Avoiding a meltdown: Balancing desire for chocolate, healthier products

Chocolate curl
Photo from Barry Callebaut.

Recently, a Financial Times article by Ralph Atkins — in timely seasonal fashion for Easter — suggested that Swiss chocolate, and chocolate consumption in general, may be losing its shine and, dare we say it, melting in popularity because of health concerns.

And although Atkins does quote several analysts and trots out dire statistics to make his case, this call to alarm could be called a bit of a stretch, somewhat akin to the sensational headlines last year indicating a looming chocolate shortage.

In this new era of opinionated reporting, stringing along several statistics and facts doesn’t always provide a complete picture. While recent reports do confirm a slowing in consumption, past history suggests this is a temporary holding pattern, one that will right itself as consumers determine which kinds of chocolate will meet their eating occasions and desires.

And it’s not as if cocoa and chocolate suppliers have buried their heads in banana leaves; they are very much attuned to current health trends affecting shopping cart decisions. Take sugar, for example, which continues to be “demonized” in the press and has become a major concern among certain shoppers, the demographics encompassing mothers and Millennials, Baby Boomers and bargain hunters.

As Mark Adriaenssens, v. p. of R&D for Barry Callebaut Americas, notes, the move toward less sugar hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Yes, our customers are inquiring about products with less sugar in them,” he says. “We can meet these requests by replacing part of the sugar with an alternative in an individual recipe or by replacing all the sugar entirely with a substitute. We see also a surge in demand for newly trending alternative sugars as maple and coconut sugar. However, taste still remains a top priority and with some sugar replacers, this can become a concern. Overall, our customers and end consumers do not want to sacrifice the indulgent taste of chocolate for less sugar.”

Rinus Hemskeerk, Olam International’s global head of innovation, concurs.

“Helping our customers keep pace with consumers’ changing tastes for healthier options is incredibly important, and something we are well positioned to do,” he says. “Equally important is that the product must taste great, which is exactly why our Cocoa Innovation Centres develop high quality, delicious products such as a dark cocoa powder without added sodium that our Latin American customers can use to reformulate their products. This provides our customers with a powder that has the same flavor and color impact, but which allows them to reduce sugar in their own recipe.”

But it’s not just about reducing sugar anymore; fat content has also entered the picture.

“Here different solutions are also possible for reducing the amount of fat; however, some fat reduction solutions can affect the ‘cleanliness’ of a product label, which is also important to keep in mind,” Adriaenssens says. “Fat also has an important function in melt, texture, and flavor delivery of the chocolate, and for an indulgent item like chocolate, consumers generally don’t want to sacrifice taste for less fat.”

Moreover, with cocoa and chocolate there are several options to consider. Hemskeerk notes that Olam International produces a range of cocoa powders for its customers with varying levels of fat.

“As the level of fat required depends on what product is being produced, we leave the decision of what to use regarding their own formulations up to them,” he says. “However, as consumers are more health conscious, a driver for us is to make our products as ‘clean-labelled’ as possible. Here, our natural cocoa powders come to play; they are not alkalized, yet provide the same color, flavor and functionality in application.”

To address this niche, The Blommer Chocolate Co. developed the Wonder Line, indulgent and creamy white, milk, dark and yogurt coatings that have significantly reduced calories, fat and saturated fat. The reduction in calories ranges from 36-37 percent, the total fat is reduced by 60-63 percent and the total saturated fat is lowered by 63-66 percent, depending upon the type (i.e. white vs. dark).

According to the company, any number of claims may be made, depending on the application and what is being created. Low Fat, Reduced Calorie, Reduced Fat, Reduced Saturated Fat claims may be made depending on the application and usage level. It comes down to permissible…

How to: Making your own healthy salad dressings


Long gone are the days of hearty soups, stews, and roasted root vegetables that kept our souls warm and our bellies nourished all winter long. Spring and Summer mark a time to celebrate fresh, light, and vibrant vegetables. It’s salad season!

