THE CHOCOLATE THERAPIST: A USER'S GUIDE TO THE EXTRAORDINARY HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE.
AUTHOR: Julie Pech
PUBLISHER: Wiley, NY, 2010, 216 pp plus 9 recipes, appendices and index
ISBN: 978 0 470 61351 1, $14.96.
Since many (most?) of those who read this review like chocolate, you find the subtitle of this book quite intriguing. Let me begin with a recent abstract from a medical publication: "Traditional chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean, which is one of the most concentrated sources of flavanois, a subgroup of the natural antioxidant plant compounds called flavonoids. Accumulating evidence from the past 10 years demonstrates that moderate consumption of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, may exert protective effects against the development of cardiovascular disease. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain this positive influence. Since dark chocolate has substantially higher levels of flavonoids than milk chocolate, and milk proteins may inhibit absorption of flavonoids, it might be preferable to consume dark chocolate than the white (milk) variety."
It is true that chocolate contains a large amount of antioxidants. Here is a short list of the quantity of antioxidants per gram of the food:
Undutched dark chocolate 340 Dark chocolate 130 Milk chocolate 67 Raisins 28 Spinach 13 Oranges 8
Granted, this does not include fat and calories. Speaking of fat, oleic acid comprises the majority of fat in chocolate which isn't all bad as it can actually reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood stream.
There are pros and cons to eating chocolate--especially as a food. Best is to take into account the negative press and select dark chocolate that contains a high portion of cocoa from a tropical rain forest as it is more likely to contain more nutrients that a starved forest. One to two ounces a day seems to be a good compromise. But be selective (which the author discusses in detail) about the brand and type you choose. The book gives a brief 'course' on reading labels on sources of chocolate.
A large portion of the book is devoted to an alphabetical list of diseases and how they benefit from chocolate. For example: Allergies--"Take two squares dark or milk chocolate every 6 hours, as needed while drinking ginger tea. Do not take more than 12 squares in a 24-hour period. Children should take only half this amount." There is not a considerable amount of real science data on many of the connections between a disease and the effect(s) of chocolate upon it, but this chapter is at least worth reading and considering.
Another extensive chapter discusses the pairing of wine and chocolate. In this chapter we are reminded of some of the similarities between chocolate and wine. For instance, they both come from fruit, and they both should be savored when enjoying, not devoured.
Ms. Pech has certainly done her homework and a good deal of her own research on the subject and presents it in a friendly and factual manner. Being a chocoholic myself, I was glad to find this book.