The Home of the Best Cocoa Beans in the World

Did you know that in 17th century, Venezuela was the world’s major cocoa producer and exporter. Currently, one of the chief producers of cocoa in the world is Dominican Republic. Followed by Cibao Valley, San Francisco de Macoris and Santiago.

One of the best cocoa producers is Dominican Republic because cocoa farmers there really know how to cultivate and nourish cacao trees. This is the main reason why they have high quality cocoa beans. The country produces two types of cocoa beans. These are the Hispaniola and the Sanchez. Based on the study, Hispaniola has 4% share while Sanchez has 96% share in the country’s cocoa production .

Cocoa is considered as the market’s smallest commodity. Cocoa beans have been available to the market for several years now. Moreover, traders before was engaged into barter using cocoa products. Today, cocoa products are traded in London and New York. London market rely on the cocoa production of West African while New York market depend on South East Asia.

The operation in cocoa industry is improving. Before, it’s the middleman who closes a deal between farmer and manufacturer. Now, farmer can directly make an arrangement with chocolate manufacturer. This clearly eliminates the need and cost of having a middleman.

Here are some benefits of having a direct agreement between farmer and chocolate manufacturer:

Manufacturer…

1. Can give definite instructions to farmers. Manufacturer can even require the standard of cocoa beans that they’ll be needing in their production.
2. Gets the right quality and aroma of beans needed for their production.
3. Can ask for a bargain price for bulk orders.

Farmer…

1. Can meet the exact standards required by the client.
2. Knows essential details about cocoa. It is very unlikely for a middleman to know more information about the product.
3. Doesn’t need to hire a middleman to find manufacturer.
4. Will be able to get the right price for their products. No need to share their mark up price with their middlemen.
5. Can offer discounted amount of the product to chocolate manufacturers. This can help in maintaining longer and stronger relationship with clients.

Selling cocoa is the number one source of income for the families of cocoa farmers. Indeed, the most important time for them is the harvesting period. They will start to grade, weigh and prepare dried cocoa beans, then deliver all cocoa bags to their clients. This will eventually convert the products into cash!

Cocoa farmers play an important role in our society. Without themArticle Search, we can’t have enough supply of our favorite chocolates anytime!

Does Chocolate Help Brain Health?

A new study this week that linked the antioxidant-rich flavanols in cocoa to improved memory in healthy older adults produced lots of yummy headlines, so  it’s OK to stuff ourselves with leftover Halloween candy, right? Well, not exactly.

Study participants — all between the ages of 50 and 69 — saw striking improvements in memory after drinking a special cocoa drink daily for just three months. On average, the memory of 60-year-olds improved to perform more like that of  30- or 40-year-olds, according to lead author Scott A. Small, professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. A control group that downed a low-flavanol drink did not show such improvement on the memory and pattern-recognition tests.

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Sadly, this does not mean the average older adult could improve his or her memory with candy bars. First, Small estimates you would have to eat at least 25 chocolate bars a day to get the amount of flavanols in the drink — and the ensuing obesity caused by all that fat and calories would be terrible for your brain and heart. Second, the processing of most chocolate bars makes them virtually flavanol-free. “Do not, please do not, eat that much chocolate,” Small urges.

Beyond the cocoa headlines, there is even more exciting news from the study published in Nature Neuroscience, Small adds. It turns out that the area of the hippocampus most involved in age-related memory loss (dentate gyrus) is “clearly distinguished” from the area of the hippocampus affected by Alzheimer’s (entorhinal cortex). The study also helps validate previous research that found cocoa flavanols improve blood flow, heart health and memory in humans and mice. The study was funded in part by Mars Inc., as well as the National Institutes of Health and two research foundations.

“I do think that the idea here is that dietary intervention and lifestyle might ameliorate a normal age-related memory process,” Small says. So we may one day be able to create a chocolate bar that improves memory in older brains. When that happens, by the way, we won’t be handing them out to the little trick-or-treaters at our house. We’ll keep those for ourselves.

Yummy News Cocoa May Help Keep Brain Healthy

When the press release hit email in-boxes, health editors across the country – including yours truly – were certainly dancing a jig. “Chocolate May Help Keep Brain Healthy,” said the release headline. “Drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may help older people keep their brains healthy and their thinking skills sharp.” Obviously, fantastic news.

The study, published in the respected journal Neurology, comes from the hallowed halls of Harvard.