While salads are probably one of the healthiest meals of all, how we dress our salad can totally make or break our healthiest intentions. In fact, store bought dressings can oftentimes be what I call the “undo” button, capable of completely sabotaging what could have been a delicious and nourishing meal.

Don’t believe me? Head to your fridge or pantry, pick up a store-bought dressing, and take a glance at the list of ingredients. More times than not, you will find a long list of highly processed ingredients, including sneaky sugar, excess sodium, and highly refined oils, along with an assortment of artificial additives and preservatives.

So, how do we dress our salads for success? You can start by learning what to look for when reading the nutrition label of store-bought salad dressing, which I explained in detail here. And while there are a few good products currently on the market, such as Tessemae’s All Natural Dressings, the truth is, you’re better off making your own. DIY dressing is a no brainer – it’s healthier, more affordable, and puts you back in the driver’s seat.

The idea of making your own salad dressing may feel intimidating, but after a little practice, it becomes second nature. To make it extra simple, here’s a step-by-step guide to DIY salad dressings.

DIY DRESSING: A Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to making a salad dressing, I follow a simple acronym: FASSS — Fat, Acid, Seasoning, Salt & Sweet. FASSS represents the 5 key components of a delicious and nutrient-rich salad dressing, with no recipe required! Let’s break it down:

  • Fat: Fat serves many purposes! It brings a creamy texture to your salad dressing and serves as an emulsifier that holds all the other ingredients together. Fat also acts as a chauffeur for your salad’s nutrients. Did you know that many of our nutrients are “fat soluble”? That means they need fat to help transport them from our GI tract to our cells. Without fat, our nutrients never reach our cells and we lose out on reaping their health benefits. This is why fat-free salad dressings are actually counterproductive. Try one of these high-quality fats: Olive oil, flax oil, nut and seed butters like tahini or almond butter, organic yogurt, hummus, or a mashed up avocado.
  • Acid: Acid brightens up your salad dressing, bringing a nice tang to every bite. Think: vinegars and citrus fruits. There are so many different vinegars to explore: red wine, white wine, apple cider, sherry, balsamic, white balsamic, rice vinegar – each of these has a unique flavor. You can also use lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits .
  • Seasonings: Here’s where you get to add some personality to your dressing. Add garlic, some minced onions, scallions, or shallots, or mix it up with ginger or different herbs and spices. Think of what kind of flavor profile you’re craving — whether it’s Asian, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean — and let that direct you towards seasoning combinations commonly used in these areas of the…

5 healthy, sugar-free homemade dips, dressings and sauces to spice up your meals

Businessman having a vegetables salad for lunch, healthy eating and lifestyle concept, unrecognizable person
Businessman having a vegetables salad for lunch, healthy eating and lifestyle concept, unrecognizable person (demaerre)

Many restaurant and store bought dips and dressings are high in calories, fat and added sugar. A salad at Mcdonald’s may not always be better than the quarter-pounder with cheese once you factor in the dressing that comes with the salad. You’re always better off ordering a salad without the dressing and making your own at home. If you are eating at the restaurant, you can get the dressing on the side and dip your fork first in the dressing and then in the salad. Here are some healthy dressings and dips that will add a ton of flavor to your salads without all of the extra calories.

Carrot ginger dressing:

To make this easy and low calorie dressing, simply blend cooked carrots, minced ginger root and roasted garlic with unsweetened cashew milk until a smooth consistency is achieved. It will give an Asian flair to any salad or dish. Ginger has a strong flavor so start with two tablespoons to large carrot. Ginger has numerous health benefits and this is a great way to work it into your diet. It is high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger also helps with nausea, lowers blood sugar levels, helps improve various heart disease risk factors and has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels.

Greek yogurt dip:

Greek yogurt is a great substitute for mayonnaise and sour cream in dips and dressings due to its thick consistency…

Is cheese safe for people with diabetes?

Compared with many other foods, cheese is high in fat and calories and may not be an obvious choice for someone with diabetes. Cheese and diabetes can, however, be a healthful combination.

Cheese lovers can enjoy a wide variety of cheeses without elevating blood sugar, raising blood pressure, or gaining weight.

