Book Heaven

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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Make Mine Dark

Chocolate, that is. Dark Chocolate. Although this information has been kicking around for a couple of years, it was only about two months ago when I discovered a newspaper article about the cardio-protective attributes of chocolate, more specifically dark chocolate. It seems that dark chocolate is especially rich in flavanols and is even more heart protective than red wine. Now if you told me two months ago that I would be eating chocolate every day for medicinal purposes, I would surely have laughed at you, but that's exactly what I'm now doing. Of course, before I do anything, I first do my research which in this case meant scouring the internet for more details. I found plenty of information and all of it seems to check out. One important point that can't be overlooked is that flavanols are destroyed to varying degrees in the processing of chocolate, and thus, all chocolates are not equal. It seems that the best chocolate is (surprise!) produced by an unlikely source -- the huge food conglomerate, Mars, Inc. Mars has spent years working on proprietary techniques to limit the reduction of the beneficial flavanols during the processing phase, resulting in their cocoapro trademark (see www.cocoapro for more information).

So I am now devoted to eating four-fifths of a Dove bar daily, which is about an ounce. I can't seem to bring myself to eat the whole 1.3 ounce bar yet, but I'm working on it (guilt is a tough thing to overcome). I hadn't experienced a Dove bar before and was immediately impressed with the product. It's a very narrow bar which is much thicker than a usual single serving bar, resulting in a very intense experience.

I was really surprised to discover an article in today's (10/10/04) The New York Times Magazine entitled "Eat Chocolate, Live Longer?" by Jon Gertner which told the story of the research that Mars is doing. After all that I've read, I'm sold on the idea of eating dark chocolate daily, but I still have two questions to resolve: how much should I really be eating (some study participants ate 3.5 ounces daily), and would it be better to space it out during the day? The flavanols in the chocolate apparently relax the linings in your arteries, making them more elastic and improving blood flow, but there is still a question in my mind as to how long this effect continues after the consumption of the chocolate. In any event, make it dark chocolate.

One of my favorite chocolate books is Alice Medrich's bittersweet: Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate (Artisan, 2003). Though you won't find virtually any scientific information about the healthy aspects of chocolate in the book, you will find almost everything you wanted to know about chocolate, and then some. Medrich, who has also written four other books about chocolate, including Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts (which won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year award and which I am now searching for) shares her thirty years of experience with chocolate. If you only own one book about chocolate, bittersweet is the book for you.

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