So it was with something close to glee that I called Farzaneh Sorond, M.D., Ph.D., and a neurologist with Harvard Medical School. Give us our prescription, Dr. Sorond. Tell us just how much chocolate and what kind we should eat or drink to keep our brains healthy. We’re ready to take our medicine.

But Sorond wanted to talk about something more exciting than chocolate. (As if there really were such a thing.)

First, the details of the study:

The lucky study participants – all 60 of whom had high blood pressure, diabetes or both – drank two cups of hot cocoa a day for 30 days and didn’t consume any other chocolate during the study. Before the study began, researchers tested participants’ memory and thinking skills and ran ultrasounds to measure the amount of blood flow to the brain during those tests. The researchers found that 18 of the 60 in the study had impaired blood flow to the brain.

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By the end of the study, those with impaired blood flow had an 8 percent blood flow increase to the areas of the brain used during test-taking. They also had sped up their working memory, dropping their test time from 167 seconds to 116 seconds. The cocoa didn’t change the brain blood flow or improve test scores of those with regular blood flow.

Although half of the participants were given cocoa rich in the antioxidant flavanol that’s found in dark chocolate and the other half got flavonol-poor cocoa, the flavonol content seemed to make no difference in the results. This is interesting because some previous studies have found chocolate with high flavonol content seems to help brain health.

So when I reached Sorond on the phone, I began with questions about the chocolate content of the cocoas. But she brushed those aside. She was much more excited about what the study showed about blood flow.

“I’d like to emphasize that the importance of this study is that we were able to show that when your brain starts working, the blood flow to that area of brain is increased,” she said.  Not only were the scientists able to see the blood flowing to the thinking areas of the brain, they could also see that the cocoa was improving that blood flow. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Several good studies have shown the beneficial effect of cocoa, she added. Excellent. And a previous Harvard study found chocolate may lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. So the recommendation must be to ..?

“I would be uncomfortable in recommending chocolate for brain health,” she said, to my great disappointment, adding that the extra calories and sugar might not be beneficial to an already “at-risk” population. Darn it.

But still there was hope for the chocolate prescription. We spoke with Paul Rosenberg, M.D., Associate Director of the Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, who called this research a “remarkable first step,” in his editorial accompanying the study.  That sounded promising.

But like Sorond, Rosenberg is more encouraged that we’ve found a new, easier way of measuring blood flow to the brain and that we can see that introducing a substance to the blood stream – like hot cocoa – can improve that blood flow.  He hopes researchers can use that new knowledge to further our search for prevention and treatment for both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

This all sounds wonderful, but what about recommending chocolate?! “I’m not ready to run out and tell everybody to use cocoa,” he told me.

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Undaunted, we turned to Sam Gandy, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and a leading scientist in brain health research.

“Chocolate contains many active compounds that may have benefit, but it also contains caffeine and theophylline that elevate blood pressure,” he wrote in an email.

His preference for brain health is not hot cocoa, but a good brisk walk. “Absolutely. No contest. Go for a walk. Don’t sit and pack in the chocolate!” he wrote.

Well, darn. Still, no one said I couldn’t have a nice little cup of cocoa. After my walk.

Cocoa flavanols lower blood pressure and increase blood vessel function in healthy people

Two recently published studies in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) demonstrate that consuming cocoa flavanols improves cardiovascular function and lessens the burden on the heart that comes with the aging and stiffening of arteries. The studies also provide novel data to indicate that intake of cocoa flavanols reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

As we age, our blood vessels become less flexible and less able to expand to let blood flow and circulate normally, and the risk of hypertension also increases. Arterial stiffness and blood vessel dysfunction are linked with cardiovascular disease — the number one cause of deaths worldwide. “With the world population getting older, the incidence of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and stroke will only increase,” says Professor Malte Kelm, Professor of Cardiology, Pulmonary Diseases and Vascular Medicine at University Hospital Düsseldorf and Scientific Director of FLAVIOLA. “It is therefore pivotal that we understand the positive impact diet can have on cardiovascular disease risk. As part of this, we want to know what role flavanol-containing foods could play in maintaining the health of the heart and blood vessels.”