For diabetes-friendly meals or snacks, people should choose healthful cheeses and serve them with foods that are rich in fiber and low in calories.

Can people with diabetes eat cheese?

People with diabetes can safely eat cheese as part of a balanced, healthful diet. Just as with other foods, moderation is the key. A diet mainly consisting of cheese is unhealthy for anyone.

When selecting cheeses, people with diabetes need to consider a few things:

[Selection of cheeses]
Although cheese is high in fat, it can be enjoyed in moderation by people with diabetes.

Cheese is very high in calories and fat. Though calorie content varies among cheese varieties, people with diabetes should avoid overindulging in cheese.

Type 2 diabetes is linked with obesity, and losing just a few pounds can reduce the risk of diabetes.

There are several steps that people with diabetes can take to help them eat cheese without gaining weight:

  • stick to small servings
  • choose lower-calorie cheeses
  • use cheese as a source of flavor rather than as the main course

Cheese is high in saturated fat compared with many other foods. In small quantities, saturated fat is harmless and can actually be beneficial to the body. But excessive intake of saturated fats is linked to weight gain, high cholesterol, gallbladder problems, and heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommend a diet that contains no more than 5-6 percent saturated fat. That means that in a 2,000 calorie diet, no more than 120 calories or 13 grams (g) should come from saturated fats.

Other experts advise no more than 10 percent of daily caloric intake, which increases the amount of saturated fat, and cheese, that a person can consume safely. People with diabetes can meet this goal by sticking to no more than one serving of cheese per day.

The connection between saturated fat intake and heart disease is not as clear as it once seemed. An analysis of previous research found insufficient evidence linking saturated fats and heart disease.

However, people with diabetes are already at a higher risk of heart disease. As a result, they should continue consuming only small quantities of saturated fats until research provides clearer guidelines.

Until this time, the emphasis for people with diabetes should be to eat lots of plant-based foods that are rich in unsaturated fats.

People with diabetes…

How Orthorexia Helped Me Heal From a Lifelong Eating Disorder

The following post was originally published on Clean Living Guide.

The Anxiety of Being Good

The pursuit of the illusive waif figure consumed nearly half my life. Each moment was permeated by the trinity of deprivation, binging, and purging. Everything revolved around “good” and “bad” choices, but bad choices had ramifications and solutions. This produced an immense amount of anxiety, leading to incredible release and relief when the misstep was corrected. In contrast, good choices felt good in the moment but produced an anxiety that had no solution. Rooted in deprivation, good choices would ultimately give way to the loss of control.

From the time I was 13 until about 30, I purged an average of 50 percent of my food intake. It began with throwing up bad foods, but quickly escalated to not only throwing up when I ate too much of a regular meal, but to eating simply for the purpose of vomiting. Not because I enjoyed throwing up, but because the anxiety produced around the struggle between having or not having the guilty food was so great that I knew it was safer to satisfy it by going all out with the binge.

Gluten, Fat-Free Foods & Bulimia

The real kicker is that bulimics don’t often get skinny. Their metabolisms are so out of whack that their bodies hold on to every sugary, fat-producing carbohydrate — ensuring a perpetual pudge. So even though I was purging regularly, I was still what felt like “fat” throughout my high school years. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I became driven enough to dramatically limit my food intake in addition to binging and purging. Finally I began to lose the weight that made me uncomfortable, but even so, I never got to be as skinny as I longed to be.

For one I had a gluten allergy, which despite having all the symptoms of the disease, remained undiscovered by myriad doctors who tended to me all throughout my adolescence and high school (read more about the symptoms of gluten intolerance and Celiac here). In all likelihood, the puffy-pudgy body I began to develop as a little girl was a result of untreated gluten intolerance.

That was the beginning of my weight gain, but the second issue that perpetuated my bloated body was diet, and dieting specifically. As a teen I began to reject the healthy whole foods that my Polish parents made and began to shift towards non-fat foods, more processed American foods, and finally dipped into going vegetarian. Fighting perpetual malnutrition and anemia because of the gluten intolerance, while feeding my body fat-free carb and gluten-heavy foods threw my already slowed metabolism into a tailspin.

