Monday, April 28, 2008

Eat Chocolate for Science : a Dream Come True

I was just reading a Reuters news item about how volunteers were needed for a year-long study that were willing to consume a chocolate bar per day for a year. Oh, gee,... twist my arm! :)

Chocolate is one of my favorite gluten-free treats (i.e., gluten-free when not tainted with gluten-containing ingredients or exposed to gluten in a production facility). And, multiple research studies have previously shown dark chocolate seems to have some ability to lower blood pressure, improve the function of blood vessels and reduce heart attack risk.

So, sign me up for the new study! But, sorry, not so simple... I can't get in on this chocolate study because 1) it is taking place in Britain, and 2) the test-group being recruited is initially just women. Bummer! All I can do is hope some local medical research facility decides to follow suit - perhaps the Cleveland Clinic or University Hospitals (both are rather active in medical research). I'd surely volunteer in a second for a study on the health benefits of chocolate and flavonoids, especially if I have to eat chocolate constantly.

Here's the goal of the chocolate / flavonoid study, and how they will assess the impact of chocolate and other related diet / dietary compounds:

The trial starting in June will explore whether compounds called flavonoids found in chocolate and other foods can reduce the risk of heart disease for menopausal women with type 2 diabetes, the researchers said on Monday.

Half the women in the year-long study will eat a super-charged chocolate bar containing 30 grams of flavonoids found in soy, cocoa and other fruits and vegetables. The others will get chocolate without the active compounds.
It will be interesting to see what the outcome of a longer-term study on chocolate and flavonoids yields. I am always looking for an excuse to consume more chocolate, so I hope the outcome proves that cocoa and/or chocolate are helping me in some way. I found the study quite timely, since I just wrote a gluten-free blog posting about eating raw cocoa beans as a gluten-free treat for serious chocolate addicts (like me!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Raw Cocoa Beans : only for Serious Chocolate Lovers

Raw Cocoa Beans are another recent gluten-free snack and diet food I found at Whole Foods Market recently. But, before you grab a bag of these to start stacking on, I warn you: eating raw cocoa beans may only be enjoyable if you are a serious chocolate fanatic - they are a bit harsh to say the least.

The flavor is intense, and borders on bitter, since there is no added sugar or cocoa butter (or butter) as you are most likely used to when you consume commercial chocolate products. Basically, eating pure raw cocoa beans is even a step more harsh then consuming unsweetened baking chocolate. But, if you are into such things, give them a try.

Being just cocoa beans, these should certainly be safe for your wheat-free, dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free diet. Because of their flavor intensity, the cocoa beans can make for a great low-calorie chocolate "fix" that packs enough punch to satisfy any cravings. And, I have found that I can just pop a couple of these beans into my mouth and chew on them for as much as a half hour while still getting flavor out of them. The consistency may be a bit like that of roasted coffee beans. So, if you like roasted coffee beans (a popular form being chocolate-covered espresso-beans), you may well enjoy these cacoa beans.

Now, just because I eat them plain does not mean they are not useful in other ways. I love my gluten-free desserts, especially chocolate ones and/or chocolate-accent ones, and these beans can be used as a neat addition or garnish to various gluten-free desserts. You can crack them into small pieces and sprinkle them onto things as cocoa nibs (which I noticed were rather popular on top of chocolate bars in the UK). I like them on ice-cream, and sometimes I'll just eat some with a piece of a dark-chocolate bar for a quick enhanced texture and flavor experience. There are quite a few possibilities for these delicious gluten-free treats... even if you can't tolerate the flavor intensity in their pure form, they make a wonderful accent. Enjoy!

Sorry the Gluten-Free Blog articles have slowed down the past few weeks. My wife and I have been busy creating a vastly expanded vegetable garden for the summer, and that has been taking a lot of time. But, I have more gluten-free recipes coming soon including some Soy/Tofu variations of glutenfree cakes and GF waffles that are quite fabulous. Perhaps when the next rainy day forces me indoors I will have time to post the recipes, but for now, I have to take full advantage of the great Spring weather while it lasts.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gluten-Free Chocolate Tortilla Chips

[UPDATE: apparently these chocolate tortilla chips were phased out. But, the maker still has a nice lineup of delicious varieties of gluten-free chips... see the link below.]