Cocoa flavanols are plant-derived bioactives from the cacao bean. Dietary intake of flavanols has been shown to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health but the compounds are often destroyed during normal food processing. Earlier studies have demonstrated that cocoa flavanol intake improves the elasticity of blood vessels and lowers blood pressure — but, for the most part, these investigations have focused on high-risk individuals like smokers and people that have already been diagnosed with conditions like hypertension and coronary heart disease. These two studies in Age and BJN are the first to look at the different effects dietary cocoa flavanols can have on the blood vessels of healthy, low-risk individuals with no signs or symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

Cocoa flavanols increase blood vessel flexibility and lower blood pressure

In the study published in Age, two groups of 22 young (<35 years of age) and 20 older (50-80 years of age) healthy men consumed either a flavanol-containing drink, or a flavanol-free control drink, twice a day for two weeks. The researchers then measured the effect of flavanols on hallmarks of cardiovascular aging, such as arterial stiffness (as measured by pulse wave velocity), blood pressure and flow-mediated vasodilation (the extent to which blood vessels dilate in response to nitric oxide).

They found that vasodilation was significantly improved in both age groups that consumed flavanols over the course of the study (by 33% in the younger age group and 32% in the older age group over the control intervention). In the older age group, a statistically and clinically significant decrease in systolic blood pressure of 4 mmHg over control was also seen.

Improving cardiovascular health and lowering the risk of CVD

In the second study, published in BJN, the researchers extended their investigations to a larger group (100) of healthy middle-aged men and women (35-60 years) with low risk of CVD. The participants were randomly and blindly assigned into groups that consumed either a flavanol-containing drink or a flavanol-free control drink, twice a day for four weeks. The researchers also measured cholesterol levels in the study groups, in addition to vasodilation, arterial stiffness and blood pressure.

“We found that intake of flavanols significantly improves several of the hallmarks of cardiovascular health,” says Professor Kelm. In particular, the researchers found that consuming flavanols for four weeks significantly increased flow-mediated vasodilation by 21%. Increased flow-mediated vasodilation is a sign of improved endothelial function and has been shown by some studies to be associated with decreased risk of developing CVD. In addition, taking flavanols decreased blood pressure (systolic by 4.4 mmHg, diastolic by 3.9 mmHg), and improved the blood cholesterol profile by decreasing total cholesterol (by 0.2 mmol/L), decreasing LDL cholesterol (by 0.17 mmol/L), and increasing HDL cholesterol (by 0.1 mmol/L).

The researchers also calculated the Framingham Risk Score — a widely used model to estimate the 10-year cardiovascular risk of an individual — and found that flavanol intake reduced the risk of CVD. “Our results indicate that dietary flavanol intake reduces the 10-year risk of being diagnosed with CVD by 22% and the 10-year risk of suffering a heart attack by 31%,” says Professor Kelm.

The combined results of these studies demonstrate that flavanols are effective at mitigating age-related changes in blood vessels, and could thereby reduce the risk of CVD in healthy individuals. The application of 10-year Framingham Risk Scores should be interpreted with caution as the duration of the BJN study was weeks not years and the number of participants was around 100, not reaching the scale of the Framingham studies. That being said, Professor Kelm comments that “the reduction seen in risk scores suggests that flavanols may have primary preventive potential for CVD.” Other longer-term studies, such as the 5-year COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) of 18,000 men and women, are now underway to investigate the health potential of flavanols on a much larger scale.

What Makes a Successful Chef

Have you ever envisioned yourself as a glamorous executive chef who goes to “Iron Chef” and cooks everybody else’s bum to another planet? You are not the only one.

Becoming a chef can be a good career move only if you have the right personality, and it is definitely not as glorious as it seems on TV.

Working under constant pressure to deliver the food fast without sacrificing quality throughout the process, standing on your feet for long hours, enduring cuts and burns, heavy lifting, noise, heat, smokes and fumes, working on evenings, weekends and holidays and almost anytime when the rest of the world is not working are just a few of the things you must go through as a chef.

When you finally become a head chef you might not have to do the heavy lifting, but your responsibilities will increase significantly. Executive chefs, or head chefs, are in charge of coordinating the work of the kitchen staff, control food cost, determine serving sizes, plan menus, order supplies, ensure quality and presentation of food is correct, schedule staff, train the cooks on public health regulations and how to store all products in order to control waste.

All that being said, however, the chef profession has many advantages over a 9-to-5 job. For one, you’ll never be bored. There is always something going on in a kitchen. You will always be trying to outdo yourself and cook the most memorable meal possible for each of your patrons. Add to this a dash of the good comments of your customers, a sprinkle of the satisfaction that comes with a job well done at the end of the night, the camaraderie and teamwork in the kitchen, the possibility to apply your creativity on a daily basis, the lifelong learning and prospects of advancement, and you have all the ingredients for a successful and satisfying career.