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Great news -- chocolate is good for you

graphic

October 20, 2000
Web posted at: 10:22 a.m. EDT (1422 GMT)

(Los Angeles Times Syndicate) -- Chocolate is actually good for you! It is still a high-fat product, but chocolate contains even more treasured antioxidants than red wine, blueberries or black tea. Hallelujah!

Exactly what are antioxidants and how are they healthful? Back as far as 1988, in a paper at an Institute of Food Technologist convention, Dr. Paul Addis explained that the initial phase of cardiovascular disease, lesions -- injury to the inside layer of the cells of the blood vessels -- is caused by oxides of fats, cholesterol and fat-related compounds. These fat-related oxides are literally the beginning of cardiovascular problems.

Unfortunately, our bodies abound with reactive forms of oxygen that can combine with fats and cholesterol to produce these harmful oxides. We do have an antioxidant natural defense system, but illness, aging and even factors such as smoking, air pollution and exposure to ultraviolet radiation can overwhelm our natural defenses.

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This is why dietary antioxidants like those found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine and chocolate can be valuable aids in preventing cardiovascular disease. It has been suggested that all the antioxidants in wine which the French consume may explain "the French paradox," the fact that in spite of a diet high in saturated fat, the French have a lower mortality rate from cardiovascular disease.

I had the pleasure of participating in a recent chocolate workshop sponsored by the American Chemical Society at Belmont Estates Conference Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Joe Vinson, a leading researcher in antioxidants in foods, gave us a clearer picture of just how good for you chocolate really is.

For example, a 1.4-ounce milk chocolate bar contains more than 300 milligrams of polyphenols; dark chocolate has more than double that and cocoa powder has four times that. To compare this to things that we think of as great sources of polyphenolic antioxidants, a dark chocolate bar contains about the same amount of polyphenols as a cup of black tea and more than in a glass of red wine.

Not only is chocolate just loaded with antioxidants, it contains super good-for-you antioxidants. Not all antioxidants are created equal and not all the polyphenols or flavonoids in cocoa and certain chocolates are equal. Chocolate contains a range of polyphenolic antioxidants known as flavonoids.

Although there are more than 4,000 known flavonoids (all good for you), most previous research focused on dietary intake of just five flavonoids. Current research is breaking down the family of procyanidin flavonoids into monomers (those containing one unit) and oligomers (those containing two, three or more units). The exciting news is that as oligomers get bigger their ability to prevent LDL (the bad cholesterol) oxidation increases and our beloved chocolate contains plenty of these big, super-good-for-you compounds.

At this same American Chemical Society Chocolate conference, Dr. Marcia Pelchat from Monell Chemical Sensory Center spoke on chocolate cravings. She explained that we crave chocolate not because of some pharmacological property, but simply because of its magnificent sensuous properties.

Just think, now guilt-free, you can put a big, shiny piece of chocolate in your mouth and eat the firm, hard solid. Then, close your eyes. The luxurious, voluptuous chocolate oozes across your tongue and your mouth fills with thick, velvety, rich liquid. Sensuous aromas waft through your head, and everywhere, everywhere, deep, dark taste. Breathe in deeply and lose yourself in chocolate, chocolate, beloved chocolate.


Unforgettable chocolate - the Ultimate Chocolate Cookie

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen 2-inch cookies.

There is a thin, crisp outer shell, but then you bite in and luscious black chocolate rushes across your tongue. Your first instinct is to grab the plate and run. When I tasted Marcel Desaulniers' Black Gold Cookies in his book, "Death by Chocolate Cookies," I had to make cookies like this right away. I knew that the crust came from the eggs. I wanted to make these as intensely chocolate as possible. To get this much-melted chocolate with a small amount of flour, I used butter-flavored shortening to keep the cookies from spreading too much. These are serious chocolate cookies.

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup butter-flavored shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup slightly packed unbleached or bread flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 ounces (2 packages) German chocolate, each square cut in half

Position 2 oven shelves, 1 in center and other just above center.

In large heatproof glass bowl, microwave chocolate to melt 1 to 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. (All chocolate may not be melted after 2 minutes, but let stand in hot bowl and when you are ready for it, it will be melted.)

In medium mixing bowl, beat shortening and sugar.

Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then stir in vanilla.

Measure flour into medium bowl. Stir in baking powder and salt, then stir in cocoa powder.

Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Stir in melted chocolate and mix well. Fold in chocolate chunks.

Coat baking sheets (I use commercial half-sheet pans -- cookies may burn on dark pans) with nonstick cooking spray.

For each cookie spoon 1 heaping tablespoon dough onto baking sheet. (I used medium 1 1/2-inch, number 40 ice cream scoop, 12 cookies to a sheet.)

Bake at 350 degrees until cookies just start to darken around edges, 9 minutes.

Switch position of sheets halfway through baking. Cool cookies on sheet 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

(Food scientist Shirley O. Corriher is the author of "CookWise," William Morrow, 1997.)

(c) 2000, Shirley O. Corriher. Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.



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