Mars Corp. Won’t Tell Me the Flavonoid Content of Dove Dark Chocolate

Via a website, I asked about the flavonoid content of Dove dark chocolate. In China, a package of Dove dark chocolate has a picture of a heart — meaning the food is “heart-healthy”. The heart benefits are believed to come from flavonoids. Mars has been exploring this idea in various ways, such as this special process and these special chocolates.

An email from Mars said I should call a hotline. The woman who answered did not know what flavonoids are. “Do you want to know the cocoa content?” she asked more than once. No, the flavonoid content, I said. She looked. “We don’t have that information,” she said. Haha!

I said the flavonoids in chocolate are believed to be responsible for the health benefits of chocolate. (That’s true, but I might have said flavanols — a type of flavonoid — instead of the much broader term flavonoid.) “We don’t make health claims for our chocolates,” the Mars representative said. (As if a picture of a heart on a package is not a health claim. No doubt there is an important difference between US and Chinese law.) I can see why she would say that. Our brilliant government, protecting us from crazy ideas such as chocolate and yogurt are healthy, but not from the exaggerations of doctors and drug companies. Which is more dangerous, (a) eating chocolate or yogurt or (b) being cut open?

Assorted Links

Thanks to Eugenia Loli.

Assorted Links

Thanks to Saul Sternberg, Bob Levinson and Alex Chernavsky.

Front Lines of Personal Science: Why Did I Sleep So Well?

Last night I slept great. I woke up feeling very rested. I can remember only three situations when I woke up feeling more refreshed. (a) On a certain camping trip. (b) When I was on my feet for ten hours. (c) After eating a lot of pork fat. I cannot simulate camping trips, and standing ten hours/day was very hard. The pork-fat effect was repeatable, in the sense that I slept better after eating pork fat, but I never ate that much pork fat again. It was too much.

Why did I sleep so well? I can think of several possible reasons.

1. Random noise. Let’s say there are 20 factors that affect my sleep and they just happened to all line up in a good direction.

Another set of possible reasons derive from what was unusual about yesterday. I can think of five things:

2. I had yogurt and blueberries and honey about 6:30 pm. (In addition to 1 tablespoon honey at bedtime.)

3. I forgot to hang a blackout curtain that darkens my bedroom. Usually I hang two. Last night, by mistake, only one.

4. I started eating dark chocolate daily two days ago. Maybe the good stuff in it (the flavones) accumulates in the brain so that the good effects get larger day by day.

5. I watched faces in the morning a half-hour later than usual. Usually I start watching them at 6:00 am. Yesterday I started at 6:30 am. I had forgotten about this difference until I looked at my records.

6. I switched to a new brand of honey (from a German brand to a Canadian one).

#1 is unlikely. #2 vaguely corresponds to the idea that honey helps us sleep because it supplies energy. Maybe honey at 6:30 fills up the liver (with glycogen) and honey at bedtime goes into the blood. But I’ve eaten plenty of meals at 6:30 without any obvious effect. Maybe they were too low-carb. I don’t know if making my room very very dark (two curtains) is better than making my room dark (one curtain) but there is no obvious reason making my bedroom less dark would improve sleep (#3).  I have never heard anyone say chocolate (#4) improved their sleep. Morning faces did improve sleep but the mood improvement was much more obvious (#5). I’ve tried several brands of honey; there was no obvious difference between them, arguing against #6.

As the day wore on I found myself in a good mood but not a great mood, arguing against #5.

I’d say #2 is the most plausible, the rest less plausible, with #1 the least plausible. But I will test all of them.

More (a day later) I did #3 (only one curtain), #4 (chocolate), #5 (later faces), and #6 (new honey) again. I did not sleep exceptionally well. That makes #1 and #2 more plausible.

Assorted Links

  • The power of the smell of chocolate. I add cacao shells (from Tisano Tea) to the tea when I brew black tea. This adds complexity. 2.5 g of black tea plus 0.9 g of cacao shells.
  • Madonna’s diet is rather hard. “I am basically dying on this diet. . . . It is so hard to give up all those foods.”
  • Sous vide basics. “Using extra virgin olive oil results in an off, metallic, blood taste.” DIY sous vide, I want to read it to learn how controllers work.
  • More about Steve Cooksey and the ADA. The North Carolina branch of the American Dietetics Association attacked Cooksey for making nutrition recommendations on his blog. For free. This post explains why they did such a strange thing. A friend of mine, a nutrition professor at UC Berkeley, gave a Freshman Seminar (unpaid classes with about 10 students) on how to fix a car. Later he got a letter from a dean in the engineering school at Berkeley saying that only engineering professors can teach such a course.

Thanks to Richard Sprague.

Tisano Chocolate Tea and Combining Complex Flavors

After I interviewed Patrick Pineda about how Tisano Tea began, he gave me several tins of chocolate tea, their main product. Since then, I’ve had dozens of cups of chocolate tea. It’s a good caffeine-free drink, especially with cream.

