Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Could Quit Anytime I Want

 Thanks to some German researchers, my vice just became "therapy."

The researchers, studying more than 19,000 people for about eight years, report a link between daily consumption of a small amount of chocolate and a reduced risk of heart attack or stroke. Study subjects who ate an average of 7.5 grams of chocolate per day, or roughly the equivalent of one square of one chocolate bar, had a 39 percent lower risk of heart attack or stroke compared with those who consumed an average of 1.7 grams daily. The study was just published in the European Heart Journal.

This isn't the first study of potential health benefits tied to chocolate, although it is the first to follow people over such a long period.

(Note that the the square of Valrhona at left, at 11 grams, could be considered an overdose -- as if there is such a concept when it comes to chocolate.)

The study's lead author, Brian Buijsse, with the German Institute of Human Nutrition, and other experts cautioned against going crazy with cocoa and said more research, specifically randomized trials, was needed to confirm whether chocolate was the cause of the benefit and if so, how it worked. Maybe people who eat small amounts of chocolate also like to exercise. Or maybe they don't eat as many potato chips (or other junk) as non-chocolate consumers. Pigging out on chocolate could just make us all gain weight, which itself is a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke.

Hmmm, what to do? I think I'll run to the pantry for a little piece of chocolate -- for medicinal purposes.

You may also like: Chocolate Surprise Madeleines

Meet the Jetsons
I use my microwave oven mainly to reheat leftovers, occasionally melt butter or bake a potato. But in the past week or so, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have informed me that I've missed the latest developments. Apparently, I was living in a cave when the convection-microwave and the microwave-steam oven hit the market. However did I manage not to starve?

Kim Severson reports in the Times about not just microwaves but all sorts of appliances designed to do the work -- and the thinking -- for me. "Forget sous vide and braising and the farm-to-table ethos. We are a nation that cooks with an index finger," she writes. Among the other gadgets: one that with a single touch will poach an egg simultaneously while browning toast, an oven with a "perfect turkey" button and a bread maker that bakes a cake with the press of a finger.

I don't take offense as much as author-chef Michael Ruhlman seems to in his rant ("America: Too Stupid to Cook...") in response to the assumption that consumers either can't cook or don't have time. But I do find the bells and whistles pretty ridiculous and funny.

Now find me a washing machine that folds my laundry and I'll stop laughing and open my wallet.

You may also like: MIT brains design a concept for a 3-D printer that would "make" food.

A Farm to Table Bottleneck
The demand for locally raised meat, part of the buy-local food (or locavore) movement, outstrips the capacity of slaughterhouses in some areas, writes the Times' Katie Zezima in "Push to Eat Local Food Is Hampered by Shortage."

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