Healing Through Orthorexia

When the internet became a viable river of information in the early 2000s, my obsessive-compulsive personality drove me to pore over whatever information I could find on dieting, and conversely on holistic healing. I felt desperate to get better. The purging became so prevalent that I was afraid for my life and seeking the help of doctors, psychiatrists, and cognitive psychologists was not producing meaningful results. Seeing holistic healers helped me to better understand that emotional connection between the obsessive behavior and my childhood experiences, but epiphanies alone couldn’t cut through the wiring to my obsessive behavior.

Here’s where healing and orthorexia finally step in. First let me preface by highlighting that orthorexia is not an officially recognized disorder in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This is a term coined by Dr. Steven Bratman, in a piece he wrote for Yoga Journal in 1997. He came up with the term to refer to what he believed to be an “unhealthy obsession” with healthy food in patients with eating disorders. By using this term I’m recognizing that my first forays into genuinely healthy eating — as opposed to deprivation — may have been obsessive. But it was this obsession that laid the foundation for healing from inside out.

Over time as I continued to research glimpses of information began to surface pointing out that natural fats in whole foods were not the cause of weight gain. I began to learn that the copious amounts of processed soy milk I had been consuming for years was full of hormone-disrupting chemicals; that non-fat, high-carb foods were responsible for weight gain (not weight-loss); that there were GMOs in our food supply; that pesticides were not to be taken lightly, and that the story we’d been fed about saturated fat was a lie. And eventually, that grains and gluten specifically might be the cause of my hard to control weight, along with cause for the mental, skin, and other disorders I was battling.

Trusting Food Again

Living with an eating disorder means that you have a high capacity for creating order. So as this information began to flood my mind, I slowly — and I mean at a snail’s pace — was able to shift my OCD mind to focus on eating authentically nourishing foods. It took quite a few years, but as I began to witness that eating healthy whole foods did not result in weight gain, I began to trust food again.

At the height of my dieting obsession, aside from anti-nutrient foods like saltines and soy milk, I ate healthy foods too — salads, soups, smoothies, and the like. But I was obsessed with the food that I “kept down” being nearly fat-free. I denied myself the nutrient-dense foods my body so desperately craved and needed, like butter, beef, eggs, and even olive oil. If I did eat those foods they were nearly guaranteed to “come back up.” In effect I was starving…

Fat cells discovery could reveal insights about glucose control in diabetes

A discovery into how fat cells work alongside the liver could have research implications for several diseases, including diabetes and cancer.

Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center report that fat cells help the liver to maintain blood sugar control, claiming they “have the liver’s back”.

These fat cells maintain tight regulation of a metabolite called uridine, which has many roles in the body, including storing glucose.

When the body is fasting, the fat cells take over from the liver in producing uridine. These findings were replicated in human, mouse and rat studies.

The importance of uridine in the body and its relationship with fat cells could signal new research opportunities for understanding glucose regulation in diabetes, the researchers said.

Senior author Dr Phillip Scherer explained: “Like glucose, every cell in the body needs uridine to stay alive. Glucose is needed for energy, particularly in the brain’s neurons. Uridine is a basic building block for a lot of things inside the cell.

“We found that the liver serves as the primary producer of this metabolite only in the fed state. In the fasted state, the body’s fat cells take over the production of uridine.”

Levels of blood uridine were shown to increase during fasting and lower during feeding, with excess uridine released through bile.

“It turns out that having uridine in your gut helps you absorb glucose; therefore uridine helps in glucose regulation,” said Scherer.

This fasting-induced rise in uridine was also linked to reduced body temperature due to disruption of the metabolism.

When the researchers tested the effects of a high-fat diet in dietary studies, body temperature was prevented from lowering, an effect also associated with obesity.

The study team later discovered that these findings were because of decreased uridine levels in response to fasting.

“Our studies reveal a direct link between temperature regulation and metabolism, indicating that a uridine-centred model of energy balance may pave the way for future studies on uridine balance and how this process is dysregulated in the diabetic state,” concluded Scherer.