My main use of chocolate tea, however, has been to improve black tea. Black tea + chocolate tea = great drink, better than any black tea alone or chocolate tea alone. So much better that I have stopped drinking black tea the usual way (without chocolate tea). Even cheap black tea (e.g., Lipton’s) plus chocolate tea tastes better than expensive black tea. I think I know why. Black tea (fermented) has a complex flavor, like most fermented foods. Expensive black tea is more complex than cheap black tea, but only a little more. Likewise, chocolate tea has a complex flavor (like chocolate). Combining two sources of substantial complexity produces tea with great complexity — much more than you can get by tweaking one source of complexity (e.g., varying black tea). Continue reading “Tisano Chocolate Tea and Combining Complex Flavors”

How Things Begin: Tisano Tea

Tisano Tea, based in San Francisco, sells chocolate tea. It was started in 2010 by Patrick Pineda, Leonardo Zambrano, and Lucas Azpurua. I was curious about the company because I like two chocolate tea blends very much: Red Cloud Cacao (a black tea/chocolate tea blend from Peet’s, no longer available but they will bring it back) and CocoMate (from American Tea Room). Continue reading “How Things Begin: Tisano Tea”

Assorted Links

Thanks to Edward Jay Epstein, Bryan Castañeda, Paul Nash, Jay Barnes and Dave Lull.

Assorted Links

Thanks to Tucker Goodrich and Allan Jackson.

Assorted Links

  • more evidence that chocolate is healthy. “The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke.” This is good news.
  • The great bank robbery by Nassim Taleb and Mark Spitznagel. “For the American economy . . . the elephant in the room is the amount of money paid to bankers over the last five years.. . .  That $5 trillion dollars is not money invested in building roads, schools and other long-term projects, but is directly transferred from the American economy to the personal accounts of bank executives and employees. Such transfers represent as cunning a tax on everyone else as one can imagine.” This is a new variation of “behind every great fortune is a great crime”.
  • Nutritionist, heal thyself. Fat is obviously good for the skin. Which suggests it is good for the whole body, just less obviously.
  • The Taleb/Spitznagel point is supported by this article (via Marginal Revolution), which concludes: “Who has been the first to lose confidence in the European banking system? . . . The European banking system itself.” As they say: Don’t con a conner.

Advances in Cooking: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Toni Rivard, a Dallas dessert caterer, makes one of the best chocolate-chip cookies in America, according to Forbes Traveller. She ages her cookie dough about three days. She says it improves the texture. I wonder if it improves the flavor, too:

Rivard’s secret? “I like to age my cookie dough and feel that it makes for a better texture in cookies. As a result, the aptly-named OMG! [which is what customers have actually said when they taste one] chocolate chip cookies at Creme de la Cookie are soft and chewy with a deep rich flavor.

Fermenting cookie dough should certainly improve the flavor, although chocolate already supplies a lot of complexity. My experience has been that cooking delicious stuff became a lot easier when I started using fermentation to help (e.g., miso soup instead of soups flavored without fermented ingredients).

Thanks to David Archer.

Powdered Ice Cream

At the Fancy Food Show, Kriss Harvey, a pastry chef and frozen dessert solutions specialist, served me a spoonful of powdered chocolate ice cream, his invention. It looked like chocolate ice cream but it tasted unlike any ice cream (or any food) I’ve ever had. It was there and not there. It was in my mouth and then it was gone. It was the most ethereal food I’ve ever had.

We had been talking about El Bulli, the Spanish restaurant of experimental food. Two friends of Mr. Harvey’s had worked there one summer and had come back complaining about the food (rabbit ears) and the workload. Just because people will pay a lot for your unusual food doesn’t mean you are advancing things, said Mr. Harvey. Maybe your food doesn’t taste very good. He pointed to a certain now-forgotten fad among New York dessert chefs a few years ago. That’s fashion, I said; it has a perfectly good purpose (to support experimentation). Then Mr. Harvey served me his powdered ice cream. Which was more memorable and impressive than anything I had at Alinea, an American version of El Bulli.

Chocolate is Good For You (part 4)

From the January 2008 Journal of Nutrition:

In a cross-sectional study, we examined the relation between intake of 3 common foodstuffs that contain flavonoids (chocolate, wine, and tea) and cognitive performance. 2031 participants (70–74 y, 55% women) recruited from the population-based Hordaland Health Study in Norway underwent cognitive testing. A cognitive test battery included the Kendrick Object Learning Test, Trail Making Test, part A (TMT-A), modified versions of the Digit Symbol Test, Block Design, Mini-Mental State Examination, and Controlled Oral Word Association Test. . . .  Participants who consumed chocolate, wine, or tea had significantly better mean test scores and lower prevalence of poor cognitive performance than those who did not.