‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Choc-It-Up To Chocolate

Chocolate's been all the rage in the news lately. Finally! Something positive to read and write about. It's delicious, it has health benefits and better, it's got evidence to support them. We've hit the trifecta!

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans and contains protein, fat, iron, caffeine, antioxidants, sugar and a few other things. Certain compounds in chocolate are protective against illnesses like cancer and heart disease. And as if you needed more good news, but in case you did: There's no evidence linking chocolate consumption to acne.

Chocolate is high in flavonoids, in particular, 'catechins' and 'anthocyanins' which promote health due to their antioxidant, anti-hypertensive and anti-inflammatory effects. Those flavonoids/antioxidants also influence insulin sensitivity and vascular endothelial (heart tissue) function. See, I can write an article that doesn't bash antioxidants.

So what's the recent hype about? New findings show stomach bacteria 'eat' and ferment dark chocolate causing a release in anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds, when absorbed, benefit the heart by lessening the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue which reduces long-term risk of stroke. Basically, it's another reason not to hate on bacteria.

People worry about chocolate being 'fattening', which, I think, means they're worried about chocolate making them fat. It's true, chocolate is 30-45% fat, and we all know saturated fat increases blood cholesterol which is a factor in heart disease and other chronic illnesses. BUT, almost half the saturated fat in chocolate is stearic acid - a fat that doesn't appear to effect blood cholesterol levels. Not too flabby... I mean, shabby!

Back to chocolate being 'fattening', new research shows people who consumed higher amounts of chocolate actually had lower levels of central body fat, independent of diet and exercise. Some people may think that's counterintuative, but if the science says so, take it and run!

Another study, the largest and best controlled chocolate study that focuses on adolescents, demonstrated the above health effects in 1,500 12-17 year olds. The results were independent of age, sex, sexual maturation, physical activity and consumption of foods also high in catechins like tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables.

Yet another study found that in young adults, 8 grams/day of dark (70%) cocoa for 1 month improved their endothelial function, compared to those in the placebo group.

But wait, before we all run to the vending machine for a chocolate bar, too much of this good thing isn't great either. Not all chocolate is created equal: Dark chocolate is much higher in protective catechins compared to white chocolate (which, let's be honest, isn't really chocolate) and even milk chocolate. That's because dark chocolate has a higher concentration of cocoa solids (see Figure 1).
Fig 1: Comparison of chocolate type, antioxidant level and % cocoa.
Source: http://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.htm

Following that line of logic, dark chocolate (>60% cocoa) is the best option antioxidant-wise (and, if you ask me, taste-wise too). After all, once you go black...

Something else to think about is cocoa powder. It tends to have a substantially lower sugar and fat content compared to bar chocolate.

Lastly, some tantilising tempered take home tips:
  • Chocolate (the dark and cocoa varieties) are rich in beneficial antioxidants
  • Chocolate is still high in fat/calories compared with fruit, vegetables, whole grains and tea that also boast opulent antioxidant levels
  • If you're making brownies, having a hot chocolate or adding some flavour to your smoothie, use straight cocoa powder rather than the sugared-up versions like Ovaltine, Swiss Miss and Nestle (not to name names or anything)
  • Don't write articles about chocolate... constantly thinking and reading about the stuff can't be good for your health

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