Why chocolate is actually GOOD for you!
Chocolate is often thought of as the holy grail of junk food. Women talk of their addiction to the sweet stuff but that’s not to say you never see a man munching down on a man-size chocolate bar too, let alone the kids and their chocolate addiction!
Let’s face it, in its highly processed confectionary form – heat-treated and loaded with unhealthy fat, sugar, preservatives and artificial flavourings – it’s not very good for you. But, strip it back to the basics and the key ingredients are actually loaded with nutrition and very good you!
The key ingredient in any chocolate is the cacao bean which grows on the cacao tree. The cacaobean is ground down, the cacao butter removedand a dark silky powder remains - cacao powder,this is the good stuff!
Conventional, chocolate as we know it contains cacao that has been heat-treated (above 42 C) thus destroying most of its raw nutritional power; the processed form being cocoa. Raw cacao powder, on the other hand, is loaded with minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc as well as B vitamins and contains more than 300 nutritional compounds. It is one of the richest sources of antioxidants on the planet!
Eating raw cacao powder has been shown to have many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, improved heart health and circulation as well as the ability to neutralisefree-radicals in the body. It can boost energy and give people a real natural buzz, so it’s best not eaten too close to bedtime! Research has also shown that raw cacao contains chemicals (such as phenylethylamine and serotonin) which are scientifically proven to be present in the brains of people when they are happy and relaxed, so that’s a great reason to eat more chocolate, if every I heard one!
To make conventional chocolate – as we know it– hydrogenated fat, dairy and sugar or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are added to cocoa powder. The fat is not a healthy fat that our body can process; the dairy blocks the absorption of antioxidants and the sugar offers no nutrition,only a blood sugar spike. So chocolate merely becomes a junk food which is created to satisfy a craving and has no benefits for our body at all.
So, how do you make healthy chocolate?
By adding a healthy fat and a healthy sweetener to raw cacao powder you can make chocolate which actually gives you health benefits, rather than depriving you of them! It’s still best not to eat in large quantities but certainly a little raw chocolate enjoyed here and there is a lot better for you than a Twix bar!
Commonly used healthy fats are coconut oil or raw cacao butter. There are many alternative sweeteners out there to choose from, including coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, stevia or xylitol. Do you own research when it comes to natural sweeteners; some supposedly healthy alternatives such as agave nectar are actually highly processed and contain little nutritional value. Personally, I stick to the natural alternatives i.e. date syrup or stevia.
For a delicious raw goji berry chocolate recipe take a look on my blog here:
Cacao by itself is bitter to taste so I like to keep a ready-made blend of ‘chocolate powder’ in the kitchen. It consists of equal quantities cacao tocarob powder with a spoon of vanilla powderadded. Carob powder is naturally sweet so balances out the bitterness and the vanilla gives it a lovely sweet flavour. I rarely add sweetener if using this blend in a smoothie or sauce.
Here is a super-easy to make, creamy chocolate pudding recipe that will convert even the biggest conventional chocolate lovers, without any added hydrogenated fat, dairy or refined sugar! It’s great for kids and chocolate lovers who don’t want to feel as if they are being deprived. Here’s to health and taste!
1 small ripe avocado / ½ large avocado
2 small ripe bananas / 1 large banana
¼ cup dates
¼ cup cacao powder
¼ cup carob powder
½ tsp vanilla powder / essence
Remember you by no means have to stick to these quantities, adapt the recipe with what you have available at the time, it’ll still taste great!