getting fresh: Moody foodies, Derby day desiresWhen you’re in a bad mood, do you reach for chocolate? If so, you’re not alone – that’s according to a recent report by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine that found both men and women turn to chocolate as depressive symptoms increase, suggesting an association between mood and chocolate.
“Our study confirms long-held suspicions that eating chocolate is something that people do when they are feeling down,” says Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UCSD School of Medicine and co-author of the report.
Golomb and her colleagues asked 1,000 subjects not taking anti-depressant medications and with no known cardiovascular disease or diabetes about how many servings of chocolate they ate in a week. In addition, participants were screened using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale to measure mood.
The researchers found that members of both genders with the highest depression scores consumed almost 12 servings of chocolate per month. Those with lesser depression scores ate about eight servings per month. Those with no depression ate five servings per month.
No differentiation was made between dark and milk chocolate. (However, my own unscientific research has always revealed that women like their chocolate dark. I can’t speak for men, other than my colleague Andy and my father, both of whom prefer the dark side.) The study considered a medium serving of chocolate to be 1 oz. -- slightly less than an average chocolate bar.
“The findings did not appear to be explained by a general increase in caffeine, fat, carbohydrate or energy intake, suggesting that our findings are specific to chocolate,” Golomb continues. There was no difference in consumption of other antioxidant-rich foods such as fish, coffee, fruits and vegetables between participants, either. Future studies will be required to determine the basis of this association as well as the role chocolate plays in cause or cure of depression, Golomb notes.
“Because it was a cross-sectional study, meaning a slice in time, it did not tell us whether the chocolate decreased or intensified the depression,” she says.
Ahhh, there’s the rub.
If only we knew the affect chocolate has on mood. Somewhere out there, I’m sure there’s a current study to this affect (I’m on the lookout for up-to-date findings), but the results no doubt would be pretty subjective, begging the age-old question: If a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? In other words, if you eat a piece of chocolate, and you feel better, are you cured, or has your brain just tricked you into thinking you are? Or is that the same thing?
Even though chocolate is always within reach for me, personally, I go for salty, not sweet, snacks when moodiness strikes, so I can’t relate. But based on my aforementioned unscientific research, I’m obviously in the minority. And as I’ve written in past blogs, colleagues often stop by my office for a chocolate fix when the day has gone terribly awry; our receptionist can attest. (See "getting fresh" in the October 28 edition of sweet & healthy.)
The study was funded by grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the UCSD General Clinical Research Center. (Had it been sponsored by an industry-leading chocolate maker, it no doubt would have delved even deeper, asking participants what brand of chocolate, in particular, they reach for.) The full results of the UCSD paper appear in the April 26 edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Kentucky Derby’s Confectionery Connection: This Saturday, I will be celebrating the Kentucky Derby at an aptly themed benefit (if I can decide between which of five dresses and four hats to wear in time for the event, that is). I’ve always thought horses to be beautiful animals, especially when running, but I’ve never seen a live race. And I’ve only ever placed free, just-for-fun bets on who might end up in the winner’s circle. But this year, I’d be willing to put some real money on one Churchill Downs entry (and not just for the horse’s confectionery moniker): Sidney’s Candy.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the aforementioned colt “is named for the late husband of weight-loss maven Jenny Craig, who plans to attend Saturday's Kentucky Derby. (Sid) Craig died of cancer nearly two years ago at age 76, but she stayed in the racing business to pursue their shared goal of winning this event.”
But wait – there’s more: “Sidney's Candy is the son of undefeated Argentine-bred Candy Ride,” according to the Tribune, which explains that the Craigs founded Jenny Craig, Inc. in 1982 and sold it to Nestlé SA (how ironic) for $600 million four years ago. “Together they owned horses for 20 years before Sid's death and tried to win the Derby a year ago with another son of Candy Ride, Chocolate Candy, who finished fifth in the Derby and ninth in the Belmont.”
I love a good confectionery connection.
Sidney’s Candy aside, I’m a bit torn by the entry of a horse that hails from my home state of Iowa: Paddy O’Prado (not to be confused with Prada). It’s a rare feat to get one’s horse into the Derby, as Des Moines, Iowa, attorney Jerry Crawford (not to be confused with Jenny Craig) has done. (Crawford also is managing owner of the Iowa Energy basketball team. Yeah, I didn’t know they had a team, either …) In fact, the only other time an Iowa-owned horse (Blumin Affair) ran in the Derby was back in 1994. (He finished third.)
At present, Sidney’s Candy is “the second choice at 6-1 at Wednesday's post-position draw,” the Tribune reports.
Current odds for Paddy O’Prado are 15-1, according to www.kentuckyderby.com.
Either way, I’m hoping to see one of these fine horses draped in a blanket of roses come Saturday night.
ConAgra research suggests popcorn bests chocolate in curbing cravingsAt the Experimental Biology Conference session held yesterday in Anaheim, Calif., a ConAgra-led research team presented a study that shows eating a filling but calorie-controlled snack such as Orville Redenbacher's 94% fat-free SmartPop! popcorn leaves consumers feeling fuller and less hungry than snacking on the same caloric amount of milk chocolate.
The study found that participants who ate a 100-calorie portion of Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop! popcorn versus two nuggets of milk chocolate (also 100 calories) were significantly less hungry and more full, had less desire for a second snack and were more satisfied with the amount of food after eating the popcorn.
"We know that feeling hungry is a barrier to weight loss” says Kristin Reimers, nutrition manager, ConAgra Foods. “Our findings show that low-fat popcorn is a smart snack choice for managing weight because it helps people feel less hungry and more satisfied. SmartPop! popcorn also has the benefit of being 100% whole grain and an excellent source of fiber."
The study involved 49 female participants ages 20 to 50 years old with a body mass index (BMI) between 18 and 25 (normal weight). All participants followed the same consumption protocol in a controlled testing facility. After an overnight fast, they arrived at the testing facility, ate a controlled breakfast and then ate a snack 3.5 hours later. Participants' fullness levels were approximately 40% higher 30 minutes after snacking on popcorn versus after eating chocolate.
The popcorn versus chocolate study is part of ConAgra’s ongoing research showing that low-fat popcorn is a smart snack choice for weight management. In April 2009, a similar study found that subjects who ate up to six cups of low-fat popcorn (100 calories) 30 minutes before lunch consumed the same amount of total calories from the popcorn snack and a subsequent meal as those who consumed only water before the meal.
In contrast, when subjects ate a cup of potato chips (150 calories) before the meal, they ate significantly more total calories, including the meal. In other words, eating popcorn for a snack before a meal curbed hunger without increasing total caloric intake.
Both studies used Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop! popcorn, which is 100% whole grain.
For more information, please visit www.conagrafoods.com.
Anniversaries galore at Just BornJust Born, Inc. is inviting fans of its MIKE AND IKE and HOT TAMALES brands to join the celebration as the two iconic candies mark their 70th and 60th anniversaries, respectively. For the occasion, Just Born will dress both brands in vintage packaging. These MIKE AND IKE and HOT TAMALES products will be available in 6-oz. boxes nationwide and merchandised in limited edition “Sweet & Sizzle” displays all summer long.
“To honor their anniversaries, we have introduced these items with packaging designed to capture the spirit and personality of the brands across the decades,” says Linda Biondo, assistant brand manager. “The packaging taps into each brand’s history and consumers’ emotional connections with their favorite candies.”
In addition to enjoying their favorite candies in vintage packaging, fans also will have the opportunity to purchase collectable merchandise available online at www.justbornstore.com. As part of the celebration, the displays offer consumers a discount code for use at the online store.
For more information, visit www.mikeandike.com and www.hottamales.com.
Watchdog takes to task companies with 'organic' in their namesThe Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group based in Cornucopia, Wis., sent a formal legal complaint to the USDA’s National Organic Program and a second, similar complaint to the Federal Trade Commission last week. The complaint claims that three food companies, including Oskri Organics and Newman's Own Organics, were misleading consumers into thinking that all their products were organic simply because of their companies’ names.
