Sunday, August 7, 2011

Extra Dark and Extra Minty Chocolate to help with Women's "Monthly Madness"

I am a big fan of mint-flavoured chocolate - particularly mint dark chocolate. So I have been developing a small collection of mint dark chocolate bars and have been meaning to have a tasting party.  But with my long and somewhat difficult pregnancy and now the arrival of my son, I just haven't had the energy to throw a tasting party.  Since the hot weather is beginning to affect my chocolate supply, I thought I'd hurry up and taste some of the mint chocolate.

Today I am tasting two chocolate bars: a NewTree "Eternity" dark chocolate bar with mint flavour and the "lunatic" chocolate bar with mint and cocoa nibs by Zazubean.

The "lunatic" chocolate bar has a unique selling feature in that it is advertised on the package as the "Women's Monthly MADNESS" bar. On the back of the package it says that it "provides hormonal balancing for women and takes the edge off of premenstrual tension in a sweet and natural way." 

So I don't know why - particularly given the "hormonal balancing" statement on the package - I hadn't noticed that there were "medicinal ingredients" in the chocolate. When I scanned the ingredients list, I hadn't noticed that it said "non-medicinal ingredients", which were pretty straightforward, so of course I hadn't looked to see what the "medicinal" ingredients were or the warning on the package that said "Cautions: Not recommended for use during pregnancy, during lactation or for children." Yikes, I opened the chocolate to taste in the last week of my pregnancy and have slowly been finishing this chocolate bar since I got home from the hospital while nursing the baby!  So I guess I better look up these medicinal ingredients and find out how big my mistake was in eating this chocolate bar.

The "medicinal ingredients" are: Dong quai (angelica sinensis), Chaste tree berry (vitex agnus-castus) and Maca root. According to various Internet sources, Dong quai is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat women's reproductive problems and to relieve menstrual disorders such as cramps, irregular menstrual cycles, infrequent periods, PMS, and menopausal symptoms (reference: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/dong-quai-000238.htm). So I can see why that ingredient was added to this chocolate in order to help control women's "monthly madness".
   
The second ingredient, chaste tree berry, is used to relieve menstrual pain and control hormones. But be warned, it was supposedly used in previous centuries for suppression of sexual desire, so perhaps use this sparingly if you want to maintain an active sex life! (reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitex_agnus-castus).

The last 'medicinal' ingredient is Maca root.  Apparently Maca root helps rebuild weak immune systems, re-mineralize poorly nourished bodies, and increase energy and endurance (http://www.macaroot.com/).  It contains chemicals that include important "hormonal precursors". It has "hormone-normalizing effects" and can heighten libido in men and improve semen quality (reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidium_meyenii).  Perhaps it was added to offset the effects of the chaste tree berry.  Although Zazubean does make another chocolate bar that covers this area of heightening libido. I recently tasted and blogged about the Zazubean "Flirt" chocolate bar that was intended to heighten libido and it also contained Maca root.

So now that we've learned about all the ingredients and how they can help women with their "monthly madness", you are probably wondering: "So how does it taste?" Well, the Zazubean "lunatic" chocolate bar is dark, bitter, slightly minty and crunchy all at the same time.  The texture is perfect and melts in your mouth nicely. If you like a bitter-tasting chocolate, you will like this chocolate bar.  If you prefer your chocolate and mint combination on the sweeter side, then this probably is not for you.

The NewTree "Eternity" dark chocolate bar with mint flavour isn't as fancy, nor is it filled with medicinal herbs. It is, however, slightly sweeter than the Zazubean "lunatic" bar, but the texture is not so smooth and luxurious.  I like that they have added green tea extract, which gives the chocolate eater a double-whammy of antioxidants from both the cacao and the grean tea. Unfortunately, this NewTree chocolate bar was improperly stored in the sunshine and the texture is not great.  It is slightly chalky, so I guess it would be unfair of me to comment on the texture.  I bought a few flavours at a little artisan store in Ottawa and I think they all sat in the direct sunlight.  I will have to try to get me\y hands on some other NewTree chocolate bars some day soon so I can fairly rate their taste and texture.

So what have I learned today?  Read the entire ingredients list before eating any chocolate with a funky name, especially while pregnant and nursing a baby.  Also, don't buy chocolate at a store where they have it on display in the direct sunlight!

Here are the package details from the two chocolate bars that I tasted today:

Zazubean "lunatic" Mint & Cocoa Nibs Organic Dark Chocolate bar, 72% Cacao, 56g
Formulated in Canada, made in the USA for Zazubean Organic Chocolates, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
http://www.zazubean.com/
Medicinal Ingredients:  Dong quai (angelica sinensis), Chaste tree berry (vitex agnus-castus) and Maca root. Non-medicinal ingredients: Cocoa beans*+, evaporated cane juice*+, cocoa butter*+, cocoa nibs*+, glycerin, honey*, vanilla*, peppermint oil*. +Fair Trade certified(TM). *Certified Organic. Made on shared equipment with products containing wheat, eggs, milk, peanuts and other nuts. Cautions: NOT RECOMMENDED FOR USE DURING PREGNANCY, DURING LACTATION OR FOR CHILDREN.

NewTree MINT ETERNITY, 73% Cocoa, 2.82 oz
NEWTREE America Inc., San Anselmo, CA, USA.
http://www.newtree.com/
Ingredients: unsweetened chocolate, sugar, pure cocoa butter, cocoa powder, peppermint with other natural flavors, natural green tea extract, emulsifier: soy lecithin.  Cocoa solids: 73% minimum.  May contain traces of gluten and milk.  Made in a facility that also uses hazelnuts. 

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