on Nutrition: What Readers Are Saying | Way of life

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

“They go all over the world when people desperately need food to survive disasters (like Ukraine is currently facing)!” writes JT from Salinas, California.

That’s right. Founding chef José Andrés partners with local restaurants and says the organization now serves 290,000 hot, nutritious meals a day in six countries, including 21 cities in Ukraine.

“Besides efficiency, one of the benefits of working with local restaurants is that hot meals are prepared using ingredients and recipes familiar to those being served. When children are the recipients, it’s appreciated by them, I imagine, and must be comforting to their mothers and the elderly as well,” says CS from Pacific Grove, California.

True. And I was particularly touched by this comment from Andrés: “You see, food aid is not just a meal that wards off hunger. It is a plate of hope. It tells you in your darkest hour that someone, somewhere cares about you. This is the true meaning of comfort food. This is why we make the effort to cook in the event of a crisis.

On another topic, Susan from Oregon writes, “I have a question about Hershey’s cocoa powder (the one that comes in a dark brown container) and the more I 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 it a healthy drink? Also, what is the difference between cacao and cocoa? On the front of the Hershey’s container, it says the product is 100% cocoa, but the ingredient list says it is cocoa. So which one is it? Thanks for shedding light on this.

I’ll try to answer them in order, Susan. Cocoa powder and dark chocolate are both made with cocoa. Cocoa powder is 100% cocoa, while dark chocolate contains cocoa plus added fat and sugar. And because its healthiness is linked 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 healthy 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 more beneficial polyphenolic substances than milk chocolate, cocoa powder outperforms them both.

Because cacao is the fermented, dried seed of the fruit of the cacao tree, it can also be called cacao. This is why a 100% cocoa product can also be called cocoa. I hope this helps you.

(Barbara Intermill is a registered dietitian nutritionist and syndicated columnist. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition: The Uncomplicated Science of Eating.” Email her at barbara@quinnessentialnutrition.com.)

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