I can not believe I didn't try these chocolate tortilla chips earlier - they are WONDERFUL! I love chocolate, as any of my readers fully know by now, and the subtle chocolate / cocoa flavor in these certified gluten-free tortilla chips makes for an extra-special snack. They are made by a company called "Foods That Should Taste Good (tm)" in Massachusetts, and my first thoughts upon tasting them include: "wow" that is a great tasting quality product with fantastic texture and mouth appeal.

I found these gluten-free chips at Whole Foods Market earlier today, and I have since tried them plain, and with a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano I also purchased today as a treat. I enjoyed these considerably both ways. The one problem is the fact I could eat a whole bag of them in one sitting, which probably isn't the best idea for a diet, though it could be enjoyable. They are labeled as a possible dessert item too, and I concur.

In addition to chocolate tortilla chips, they have a few other varieties of wheat-free and gluten-free chips with interesting flavors I am looking forward to also trying: varieties including Jalepeno tortilla chips, olive tortilla chips, and even a gluten-free multigrain tortilla chip. And, here's a quote from their website regarding their gluten-free certification:

Are any of your products gluten-free?
Yes! All of our chips have been tested and certified gluten-free, and all are processed on machinery that that does not process any items with gluten. (If you are concerned about the oat fiber in the multigrain chips, don't be! The fiber is extracted from the oats, and does not contain any gluten.)

I am always pleased to encounter such wonderful gluten-free products, especially novel ones that are especially standouts in the crowd, that I can recommend to others. These definitely get my full "thumbs up" gluten-free product recommendation. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Wine and Tea to control Type 2 Diabetes

I just finished reading a press release from food scientists at UMass that discussed the results of a scientific study regarding how Antioxidants in Red Wine and Tea May Help Regulate Blood Sugar in Type 2 Diabetics. That sure sounds like a great thing! And, this type of news is always even better when the beneficial foods / compounds are gluten-free, as tea and wine should be (presuming no cross-contamination).

I already love tea, and though I don't often include wine in my diet, it is scientific findings like this that make me wonder if I should, just as a preventative measure. I wish the study would have looked at grape juice too (to see if it produces the same results - since I love grape juice, as compared to wine, which I am just "OK" with), but it did not.

Here's a brief of what the researchers reported:
“Levels of blood sugar, or blood glucose, rise sharply in patients with type 2 diabetes immediately following a meal,” says Shetty. “Red wine and tea contain natural antioxidants that may slow the passage of glucose through the small intestine and eventually into the bloodstream and prevent this spike, which is an important step in managing this disease.”

One of the main challenges in managing diabetes is keeping blood sugar levels as normal as possible with few major fluctuations, which can prevent the disease from contributing to heart disease and high blood pressure as well as damaging the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels.

Both red and white wines were tested in the laboratory using in vitro enzyme studies to determine how well they could inhibit the activity of a target enzyme called alpha-glucosidase, responsible for triggering the absorption of glucose by the small intestine. Red wine was the winner, able to inhibit the enzyme by nearly 100 percent. Values for white wine hovered around 20 percent.
One thing I want to point out here, to anyone that isn't use to the term, is that "in vitro" essentially means in a controlled setting, a lab, a test-tube, whatever. I.e., this is NOT the equivalent of "in vivo", which means something testing on a living organism. So, before you get too excited about guzzling some gluten-free red wine or tea, keep in mind the results demonstrated in a lab setting may not really produce the same effect in your body through diet. If they did, curing diseases like Celiac would be rather simple (since, gluten can easily be broken down with enzymes in a test-tube, though such apparent "cures" may not bode well for your internal organs).

I'd think drinking tea would generally be harmless (if you don't get too much caffeine) and a bit of red wine now and then may have other beneficial and prior demonstrable value (some studies suggest positive cardiac impact). My main interest and hope is that longer term in vivo studies on the polyphenolics in tea and wine prove out the apparent Type-2 diabetes protection these compounds offer en vitro currently.

The study (here's a link to the full tea and wine for Type-2 diabetes control press release) offered some discussion / speculation about how a natural tea / wine approach to diabetes control could also reduce or eliminate the side effects seen with current medications (also a plus!)

Well, time will tell. But, even without further "proof", I think this is a good enough excuse for me to go brew up a nice glass of Black Pekoe tea now! (and who knows, perhaps a bit of Red Wine with dinner the next couple days?)