We usually feature undoubtedly healthy ingredients in our Ingredient Spotlights. Today’s post is a little bit different. Today we’re talking about chocolate.
Oh, chocolate. That velvety, rich, terribly delicious substance jam-packed with antioxidants.
Oh, chocolate. That sugar-laden, GMO-containing junk food full of chemicals that can cause nutrient deficiencies, restlessness, headaches, and kidney stones.
With the Christmas season upon us, and chocolatey treats tantalizing us every where we go, it’s perhaps even more important to get things straight about chocolate. I love chocolate just as much as the next person, but in order to indulge guilt free, I try to follow these four guidelines.
Chocolate Eating Guideline #1: Buy High Quality Chocolate.
I’m sorry to say that most chocolate and cocoa that you buy in the store is junk. Yes, even the dark stuff. Why?
- It’s heated to high temps. High temps means less of those lovely antioxidants we want more of.
- GMO Soy. Soy lecithin is added to chocolate as an emulsifier. Unless certified organic, it is genetically modified, and either way it’s a hormone disruptor.
- Chocolate also often contains the artificial flavor vanillin, a byproduct of the paper industry.
- Lead, anyone? Yes, you read that right. Somewhere in shipping or manufacturing, the chocolate becomes contaminated with dangerous amount of lead.
High quality chocolate that is organic and retains all its antioxidants can be hard to come by, and it costs a pretty penny. Here are some sources for raw, organic cacao products: Mountain Rose Herbs, Wilderness Family Naturals, Azure Standard.
That pretty penny brings me to my next point…
Chocolate Eating Guideline #2: Indulge sparingly.
Popular nutrition may be touting the health benefits of chocolate, but we can’t ignore the fact that there may be some health concerns, as well.
- Theobromine mimics caffeine and can cause hyperactivity followed by lethargy, sleeplessness, nausea & vomitting, and acts as a diuretic.
- Oxalic acid and phytic acid block the absorption of minerals and can cause nutrient deficiencies. The sugar in prepared chocolate exaggerates these effects.
- Chocolate has also been known to negatively affect the adrenal glands, and is a no-no for those suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Instead of giving up chocolate altogether when I hear those things, I choose to indulge sparingly. Make chocolate treats every once in awhile. Savor one square of chocolate instead of a whole bar. If you’re in the mood, use carob sometimes (though I will never claim that carob can replace chocolate; it’s something entirely different). Your health and your wallet will thank you.
Chocolate Eating Guideline #3: Eat Dark Chocolate.
Minimally processed dark chocolate is one of the most antioxidant rich foods out there. Antioxidants help prevent illness, and the specific antioxidants in chocolate have been found to improve cardiovascular health. Dr. Mercola says, “The total antioxidant content of chocolate products are directly associated with the amount of raw cocoa it contains.” (source)
Dark chocolate contains less sugar. The higher the cacao content, the less sugar. So if you’re buying chocolate, go for the highest percentage of cocoa that you enjoy.
Sorry, milk chocolate lovers. Turns out the proteins in milk bind with antioxidants and prevent your body from using them.
Chocolate Eating Guideline #4: Make Nutritious Chocolate Recipes.
If you’re going to eat this delicious but perhaps compromise food, do your body a favor and pair it with other nutritious ingredients. Here are a few recipe ideas from our contributors:
Double Chocolate Walnut Cookies (GF, DF)
Raw Nutty Truffles (GF, DF)
Mexican Hot Chocolate (DF option)
Raw Chocolate Breakfast Shake (DF option)
And here’s one more idea: a healthy and simple homemade fudge, with the crunch of toasted coconut and refreshing tang of orange zest. It’s a great gift idea, too!
- 1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1 c. cocoa powder
- 1 c. unrefined coconut oil
- 1/2 c. raw honey (or more to taste)
- the zest of 1 orange
- coconut sugar or sucanat, for sprinkling
- unrefined sea salt, for sprinkling
- Start by toasting your coconut. Heat a small frying pan over medium-low heat, and add the coconut. Cook, stirring, until most of it is light golden brown, a few minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a blender, combine the cocoa, coconut oil, and honey. Blend thoroughly, scraping the sides if necessary to fully incorporate the cocoa.
- Reserve 2 T. toasted coconut and 1/2 t. orange zest for sprinkling. Add remaining coconut and orange zest to the blender, and blend at a low speed to mix but not puree.
- Pour the fudge mixture into a muffin tin lined with paper muffin cups, filling each about 1/2 inch full. Alternatively, pour it into a parchment lined loaf pan.
- Sprinkle over the fudge the reserved coconut and orange zest. Sprinkle a little coconut sugar or sucanat over the fudge, followed by a very small pinch of salt on each one.
- Place the muffin tin or loaf pan in the refrigerator and chill until solid.
- If you used a loaf pan, cut the fudge into small squares.
- The fudge will soften considerably at room temperature; it is best to keep it chilled until eating.
If you missed it, check out Marit’s post from last Friday: Real Food Christmas Treats. She gives plenty of suggestions for healthy chocolate and non-chocolate Christmas indulgences.
What do you think of chocolate? Super food or junk food?