Where does chocolate come from? From the cacao bean, the name has since changed to cocoa bean, (however in most health shops chocolate powder is referred to as cacao powder) this bean is ground to a fine powder, other ingredients are added to it and there you have it, chocolate is made.
We are always told that that chocolate is bad for us, that it makes us gain weight. Sure chocolate bars, ice cream and chocolate cake do cause the waist to expand, but guess what chocolate isn’t the culprit, high sugar content, fat, milk and other unmentionable ingredients are the cause. The word chocolate comes from the Mayan word xocolati meaning bitter water and its true colour is a very dark brown, so when we eat commercial chocolate, we are just having an overload of sugar and milk as the true taste of chocolate is bitter. The darker the chocolate the better for you. Chocolate is decadent but filled with goodness. Nothing excites all the senses like chocolate. A well known fact about chocolate is that it is a mood enhancer, chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa is said to reduce your blood pressure. In ancient days chocolate was actually considered as medicine. In the book Naked chocolate David Wolfe shares everything you need to know about chocolate. Let me share my favourite benefits.
- Chocolate is a natural antioxidant- when you eat chocolate you fight free radicals in the body, keeping you young and healthy. Just note that the more refined the cocoa the less nutritional value it has.
- Chocolate can decrease stress
- The cacao bean contains flavanols which are said to maintain healthy brain function.
- The correct type of chocolate is an anti inflammatory.
- Cacao is rich in minerals such as copper, magnesium and zinc, to name a few.
The healthiest way to consume chocolate is in its raw form, but cacao is very bitter on its own which is why commercial chocolate has sugar as one of the top ranking ingredients. When buying chocolate, choose dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa. Don’t go for milk chocolate bars, these have a higher content of sugar and milk, both ingredients that are not good for your health. Chocolate (the correct type) is actually a superfood, well who would have guessed? If you are not sold on the idea of a dark chocolate bar, but still want to indulge every now and then try these healthier options.
Creamy Chocolate Smoothie
- 1 medium banana
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 1/2 a cup nutmilk (whatever is available to you, whether almond or soya milk)
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
- 2 pinches salt
- 4-5 ice cubes.
- Using a Super blender like the Vitamix, blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. A neat trick to try, instead of using ice cubes freeze the banana and if you have a sweet tooth you can add a bit of honey or some dates.
Vegan Chocolate bars
- 1 cup dates
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups oats
- 1 handful fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup mixed seeds( sunflower, flax, sesame, pumpkin or whatever you have available)
- 2 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 1/2 a cup mixed nuts (pecans,almonds etc or whatever you have available)
- 1/3 coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 a teaspoon peppermint extract
- Line a pan with baking paper.
- Place 1 cup of oats in a bowl and cover with water. Leave them in the water for about 30 minutes and drain the mixture.
In a food processor grind the nuts and the dates and then add the seeds. Process until completely chopped and then add the cacao powder and mint leaves.Process until thoroughly combined. Put the date mixture in a bowl, add the 1 cup of dry oats and the one cup of soaked oats, add all the outstanding ingredients except the water. Using your hands, mix the dough and if necessary add the water gradually to avoid the mixture becoming too wet. When thoroughly combined, transfer the contents from the bowl to the pan and gently press it down so it’s even. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours so it sets and then slice into cubes and enjoy.
Chocolate is not always bad for you