The study has been published in the journal Science.


Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that results in hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) due to the body:

  • Being ineffective at using the insulin it has produced; also known as insulin resistance and/or
  • Being unable to produce enough insulin

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the body being unable to metabolise glucose (a simple sugar). This leads to high levels of blood glucose which over time may damage the organs of the body.

From this, it can be understood that for someone with diabetes something that is food for ordinary people can become a sort of metabolic poison.

This is why people with diabetes are advised to avoid sources of dietary sugar.

The good news is for very many people with type 2 diabetes this is all they have to do to stay well. If you can keep your blood sugar lower by avoiding dietary sugar, likely you will never need long-term medication.

Type 2 diabetes was formerly known as non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes due to its occurrence mainly in people over 40. However, type 2 diabetes is now becoming more common in young adults, teens and children and accounts for roughly 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide.

How serious is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a serious medical condition that often requires the use of anti-diabetic medication, or insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control. However, the development of type 2 diabetes and its side effects (complications) can be prevented if detected and treated at an early stage.

In recent years, it has become apparent that many people with type 2 diabetes are able to reverse diabetes through methods including low-carb diets, very-low-calorie diets and exercise.

For guidance on healthy eating to improve blood glucose levels and weight and to fight back against insulin resistance, join the Low Carb Program.

Following pre-diabetes or metabolic disorder, type 2 diabetes can potentially be avoided through diet and exercise.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the hormone insulin is not used effectively by the cells in your body. Insulin is needed for cells to take in glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream and convert it into energy.

Ineffective use of insulin results in the body becoming resistant to insulin – also known as insulin resistance, which in turn causes blood sugar levels to rise (hyperglycemia).

In advanced stages, type 2 diabetes may cause damage to insulin producing cells in the pancreas, leading to insufficient insulin production for your body’s needs.

Type 2 diabetes…

Add intensity into your workout and you can burn fat and stay young

Add intensity into your workout and you can burn fat and stay young
Adding intensity into your workout can save you time and keep you young.

From HIIT and CrossFit to spinning and functional training, here are four good reasons to jump onboard the latest trend for high-intensity interval-based workouts that combine short, intense bursts of activity with low-intensity active recovery.

Get great results, fast!

Military-inspired interval training sessions, combining short 30-second bursts of intense activity with short recovery periods, can change the shape of your body in record time by burning fat.

CrossFit combines elements of weight lifting (lifting, throwing, moving objects), classic gym exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, rings) and cardio training (running, rowing, cycling).

Some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) programmes use body weight rather than equipment, boosting metabolism with a workout based on a series of standard exercises (squats, wall sits, lunges, planks, jumps, etc.) that work all muscle groups. This type of exercise can burn up to 800 calories in 30 minutes.

Circuit-based functional training programmes are also…

Good vibrations: A bit of shaking can burn fat, combat diabetes

Whole-body vibration, the activity this gym-goer is performing, provided a metabolic tune-up for obese mice.

It sounds like a crazy way to improve your health—spend some time on a platform that vibrates at about the same frequency as the lowest string on a double bass. But recent research indicates that the procedure, known as whole-body vibration, may be helpful in illnesses from cerebral palsy to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Now, a new study of obese mice reveals that whole-body vibration provides similar metabolic benefits as walking on a treadmill, suggesting it may be useful for treating obesity and type II diabetes.

“I think it’s very promising,” says exercise physiologist Lee Brown of the California State University in Fullerton, who wasn’t connected to the study. Although the effects are small, he says, researchers should follow-up to determine whether they can duplicate them in humans.

Plenty of gyms feature whole-body vibration machines, and many athletes swear the activity improves their performance. The jiggling does seem to spur muscles to work harder, possibly triggering some of the same effects as exercise. But researchers still don’t know how the two compare, especially when it comes to people who are ill. So biomedical engineer Meghan McGee-Lawrence of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and colleagues decided to perform a head-to-head comparison of exercise and whole-body vibration.

