Cooking's Effects on Cocoa Flavanols

August 26/Food & Farm Week -- According to a study from the A.S., "Little is known about the effects of common cooking processes on cocoa flavanols. Antioxidant activity, total polyphenols (TP), flavanol monomers, and procyanidin oligomers were determined in chocolate frosting, a hot cocoa drink, chocolate cookies, and chocolate cake made with natural cocoa powder."

"Recoveries of antioxidant activity, TP, flavanol monomers, and procyanidins ranged from 86% to over 100% in the chocolate frosting, hot cocoa drink, and chocolate cookies. Losses were greatest in the chocolate cake, with recoveries ranging from 5% for epicatechin to 54% for antioxidant activity.

"The causes of losses in baked chocolate cakes were investigated by exchanging baking soda with baking powder or combinations of the two leavening agents. Use of baking soda as a leavening agent was associated with increased pH and darkening color of cakes. Losses of antioxidant activity, TP, flavanol monomers, and procyanidins were associated with an increased extractable pH of the baked cakes. Chocolate cakes made with baking powder for leavening resulted in an average extractable pH of 6.2 with essentially complete retention of antioxidant activity and flavanol content, but with reduced cake heights and lighter cake color. Commercially available chocolate cake mixes had final pHs above 8.3 and contained no detectable monomeric flavanols after baking. These results suggest that baking soda causes an increase in pH and subsequent destruction of flavanol compounds and antioxidant activity," wrote L. Stahl and colleagues.

The researchers concluded: "Use of an appropriate leavening agent to moderate the final cake pH to approximately 7.25 or less results in both good leavening and preservation of cocoa flavanols and procyanidins."

Stahl and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Food Science ("Preservation of Cocoa Antioxidant Activity, Total Polyphenols, Flavan-3-ols, and Procyanidin Content in Foods Prepared with Cocoa Powder." Journal of Food Science, 2009;74(6):C456-C461).

For more information, contact W.J. Hurst, Hershey Co., POB 805, Hershey, PA 17033.

From the August 31, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition