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January 2007 - Vol 4, Issue 2
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With Valentines day around the corner, it's hard to go to the grocery store - or anywhere else - without seeing chocolate - and lots of it. In this issue you will learn all about chocolate, including how your health can benefit from modest amounts of this dark, luscious confection.

Stay tuned for information on the health benefits of sauna in our March e-newsletter.

Don't forget to check out our recipe of the month. While we're on the subject of chocolate, we'll share our favorite chocolate recipe.

Portland Health and Wellness is anything but your typical medical clinic. We offer health-based cooking classes, a drop-in weight control group for men and women, and group psychotherapy for individuals with eating disorders. We continue to offer individual healthcare services, workshops and classes on various health topics, and our year-long comprehensive weight reduction program. Victoria Mosse, MA, ATC, CNT, offers pilates at ph&w; on Mondays.

The wait is almost over. On March 3rd, Donald Altman, MA and Juleeanna Andreoni, MS, RD will be joined by renowned chef Robert Reynolds for an inspiring workshop, Mindful Cooking/ Mindful Eating. Whether you struggle with food or you want to develop a more harmonious relationship with food, this day-long program will alter the way you cook....and eat. Limited to a small group, these 3 professionals will offer a profoundly new perspective on food.

Our clinical team is committed to providing cutting-edge healthcare services. Donald Altman, MA, in addition to being a counselor, is a former Buddhist monk and award-winning writer. He offers '12 Weeks to Mindful Eating', a program he created to help individuals develop a healthier relationship with food, as well as workshops on stress management and mindfulness. Donald also offers individual counseling at ph&w.; Juleeanna Andreoni, MS, RD , is a clinical nutritionist with a broad range of experience. She is certified in adult, adolescent, and childhood weight management. Juleeanna has appeared on AM Northwest. Christine Howard, PsyD continues to provide individual psychotherapy and is now offering group psychotherapy for individuals with bulimia or binge eating disorder. Marcela Vinocur, MD serves as the director of PH&W;'s unique weight reduction program and maintains a psychopharmacology practice.

  • Feb 18.......Cooking for Singles
  • Feb 21.......12 Weeks to Mindful Eating
  • Feb 26.......Letting go of Diets
  • Mar 3.........Mindful Cooking/Mindful Eating
  • Mar 10.......Cooking for Men who Hate to Cook
  • Mar 24.......Cooking for Diabetes Made Easy
  • Apr 7.........Cooking with Greens

  • Ongoing groups include a weekly drop-in weight loss group on Mondays from 12:30 to 1:30 pm (led by Juleeanna Andreoni, MS, RD / cost:$15 per session) and weekly group psychotherapy for individuals with binge eating disorder or bulimia on Mondays from 5 to 6:30pm (led by Christine Howard, PsyD / cost: $45 per session). Please call us for additional information.

    For up-to-date information about our upcoming workshops and classes, please check our website or give us a call. Registration and payment in advance are required for all ph&w; events and space is limited to 12 (cooking classes are limited to 6). We strongly encourage early registration.

    If there's a time of the year when it's hard to ignore chocolate, this would have to be it. With Valentine's Day around the corner, it seems like chocolate is everywhere. But if you think that chocolate is a decadent, forbidden food, then think again. Chocolate has a rich history, and from a medical perspective, there is a lot to love about chocolate. In addition to learning about the health benefits associated with moderate consumption of chocolate, you will also learn about some different types of chocolate and the importance of the country of origin of the cocoa beans you purchase.

    Chocolate has a long and distinguished history. Indigenous to Central America and Mexico, chocolate is made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree. The ancient Mayan people used ground beans of the cocoa tree as far back as 2600 years ago to make xocolatl, a spicy beverage. Cocoa beans were often used as currency. Pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Maya and Aztec reserved the use of cocoa beans to only the highest noblemen and clerics. Both Columbus and Cortes are credited with sending cacao beans back to Spain but, due to the bitter taste of chocolate, it took some time until the Spanish found a way to improve the flavor and texture of chocolate. As with other imported products, chocolate beverages were enjoyed mostly by the wealthy. Solid chocolate in the form of bars were developed in the early to mid 1800?s in Europe.

    Approximately 2/3 of the world?s chocolate is produced in West Africa, and almost half of the crops in Africa are grown in the Ivory Coast. The remaining cacao crops are grown in Latin America and Southeast Asia. It has been estimated that 90% of cocoa farms in C?te d'Ivoire have used some form of slave labor in order to remain viable. What this means is that by purchasing chocolate products that originate in the Ivory Coast, we are potentially supporting the practice of child slavery and trafficking. While most of us may not think about this when we grab our favorite chocolate bar, we can make a difference by purchasing products that contain fairly traded cocoa. There are a lot of great manufacturers that use only ethically traded cocoa, such as Endangered Species, Dagoba, Equal Exchange, and Newman?s Own.

    Chocolate is much more than a delicious confection. There is substantial research published in the medical literature supporting a number of health benefits associated with moderate consumption of dark chocolate. Chocolate has beneficial effects on blood pressure and endothelial function. Its antioxidant properties exceed those of other antioxidant rich foods. Flavanol-rich cocoa has been found to increase cerebral blood flow to gray matter and may possibly play a role in the treatment of vascular impairments such as dementia and strokes. Chocolate may significantly inhibit atherosclerosis: it lowers cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides, while raising HDL (good cholesterol). Chocolate seems to protect lower density lipoproteins from oxidation, further benefiting heart health. Chocolate not only may help lower blood pressure, but it improves insulin sensitivity in healthy persons. The significance of this in individuals with diabetes has not been well researched. Although it looks good from a cardiovascular perspective, chocolate?s role in long-term cardiovascular health has yet to be determined. Chocolate, with its theobromine content, can function as an effective cough suppressant. In a study exploring maternal chocolate consumption during pregnancy, mothers who consumed chocolate on a daily basis rated the temperament of their infants at 6 months more positively than those who consumed much less. And just when you thought that the news on chocolate couldn?t possibly get any sweeter, here?s one more morsel: when it comes to dental health, eating dark chocolate may result in a reduction in the risk for dental caries and periodontal disease.

    There are three main varieties of cacao, each with their own distinct flavors: Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario. Also influencing flavor is the amount of cocoa used and other ingredients such as vanilla, milk, sugar, etc. As the percent of cocoa used goes up, the amount of sugar is reduced, producing a less sweet flavor since cocoa itself is bitter. When it comes to chocolate bars, my personal favorite is Endangered Species Supreme Dark Chocolate, with a cocoa content of 72%. Portland is home to Alma Chocolates (pictured above); a small company that makes beautiful, hand-crafted confections using only fair-traded cocoa and other fresh, organic ingredients.

    The bottom line on chocolate seems to be that good quality, dark chocolate can offer a number of benefits to your health when consumed in moderate quantities. With its high calorie content, however, if you decide to include moderate amounts in your diet, consider either cutting out some calories elsewhere or increasing your level (or frequency) of physical activity. If you haven?t already done so, explore the wide range of flavors by purchasing chocolates produced by different makers and with varying amounts of cocoa. And the next time you take a bite, remember that chocolate is much more than a tasty treat. Feel free to email me if you would like a list of references.

    Marcela Vinocur, MD
    faux chocolate mousse

    There is nothing faux about this recipe, other than how simple it is to prepare. Don't be fooled by the ingredients; your friends and family will love this simple but delicious dessert.

    VEGAN and GLUTEN FREE. Chill before serving. Makes 6 small servings.

    10 oz silken tofu (extra firm); 2 tbsp strong coffee, water, or soy milk; 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips; small chocolate bar for shaving (garnish).

    MELT chocolate in a double boiler, stirring often and being very careful not to overheat it. Let chocolate cool only slightly once it has completely melted. PLACE silken tofu and liquid (coffee, etc) in a food processor and blend until very smooth. SLOWLY add melted chocolate to the tofu in the food processor. BLEND until the ingredients are completely mixed. Mixture should be soft and creamy, not runny or stiff. PLACE mixture in small bowls, cups, or short glasses. GARNISH with shaved chocolate

    copyright 2007 portland health and wellness

    We are very interested in your comments and suggestions. Please let us know if you have a topic you would like to see covered in future newsletters. We look forward to hearing from you.


    the staff of
    Portland Health and Wellness

    phone: 503.236.4506