"Companies are getting away with using the word 'organic' in their company name, listed prominently on food packages, even if the product they're selling isn't certified organic," explains Charlotte Vallaeys, a farm and food policy analyst for The Cornucopia Institute. "These companies are taking advantage of the good name and reputation of organics, without going the extra mile to actually source all organic ingredients in their products."
According to the institute, Oskri Organics, which sells a variety of foods, including nutrition bars, misleads consumers in this way.
“Some of their products, however, contain no certified organic ingredients,” the Institute states.
It also cites Newman's Own Organics for selling “some certified organic products and some that only qualify for the ‘made with organic’ label (70% organic content),” while using “the term ‘Organics’ in their name” on all food packages.
Cornucopia notes that Newman's Own Organics Newman-O's cookies contain conventional sugar, conventional canola oil and conventional cocoa, “yet the webpage displays the ‘USDA Organic’ seal …”
"Newman-O's, a product similar to Nabisco's Oreo cookies, are not organic, yet consumers are led to believe that they are," Vallaeys says. "Products that contain conventional ingredients, which are freely available in organic form, would never qualify for the USDA Organic seal. We think it's time for the USDA to crack down on corporations gaming the system by putting the word ‘Organic’ or ‘Organics’ in their company name."
Current organic standards specify that processed foods that are represented as organic “must contain 95-100% organically produced raw or processed agricultural products," Vallaeys asserts. The only minor ingredients allowed that are not certified organic must be unavailable in organic form and approved by the National Organics Standards Board.
"By naming themselves 'Organic Bistro' or 'Newman's Own Organics,' these companies are attempting to circumvent the standards, representing their products as organic without meeting the organic labeling standard," she adds.
For more information, visit www.cornucopia.org.
Mars' paper trail helps cocoa farming communitiesPutting pen to paper now may help garner financial opportunity for women and their families in cocoa farming communities in Indonesia. Mars Sustainable Solutions, a new business unit at MARS, Inc. that’s dedicated to delivering restorative and sustainable solutions, has launched a MyCocoaPaper product line -- note pads, greeting cards, book marks, leather bound books -- that are handmade in Indonesia from 70% natural cocoa bark and 30% recycled office paper waste. With the introduction of MyCocoaPaper, Mars aims to create economic opportunities that encourage healthy and sustainable cocoa farming practices.
Successful cocoa farming includes regular pruning of trees, which provides better access to light and nutrients, the company says. In many farms, the prunings are burned as firewood or simply discarded as rubbish. Through partnership with local Indonesian organizations -- working not only with cocoa farming communities, but with long-standing artisans and craftsmen -- MARS is supporting the creation of a new use for cocoa tree prunings: cocoa paper products.
The handmade cocoa paper process starts with the purchase of cocoa bark stripped during pruning at farms where Mars sources cocoa. The paper then is made at the Wisnu Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, which combines the cocoa bark with collected recycled paper.
Finally, the MyCocoaPaper products are individually crafted by an all-woman team of workers at the Saraswati Paper Co., producing sustainable, handmade cocoa paper products free of harmful chemicals.
“What we are trying to encourage is that by creating a beautiful product, people can see that their waste can become something beautiful and also something viable, and hopefully encourage other businesses to do the same thing,” says Kali Sari, founder of Saraswati Papers.
“The women we employ come here to learn a special skill, and it’s our hope we can give these women opportunities,” she continues. “Some women have gone on to become school teachers, and others have gone on to create their own small companies. We’re happy women can come here and feel part of a supportive group.”
The debut of MyCocoaPaper continues Mars’ long-standing commitment to be a part of delivering restorative and sustainable solutions that have positive economic, social and environmental implications in the communities in which they work.
“MyCocoaPaper enhances the livelihoods of those in communities where we operate, creating economic opportunities that support the livelihoods of women,” says Elizabeth Willett, MyCocoaPaper project manager at Mars Sustainable Solutions. “MyCocoaPaper will help drive home the importance of sustainable business models that have a positive impact on our planet.”
MyCocoaPaper is debuting in limited release exclusively at M&M’s World in New York and Las Vegas. For more information, please visit www.mycocoapaper.com.