Recipe: Healthy bar of chocolate

 

Have you ever wished for eating a chocolate without feeling guilty? Well, then this recipe is for you 🙂

This bar of chocolate recipe is not only made of super healthy ingredients (“superfoods”) and completely refined fat and sugar free, but it also is very easy and fast to make! I bet that you even spend less time on making this chocolate recipe by yourself than going to the shop to buy one  😉

Chocolate is commonly believed to be a delicious but unhealthy candy. Well, if you buy your chocolate, odds are that this is true. Unfortunately, the majority of the store-bought chocolates are high in refined sugar and partially hydrogenated oils that make the end product that you eat super unhealthy. However, this does not have to be like that. Chocolate can be a “superfood” if made properly. Cacao has indeed been recognized by an many scientific studies as having many therapeutic properties.

And why can chocolate be actually so healthy? Take a look in the next few paragraphs and you will see why…:)

 

Health benefits of cacao

Cacao has long been acknowledged by science to contain many powerful and disease-fighting compounds. Because it is naturally a polyphenol-rich food, it has a high antioxidant activity (polyphenols are a group of plant chemicals with well-researched health-promoting properties, namely antioxidant activity). It also contains calcium, carotene, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium, iron and sulfur. But these naturally occurring compounds in cacao can be destroyed by high heat and so, it is important to get informed how the cacao you are using or want to use was produced.

Many studies have found that regular intake of cacao (in moderate amounts) is beneficial for heart health as it reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction [1-5] and is inversely associated with calcified atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries [6] (meaning the more cacao you eat, the less chance you have to develop calcified atherosclerotic plaques in your arteries). Quite impressively, a study found that consumption of a daily amount of 2.11g of cacao (which is really not a lot) reduced cardiac mortality by 50%!

Cacao has also been shown to improve blood pressure, insulin resistance, reduce serum insulin levels [2, 7, 8]. Indeed, as surprising as it may be, cacao is actually inversely associated with type 2 diabetes [9, 10] (meaning the more chocolate you eat, the less chance you have for developing type 2 diabetes), it can reverse vascular dysfunction in diabetes [11] and improve the metabolic syndrome [12]. It also increases HDL cholesterol (commonly called “the good cholesterol”) [13].

Regular consumption of cacao has also been shown to improve stress-related metabolism by reducing the urinary excretion of cortisol (stress hormone) [14]. Chocolate also seems to relieve emotional stress and have positive effects on the mood, especially when consumed mindfully [15].

Cacao polyphenols may also be chemopreventive agents (agents used to inhibit, delay, or reverse the initiation of cancer), for example, helping to prevent colorectal cancer[16]. It was also shown to be cytotoxic (toxic to living cells) to a broad range of human cancer cell lines [17]. Cacao paste (cacao liquor) was also shown to attenuate liver cancer progression [18].

Cacao has also been shown to be neuroprotective. For example, cacao consumption could reduce the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance (working memory) [20]. Also, cacao consumption seems to lower cognitive decline, such as in Alzheimer’s disease, while promoting healthy brain aging [21, 22], and is associated with better performance in memory tests [23].

It was also shown that consumption of cacao by pigs can contribute to a better health by enhancing the abundance of the good gut bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species [24].

In addition, cacao might help against iron deficiency anemia, since it is rich in iron [25]. In order to enhance iron absorption, a vitamin C rich food (such as fruits like citrus fruits, kiwis, berries) can be eaten in combination with cacao.

Have you heard of resveratrol? It’s a phytochemical (plant chemical) present in grapes and thought to be the responsible for the health benefits associated with red wine. But did you know that cacao is also high in this compound? Indeed, cacao-containing products were found to rank second after red wines and grape juice in foods with the highest levels of total resveratrol [26].

If you are looking for enhancing your exercise endurance, cacao can help! [19]

So, as you see, we have many good reasons to eat chocolate! But a healthy one 🙂

 

What is cacao paste?

After the cacao pods are harvested, they are cut open and the cacao seeds are extracted. The cacao seeds are therefore, the whole, original and unprocessed form of cacao. The seeds are then naturally fermented for several days, which reduces their bitterness. Cacao nibs are cacao seeds (after the fermentation) that have been broken into smaller pieces, making them easier to eat.

