My gut feeling: no artificial sweeteners

It is not the first time artificial sweeteners are linked to negative effects on human health, such as weight gain or diabetes. But a new study by Suez et al. now published in Nature might very well mark an important cornerstone in our perception of artificial sweeteners as a frequently used food additive.

Artificial sweeteners severely affect the gut microbiota with potentially negative effects on human health

My microbes and me

During the last year I frequently stumbled over research related to the ‘microbiota’ (sometimes referred to as ‘microbiome’), which simply stands for the myriad microbes we carry around. It immediately caught my interest when I first learned more about it. I can still remember that I was totally sure that I had found a typo when I first read that we have 10-times more of those little creatures in our body than human cells!

My microbes and me - fascination microbiota, microbiome

Palatable vegan milk chocolate!

Facing the limit of growth and the threat of climate change, the term ‘sustainability’ has seen a rapidly rise in usage in recent years. The food sector is responsible for about one fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions. Out of those food-related greenhouse gas emissions, 20% stems from cow’s milk production. It hence makes total sense to think about how to create good milk-free alternatives, and this not only for those with allergies or the like.

Vivani rice milk chocolate with 40% cocoa - first palatable vegan milk chocolate I had so far. Vivani rice milk chocolate with 40% cocoa – first palatable vegan milk chocolate I had so far.

No grown-up taste buds

Maybe some find the design cute, I actually don’t. Anyway… I still got very interested when I recently came across some “Grown up chocolate bars” in a shop. After all I like (and consume) candy bars a lot. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t really end with great satisfaction. The majority of candy bars is made by mass production containing poor, cheap ingredients and usually they are very clearly on the sweet side. The Grown Up Chocoalte Company promises “deliciously decadent” hand-made candy bars “for grown-ups only”. I wish that would be true…

Two of the candy bars from The Grown Up Chocolate Company. Nothing grown-up in there, though. Two of the candy bars from The Grown Up Chocolate Company. Nothing grown-up in there, though.

Amsterdam’s Chocolatemakers

One of the best signs that Amsterdam is becoming a more and more interesting chocolate place is that it even has its own small-scale high-quality bean-to-bar chocolate maker: the Chocolatemakers.

Chocolate bars from the Chocolatemakers in Amsterdam Chocolate bars from Chocolatemakers in Amsterdam

Tree-to-bar basics

Recently I finally visited the small factory of the Chocolatemakers in Amsterdam, where delicious chocolate bars are handmade from bean to bar. Funny enough I had seen the facilities in the US (Mast Brothers in Brooklyn, NYC and Taza near Boston), but never the one closest to where I live. Naturally, I wanted to post something about my impressions at the Chocolatemakers as well, but suddenly realized that I never spend a single minute on explaining what ‘bean-to-bar’ actually means… do you know how chocolate is made?

Where does the magic happen in the making of chocolate? Where does the magic happen in the making of chocolate?

Defending chocolate: Askinosie

This might sound like a random pick. I didn’t do many chocolate reviews so far, so why elaborate on chocolates made by Askinosie? Partly, it’s random indeed, but Askinosie is also a great chocolate maker that is still far less known than many of the ‘classic’ bean-to-bar chocolate makers.

One of Askinosie's chocolate bars that's definitely worth a try: the dark goat milk! One of Askinosie’s chocolate bars that’s definitely worth a try: the dark goat milk!

Amsterdam chocolate metrics

Finally I created one single page to give a brief overview of the Amsterdam chocolate scene. Not without some super-objective quantification of course. After all, I’m still a scientist… but have a look yourself.

Amsterdam chocolatier have finally been quantified Amsterdam chocolatiers have finally been quantified according to internationally accepted sweet matter units.

Tasting is better than shopping: Chocolátl

To make a short story long: there are two types of people, the one that live in (or close to) Amsterdam and the ones who don’t. I have good news if you belong to the first category, but be prepared to be devastated if you are a non-Amsterdammer. If you at least visit the city regularly, or have some friends here, you might be fine (dear others, better get something to dry your tears).

Best chocolate shop in (and beyond) Amsterdam: Chocolátl. Best chocolate shop in (and beyond) Amsterdam: Chocolátl.

Good or Gooey?

When I converted into a 99% vegetarian many, many years ago most people around me expected I’d be challenged by all those fantastic, delicious meet dishes. As a matter of fact, I am more tempted by the trashiest of all candies: wine gum! Unfortunately, most of them are based on gelatin as gelling agent.

Goody good stuff makes gooey vegan wine gums Goody good stuff makes vegan wine gums – but are they really good?