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On Nutrition: What readers say

Barbara Intermill, Monterey Herald on

Published in Nutrition

After a recent column on food relief organizations that serve victims of Ukraine, some readers urged me to add World Central Kitchen (https://wck.org) to the list. Here’s why:

“They go anywhere in the world when people are desperate for food to survive disasters (like Ukraine is facing now)!” writes JT from Salinas, California.

That is correct. Founder Chef José Andrés partners with local restaurants and says the organization is now serving 290,000 hot, nourishing meals a day in six countries, including 21 cities in Ukraine.

“One of the advantages of working with local restaurants besides efficiency is that the hot meals are made from ingredients and recipes familiar to those being served. When children are the recipients, this is appreciated by them, I imagine, and must be comforting to their mothers and elderly people as well,” says CS from Pacific Grove, California.

True. And I was especially touched by this comment from Andrés: “You see, food relief is not just a meal that keeps hunger away. It’s a plate of hope. It tells you in your darkest hour that someone, somewhere, cares about you. This is the real meaning of comfort food. It’s why we make the effort to cook in a crisis.”

 

On another topic, Susan from Oregon writes: “I have a question about Hershey’s cocoa powder (the kind that comes in a dark brown container) and the more I do research online the more confused I get. Is Hershey’s cocoa powder dark chocolate and does it have the same health benefits as dark chocolate in candy? Every day I drink a cup of hot chocolate made with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, calcium fortified milk and a packet of stevia. Is this a healthy drink? Also, what is the difference between cacao & cocoa? On the front of the Hershey’s container it says that the product is 100% cacao but the list of ingredients says it is cocoa. So which is it? Thanks for shedding some light on this.”

I’ll try to answer these in order, Susan. Cocoa powder and dark chocolate are both made with cocoa. Cocoa powder is 100% cocoa, while dark chocolate has cocoa plus added fat and sugar. And because its healthfulness is related to the amount of cocoa it contains, cocoa powder probably has more health benefits than dark chocolate candy.

So yes, your daily cup of hot chocolate is a very healthful drink! In fact, cocoa powder is lower in fat and higher in beneficial antioxidant compounds than most other sources of chocolate. Even though dark chocolate contains five times as many favorable polyphenol substances as milk chocolate, cocoa powder trumps them both.

Because cocoa is the fermented and dried seed from the fruit of the cacao tree, it may also be referred to as cacao. That’s why a product that is 100% cacao can also be called cocoa. Hope this helps.

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