    When you examine saturated fats individually, varying properties pop up.

    Lauric acid — found in high amounts in coconuts — is a saturated fat that, like all saturated fats, increases LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  However, it also increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol!

    Similarly, stearic acid — predominantly found in chocolate — is unique in that a good chunk of it is converted by our bodies into a monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid.

    In fact, stearic acid has less of a detrimental effect on blood cholesterol levels than other types of saturated fat.

    Then there’s palmitic acid.  This saturated fat — found in plentiful amounts in beef and butter — has been found to substantially increase the risk of atherosclerosis (that’s medical jargon for “clogged arteries”).

    Myristic acid, found mainly in dairy fat, has also been shown to negatively impact HDL levels.

    One of the issues with saturated fats, though, is that they are usually coupled together in food.

    For example, coconuts contain a fair amount of lauric acid, but they also contain palmitic acid.

    Similarly, foods high in heart-healthy fats (like olive oil and its monounsaturated fats or wild salmon and its omega-3 polyunsaturated fats) also contain some saturated fats.

    A tablespoon of olive oil, for instance, provides 14 grams of total fat, of which 9.8 grams are monounsaturated and 1.98 are saturated.

    This helps explain why the guidelines for saturated fat are not to completely shun them (as they are with trans fats), but rather to keep them below a certain amount.

    Unless you go on an extremely low-fat diet (which I do NOT recommend), it would be impossible to keep saturated fat intake very low.

    Since the standard US diet is so absurdly high in omega-6 fatty acids — a phenomenon that has been shown to cause its own share of problems — I would much rather someone consume saturated fat (without surpassing daily recommendations) than attempt to get it as low as possible and consume omega-6 fatty acids in its place.

    Let’s conclude with my fat suggestions:

    • Prioritize monounsaturated and omega-3 fats in your diet.
    • When it comes to saturated fats, try to consume them mainly from unsweetened coconut (which also offers fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals), unsweetened cocoa/cacao (which also offers a good share of phytonutrients — here’s a great recipe that calls for it; here is another delicious one), and as part of healthier fats (i.e: olive oil, salmon, nuts, seeds).  Be sure to stay within designated limits.
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    You Ask, I Answer: Cocoa

    I always buy Hershey’s Cocoa (natural unsweetened) in the 8 oz. container.

    When I asked my husband to get some more, he came home with a package that was more expensive looking and said on the front: Hershey’s Cocoa (100% cacao) and in a pretty section, red background, gold letters: “SPECIAL DARK [trademark symbol] A BLEND OF NATURAL AND DUTCHED COCOAS.”

    The ingredients list for the former product reads: cocoa (there is a U in a circle, no idea what that means).

    The new product list reads: cocoa, cocoa processed with alkali.

    They do include in the fine print on the side of the package the statement that “…HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Cocoa provides fewer antioxidants than HERSHEY’S Natural Unsweetened Cocoa.)

    What is going on?

    — Maria (last name withheld)
    (city withheld), AZ

    The first distinction that needs to be made here is between cocoa powder and chocolate; too many people get them confused!

    In order to make cocoa powder, cocoa beans are first fermented, roasted, and shelled.

    Inside that shell are cacao nibs, which undergo a heated grinding process to be converted into a liquid known as chocolate liquor (a misnomer, since it contains no alcohol.)

    Chocolate liquor is then divided into cocoa butter and cocoa solids via compression.

    The grinding of cocoa solids results in cocoa powder, which is naturally fat-free (as a result of being separated from cocoa butter) and sugar-free.

    This is all very different from chocolate — which, at its most basic, is a combination of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, milk, and sugar.

    Let’s now talk about the difference in the two products you mention.

    The standard 8-ounce container of cocoa you buy is pure cocoa powder.

    The special variety your husband bought is a mixture of the cocoa powder sold in the 8-ounce container and some Dutched cocoa (cocoa powder that is mixed with an alkali in order to remove some of its acidity and bitterness.)

    Since the processing of Dutch cocoa results in a loss of antioxidants and flavonoids, the fine print on the “Special Dark” product makes perfect sense.

    In order to get the most benefit from the antioxidants and flavonoids in cocoa powder, have it in its natural form.

    One suggestion? Make a smoothie with your milk of choice (dairy, soy, nut, etc.), one ripe medium banana, and a tablespoon of cocoa powder.

    Or plug in your food processor and try my no-bake “brownie” recipe!

    As for that U symbol — it simply means the product is certified kosher.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: No-Bake Brownie Truffle Bites

    I can’t think of an easier, quicker recipe.

    My favorite part of serving these is telling people the rich dessert they are enjoying takes no more than five minutes to prepare!

    Added bonus: each bite is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients!

    YIELDS: 12 bites/balls

    INGREDIENTS:

    1/2 cup raw walnuts OR raw almonds OR raw hazelnuts
    1/2 cup chopped pitted dates or raisins (I highly recommend dates; if your food processor is powerful, you don’t need to chop the dates)
    5 tablespoons cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder (pictured at left)
    2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or powder (the powder will yield drier truffles)
    1/8 teaspoon salt

    OPTIONAL ADD-ONS:

    1 1/2 tablespoons ground flaxseed/oat bran/wheat germ
    1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
    1 teaspoon cinnamon, maca, mesquite, and/or lucuma

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Grind walnuts in food processor.

    Add dates/raisins and blend.

    Add remaining ingredients and process again.

    Scoop out mixture, in the shape of small truffle-like balls, into container.

    Refrigerate or freeze for at least 2 hours.

    Enjoy!

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (for 3 “bites” without add-ons):

    205 calories
    3 grams saturated fat
    5 grams fiber
    5 grams protein

    Excellent source of: copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium

    Good source of: fiber, folate, monounsaturated fat, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin C

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    You Ask, I Answer: Carob

    SunspireCarobChipsLgCan you tell me what, exactly, carob is?

    I bought the wrong bag of trail mix by accident today and it has almonds, raisins, cashews, and carob.

    The taste is okay. I just don’t know what I’m eating!

    — Ray Amila
    New York, NY

    Although carob is a popular vegan substitute for milk chocolate, it is actually a legume!

    It is made from the pulp of the pods of an evergreen tree indigenous to the Mediterranean Sea region (although it is now grown in many parts of the world.)

    In some countries, like Israel, it is common to dunk the pods in hot water for about thirty seconds (just enough to soften them) and chew on them as a snack.

    In the United States, carob pods are usually roasted, ground into powder, and then used to make things like carob chips (which can then go into vegan cookies, or used as toppings for vegan ice cream.)

    I should note, though, that not ALL carob products are vegan. Some carob manufacturers add milk solids to them, so always be sure to read the ingredient label.

    Some people seek out carob because it is naturally caffeine-free.

    Others like it because it is a cocoa powder substitute that offers a good dose of calcium.

    Two tablespoons of carob powder, for instance, provides almost a tenth of the mineral’s daily recommended intake (that same amount of cocoa powder only provides one percent.)

    So don’t worry, you’re not eating some sort of Frankenfood!

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