Is it all bad?
Chocolate is the single most craved food (closely followed by pizza in second place). The key ingredient in chocolate is cocoa (well it should be!!). Cocoa possesses many health benefits which were first exploited by the Native American’s in the 17th and 18th centuries. Unfortunately the key ingredient in most chocolate these days is sugar and this is where the problems start. But for now, back to the good stuff….
- Is a stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant and anti-depressant and can improve memory, concentration and focus. It triggers the release of endorphins which is why we feel so good after eating it.
- It’s a rich source of anti-oxidants.
- It has many reported cardiovascular benefits. These include reducing blood pressure, reducing angina pain, improved insulin sensitivity, prevention of blood clots and reduced LDL cholesterol levels.
- It is a good source of magnesium (which is often the reason that women crave it premenstrually)
While it does contain some caffeine, the actual level is very low. For example, a standard cup of coffee contains 150mgs of caffeine (anywhere between 40-180mg dependent on the strength) while a cup of pure hot cocoa only contains 5-10mgs in 150mls. A standard chocolate bar has 5-20mgs caffeine (and in no way am I giving the green light to chocolate bars!).
So what type of chocolate is best?
I’m sure most of you have guessed it by now. The best chocolates are those with the highest cocoa content and lowest sugar.
Dark chocolate with high cocoa content contain antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols. The amount of polyphenols in dark chocolate are responsible for the health benefits. Unfortunately for some of you, the absorption of these polyphenols is reduced as soon as milk proteins are added. This means the anti-oxidants are not effective in anything with milk or white chocolate.
In fact did you know that milk chocolate actually contains no cocoa? It contains cocoa butter only, as well as high amounts of sugar, milk solids and vegetable fats. Chocolate cravings are just sugar cravings, nothing more nothing less.
Dark chocolate has to be at least 70% or more cocoa as anything less than this usually contains high levels of sugar and saturated fat. You can now enjoy a few squares daily of dark chocolate, guilt free! I enjoy Green and Blacks Organic 80% dark chocolate. Now you know why it tastes more bitter.
But for real health benefits, what you really want to do is explore some other ways of introducing raw cocoa into your diet minus the sugar and bad fats….read on!!
Raw cocao nibs – the new superfood?
Cocao nibs are bits of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cocoa beans. You can buy them from health food stores and have an intense chocolate taste, but are quite bitter and not sweet. They are a great addition to you diet. I add mine into my power smoothies for breakfast- they give a yummy mild chocolate flavour. They can be added into muesli, cereals, yoghurts or into a raw nut mix. Below are some recipes you may like to try. If you have any other recipes using cocao nibs, please forward them onto us!
Andrew’s favourite breakfast smoothie
400mls of organic rice milk
1 1/2 tablespoons of organic cocoa powder
1/2 tablespoon of organic chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
Method: Just throw it all in the blender and press go. I like heaps of cocoa but you may want to use a little less.
½ cup almonds, finely ground
¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped
¼ nut spread (any will do)
2 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons finely ground cocao nibs
½ tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup dessicated coconut
Add all ingredients together except for coconut. Mix well. Place coconut onto a plate. Using a teaspoon at a time, roll into a small ball and coat with coconut. Place onto a plate and serve. Will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. Makes 18 balls.
Chewy Chia breakfast with cocoa
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp cocao nibs
1/4-1/2 cup of filtered water, almond mily, or coconut water
Topping options (you don’t need to add them all) –
1 Tbsp. Sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp. Pepita seeds
1 Tbsp. Goji berries
1 Tbsp. Raisins
Cinnamon to taste
Fresh fruit of your choice
Soak the chia seeds in water, stirring, for about 10 minutes minimum to allow the seeds to come mucilaginous- gel like. Add your desired toppings and stir through. Top with fresh fruit of your choice. Yummo!
Happy eating and drinking,
Hayley Stockbridge (Naturopath)