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Sunday, June 08, 2008

How to Eat More Chocolate for your heart

"Eat more chocolate" sounds wonderful. But it's a bit vague. What kind? How much? When? With what? As the designated nutritional expert of the family, it's my job to figure this out.

I know how to eat chocolate. I know how to eat more chocolate. I know what happens if you eat an entire pound of chocolate the day after Valentine's day. And I know that the 100g (3.5 oz) candy bar used in the famous European cocoa studies contains 480 Calories (2008 kilojoules), mostly from sugar and cocoa fat. Not exactly what most of us need...

The Kuna people of the San Blas islands drink 5 8-oz cups a day of ground cacao boiled in water, which seems to make them immune to high blood pressure. But how much cacao? Nobody's saying. Maybe the answer is in this paper that I haven't paid to read because I'm not convinced it has what I'm looking for.

Three famous European studies used the Ritter Sport 100g Halbbitter bar, which contains 500mg of polyphenols. Younger hypertensives saw the most improvement on this diet -- an average of nearly 12 points systolic, 8 ½ points diastolic. Older hypertensives saw smaller improvements at the some dose. Other studies showed that less cocoa means less improvement. The one US study showed no improvement at a dose of 294mg per day. No clues why this study showed different results from all the others.

I figured 500mg of polyphenols seems like a good starting point. There are about 200mg of polyphenols in a half-ounce of 100% cacao (baking chocolate), and 74 calories (mostly from the cocoa butter). There are also about 200mg of polyphenols in a tablespoon of natural cocoa, and only about 12 to 20 calories, depending on the fat content of the cocoa.

Here are some ways to get more cocoa into your diet with out so much fat and sugar:

  • Stir a tablespoon of cocoa into boiling or near-boiling water. For a strong and bitter but muddy-looking drink, very different from Swiss Miss.
  • Substitute milk for some of the water (Recent studies suggest that milk does not affect the absorption of flavanols, though it might affect their metabolism).
  • Stir a tablespoon of cocoa into a bowl of oatmeal. The the carbohydrates may speed up flavanol absorption.
  • Or mix some cocoa with melted baking chocolate and a bit of honey to create a confection. The recipe below gives you 1/2 ounce cacoa and 1 1/2 tablespoons of cacao in every serving. Because it uses cocoa powder, it is not as creamy as chocolate, which is conched until very smooth (and lower in bitter flavanols).

Chocolate Cocoa Patties

Recipe By: Family Nutritionist
Serving Size: 4

-= Ingredients =-
1 oz Baking chocolate ; 100% cacao, unsweetened
4 teaspoon Honey
3 tablespoon Cocoa powder

-= Instructions =-
Gently warm baking chocolate until you can stir it. Stir in the cocoa and honey. Form into 4 balls or patties. Cool and eat one per day.

Serving: .1 cups (22g), Calories: 77: Fat: 5g : Sodium: 3mg
Protein: 2g, NetCarbs: 8, K: 186mg
SatFat: 3g, PolyFat: 0g, MonoFat: 2g, Chol: 0mg
TotCarbs: 12g, Fiber: 4g, Sugars: 6g
Calories: 57.0% from fat, 41.6% from carbohydrates 02.6% from protein

NFCS: 6.54g Cinnamon: 0.0g : Fats: 0.84: Sweets: 0.4
PA: 269.1 mg, 1-3 mers: 82.48 mg


Tom said...

Thanks for the ideas. These are all good ideas. Also, I was reading another blog and there was a post about a study that the Mars company did on flavanols. Before reading your last post I had never heard of flavanols before, so I found it interesting that I've read about them twice within a week. Here is the link http://www.eatingfabulous.com/cocoa-flavanols
I also left a link back to your post on flavanols in the comments.

Family Nutritionist said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tom. I'm glad you found something interesting in my post. I figure -- if I'm doing all the work to help my family, maybe I can help other people find and evaluate the same information.