Wednesday, January 18, 2006
It’s been known for a while that dark chocolate and cocoa contain high levels of flavinoids, which are antioxidant compounds found in many food products like red wine and berries. These flavinoids are thought to be beneficial to cardiovascular health.
The compound in cocoa was isolated through by a team at the University of California, Davis using the Kuna Indians of Panama who are known to consume large quantities of cocoa.
UC Davis biochemist Hagen Schroeter, who co-authored the paper along with cardiologist Christian Heiss of the Heinrich-Heine University said “The results of this study provide direct proof that epicatechin is, at least in part, responsible for the beneficial vascular effects that are observed after the consumption of certain flavanol-rich cocoas.”
The article is pretty interesting and details how they isolated epicatechin using two different populations of Kunas. The most intriguing part is that the Kuna who had the best cardiovascular health were the island-dwellers who drank three to four cups per day!
Full text here: Heart-Healthy Compound in Chocolate Identified
Mars (makers of M&Ms) contributed to the financing of the study.
See also: Why Chocolate is Good for Your Heart from the Hindustani Times.
Theobroma cacao, the cocoa plant, is a rather strange thing. The pods that produce cocoa beans grow on strange trees in the tropical and sub-tropical jungles of North and South America and have been successfully cultivated all over the middle of the planet since the discovery of the New World.
Like coffee, cocoa wants to grow in the shade. The cocoa trees are rather squat and unassuming looking and need the tall canopy of the larger trees. What this means to the jungle ecosystem is that a cocoa plantation looks suspiciously like a jungle ... tall trees, a good deal of leaf litter on the ground and of course a good variety of critters to keep the cocoa plants pollinated. Plant cocoa trees too close together and you’re asking for diseases and of course it exhausts the already weak soils of the rain forest so you’d be obliged to fertilize.
A properly balanced cocoa plantation can be relatively manageable with a good hands-off approach. Maintain the trees, control disease quickly by removing infested trees and you can have a sustainable crop that keeps the rain forest intact for generations to come. The tall hardwood trees of the canopy can be sustainably harvested as well and other fruit trees can be planted as well. Birds and beasts can thrive along with the jungle as a whole and the humans merely as caretakers. It’s a Utopian ideal, and with the help of Fair Trade and other small scale cooperative initiatives that support the future of the forests means we can have our chocolate cake and eat it, too.
There’s no reason that reasonably priced chocolate can’t be produced from cacao grown in a sustainable fashion that preserves the local ecosystem and the local people’s autonomy. In fact, the future of the tropical regions may depend on global demand for agricultural products like coffee and cocoa that can be grown this way. At the moment the solution is not to buy more chocolate but to make an effort to support those chocolate products that work with farmer co-ops, operate under Fair Trade policies and of course support sustainable agriculture.
You can read more about these projects and the theories behind sustainable cocoa plantations here:
Friday, January 13, 2006
By request I’d done some adjustments and I think I’ve solved the problem with Bloglines (an aggregator for RSS feeds) readers not seeing the ratings for the review posts.
Now when you read a post you’ll see all of the categories assigned to a candy at the top of the post:
The first category is the rating, which I’ve added the number to (so you don’t have to memorize my funky scale).
Of course you still have to come to the site to comment.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Nestle Rowntree in the UK is planning to change their nutrition labeling.
I currently find their labels a little difficult to decipher as they contain info on 100 gram portions - which is about two and a half times a normal “portion” of candy (most UK candy bars are about 50 grams, most US are about 42 grams or 1.5 ounces).
And if you want some really sobering stuff to read, the New York Times did a huge article yesterday for the Health section about diabetes.
Snack responsibly folks.
Monday, January 9, 2006
You may have noticed that as of the first of the year I’m now using a new rating/spec box for each candy review. If you’re reading the site via a feed, you’re missing that part (that’s the place where I list the name, brand, calories, price, etc.). The ratings box, as a table, simply won’t show up correctly in the feed, so it’s a “site only perk.” I’ll see if I can figure out a way to have some of the info show up in the feed without duplicating it on the site.
It should also help to clean up the comments area so that it’s easier to see the link and click on it.
Also, as of this week I’m adding some advertising to the site. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of money on candy and of course there’s the cost of running the site itself and eventually some travel costs. I’m not looking to profit from CandyBlog, but I’d prefer it not be a losing proposition. There are many ways to do this, “tip jars”, affiliate links and ads. I’ve chosen ads because I do get a fair number of requests from readers to help them track down places to actually buy some of the things I review. I hope that the ads that appear will actually help you out in finding them should you choose to click on them.
If you are a candy seller and would like to advertise on the site, I’m using two different companies right now, BlogAds, which is the up on the top right and Google AdSense, which will appear at the bottom of the first review on the site and on all the individual pages for the posts.
Please let me know if you find anything that is inappropriate for the site (this is a family friendly place, after all) or if anything looks a little wonky.
Thursday, January 5, 2006
Sometimes Americans think that we invented politicians that say bizarre things and create tempests in teapots. How could The Daily Show with Jon Stewart be so popular without them?
Well, the UK has their share and this week they’ve intersected with the CandyBlog world.
David Cameron, the Conservative leader in London said that retailers with their king sized candies and impulse purchases at the checkout are one of the causes of Brit’s obesity. He singled out WHSmith, ““Why? As Britain faces an obesity crisis, why does WHSmith promote half-price chocolate oranges at its check-outs instead of real oranges?”
Really? Half-priced chocolate oranges are the problem?
And it’s WHSmith’s responsibility to fix the diets of Brits? They’re not even a grocer! The store’s response, “We sell a wide range of products. Customers could buy chocolate or healthier alternatives such as cereal bars or fruit and nuts. Oranges are not that easy and our customers don’t want them, but they might want chocolate oranges. They were very popular in the run-up to Christmas.”
More reading on the subject:
And finally, if it makes any difference at all, the Google ads next to the article on the Telegraph were all for fruit.
Wednesday, January 4, 2006
The LA Times food section had an interesting article today on foodblogging.
Yup, that’s me, hyper-focused. Well, if you consider candy to be as narrow as following only slices of pizza in New York City. Which, I don’t, of course. I think candy is as big as the world itself. Sweets are universal.
I was, happily, included in the list of blogs along with such highly read ones that are already on my daily rounds like The Accidental Hedonist and Kiplog’s FoodBlog and I’ve now be introduced to some other promising reads (they’re all good, I’m sure, but I’m not about to read about bacon or hamburgers): Wednesday Chef, I Was Just Realy Very Hungry and Pho-King.
Saturday, December 31, 2005
There’s an interesting article up on the NY Times website for tomorrow’s edition about Dylan Lauren, daughter of Ralph Lauren and founder of New York City’s Dylan’s Candy Bar.
Candy-Colored Dreams by Erika Kinetz
There are many interesting things about the article, but one of them is that there’s very little discussion about what she’s selling: candy. There’s a lot of coverage on how she’s selling it, but very little about eating it, tasting it, picking it out, you know ...enjoying it.
I hope to visit Dylan’s Candy Bar next time I’m in NY, mostly because I heard that they carry a large selection of hard-to-find bars, like Sifer’s Valomilks. Here’s a cool write up about those in NYC Nosh.
More stories about Dylan Lauren and/or Dylan’s Candy Bar:
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.