The researchers tested mutant mice resistant to the appetite-controlling hormone leptin, resulting in obesity and diabetes. McGee-Lawrence and colleagues divided their animals into three groups. One group lived in cages on a platform…

Fat discovery could ease inflammation for diabetics

Fat discovery could ease inflammation for diabetics

Inflammation is one of the main reasons why people with diabetes experience heart attacks, strokes, kidney problems, and other, related complications. Now a surprise finding identifies a possible trigger of chronic inflammation.

Too much fat in the diet promotes insulin resistance by spurring chronic inflammation.

But the researchers discovered, in mice, that when certain immune cells can’t manufacture fat, the mice don’t develop diabetes and inflammation, even when consuming a high-fat diet.

“The number of people with diabetes has quadrupled worldwide over the last 20 years,” says senior investigator Clay F. Semenkovich, professor and director of the division of endocrinology, metabolism, and lipid research at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

“We have made modest progress in making it less likely for some people with diabetes to have heart attacks and strokes.

However, those receiving optimal therapy are still much more likely to die from complications driven by chronic inflammation that is, at least in part, generated by these immune cells.

“But by blocking the production of fat inside these cells, it may be possible to prevent inflammation in people with diabetes and even in other conditions, such as arthritis and cancer, in which chronic inflammation plays a role. This could have a profound impact on health.”

Semenkovich’s team made genetically altered mice that could not make the enzyme for fatty acid synthase (FAS) in immune cells called macrophages.

Without the enzyme, it…

This Easy Banana-Nut Oatmeal Helps Your Body Burn Fat

Oats are one of our favorite ways to eat whole grains. Not only are they super versatile (pro tip: try something different and make them savory!), they’re also seriously good for you. Whether you choose to get creative and add sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, or opt for a more classic breakfast topping (like berries), oatmeal is a perfect pick for a fiber-packed morning meal that will help fuel your day.

For anyone who’s a fan of banana-nut pancakes, this recipe will be your new go-to bowl: With both oats and bananas, two resistant starch powerhouses, the tasty breakfast brings you…

The Diet That Could Make You Smarter

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter MONDAY, May 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Adding more olive oil or nuts to a Mediterranean diet — one rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains and low in red meat — may help keep your mind sharper as you age, a new study suggests. The Spanish researchers found that seniors following such diets had greater improvements in thinking and memory than people who were simply advised to eat a lower-fat diet. “You can delay the onset of age-related mental decline with a healthy diet rich in foods with a high antioxidant power, such as virgin olive oil and nuts,” said lead researcher Dr. Emilio Ros, director of the lipid clinic at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona. “Because the average age of participants was 67 when the trial began, one can say that it is never too late to change your diet to maintain or even improve brain function,” he said. The report was published online May 11 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said, “The general heart-healthy and brain-healthy effects of eating less beef and more chicken, fish, fruits and vegetables has been validated to the point that I now recommend this general Mediterranean diet to all my patients.” Both olive oil and nuts have been associated with mental benefit in other studies, he added. “So, these findings are not so much a surprise as a reminder that there is more to the Mediterranean diet than meat, fruits and vegetables, and that calling out specific recommendations to include olive oil…

Biochemists uncover how potential diabetes drugs interact with LRH-1 protein

Imagine a key that opens a pin tumbler lock. A very similar key can also fit into the lock, but upside down in comparison to the first key.

Biochemist Eric Ortlund and colleagues have obtained analogous results in their study of how potential diabetes drugs interact with their target, the protein LRH-1. Their research, published in Journal of Biological Chemistry, shows that making small changes to LRH-1-targeted compounds makes a big difference in how they fit into the protein’s binding pocket.

This research was selected as “Paper of the Week” by JBC and is featured on the cover of the December 2 issue.

LRH-1 (liver receptor homolog-1) is a nuclear receptor, a type of protein that turns on genes in response to small molecules like hormones or vitamins. LRH-1 acts in the liver to regulate metabolism of fat and sugar.

Previous research has shown that activating LRH-1 decreases liver fat and improves insulin sensitivity in mice. Because of this, many research teams have been…