Cacao paste (or cacao liquor) is made by taking the cacao seeds (after the fermentation process), drying them at a low temperature (below 40 °C, still considered a raw product) and grinding them. Since very low heat is used, the cacao paste still has the health benefits mentioned in the previous section. Cacao paste contains naturally about 55% fat (healthy fat!) and is great for using in any chocolate recipe. So this is one of the least processed forms of cacao you can find. And this is the ingredient we use in this recipe!

Just for you to know, cacao butter is the fat part extracted from the cacao seeds and therefore, it is already processed and many of the beneficial compounds are thus gone. The cacao powder, also very commonly used in recipes, is what remains after extracting the fat. So, as you see, the cacao paste is a more whole and unprocessed form of cacao than cacao powder (although cacau power could be useful in some recipes).

 

Get informed about the cacao origin

The quality of the cacao paste you get is very important as well as the conditions used for the harvest. Many cacao products come from unfairly traded sources, even linked to child slave work. Also, non-organic cacao can contain pesticides and herbicides used in conventional farming.

So please make sure that your cacao comes from a fair-trade source and is organic! It has to have both labels. I normally buy mine online.

 

And now, the recipe…:)

 

Recipe: healthy bar of chocolate

 

Preparation time: 10-15min

Ingredients

– 130g 100% organic raw cacao paste

– 30g organic extra-virgin coconut oil

– 60g raw honey

– 50g almonds (but you can use whatever nuts you prefer)

 

Preparation

1) The cacao paste comes in a block, so you will have to melt it. For that, place it in a pot at the minimum temperature possible for your cooker until it melts. You can stir it here and there to help it melting. Remember that it is very important to keep the temperature of the cooker as low as possible.

2) While you are waiting for your cacao paste to melt, you can crush your nuts.

3) Once the cacao paste has  melted down, turn off the cooker and add the coconut oil. Stir it well until the coconut oil is melted and well mixed with the cacao paste.

4) Pour that mixture into a bowl and add the honey and the nuts.

5) Lay a cooking paper in a rectangular tray, pour the mixture over it and roll down to your desired thickness.

6) Place the mixture in the fridge to chill in order to get hard.

7) (Optional) After about 20 min (when the chocolate is still soft, but not liquid anymore nor hard yet), take it out from the fridge and draw lines with a knife to make squares. This will make it easier to then cut the chocolate. Put it again in the fridge until you want to eat it.

8) Enjoy! 🙂

Tips

– The chocolate should always be kept in the fridge. If you do that, you can keep it for quite long (probably 2 or more weeks).

– You can also make a larger amount of chocolate and then freeze it and take it out each time you want to eat it. Like this, you have even less work :).

 

Try it and let us know how you liked it! 🙂

Live healthy 🙂

Ana

References

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[2]          L. Hooper, C. Kay, A. Abdelhamid, P. A. Kroon, J. S. Cohn, E. B. Rimm, and A. Cassidy, “Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavan-3-ols on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials,” Am J Clin Nutr, vol. 95, no. 3, pp. 740-51, Mar, 2012.

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[4]          L. Djousse, P. N. Hopkins, K. E. North, J. S. Pankow, D. K. Arnett, and R. C. Ellison, “Chocolate consumption is inversely associated with prevalent coronary heart disease: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study,” Clin Nutr, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 182-7, Apr, 2011.

[5]          E. Zomer, A. Owen, D. J. Magliano, D. Liew, and C. M. Reid, “The effectiveness and cost effectiveness of dark chocolate consumption as prevention therapy in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease: best case scenario analysis using a Markov model,” BMJ, vol. 344, pp. e3657, May 30, 2012.

[6]          L. Djousse, P. N. Hopkins, D. K. Arnett, J. S. Pankow, I. Borecki, K. E. North, and R. Curtis Ellison, “Chocolate consumption is inversely associated with calcified atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries: the NHLBI Family Heart Study,” Clin Nutr, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 38-43, Feb, 2011.

[7]          R. Corti, A. J. Flammer, N. K. Hollenberg, and T. F. Luscher, “Cocoa and cardiovascular health,” Circulation, vol. 119, no. 10, pp. 1433-41, Mar 17, 2009.

[8]          D. Grassi, S. Necozione, C. Lippi, G. Croce, L. Valeri, P. Pasqualetti, G. Desideri, J. B. Blumberg, and C. Ferri, “Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives,” Hypertension, vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 398-405, Aug, 2005.

[9]          G. E. Crichton, M. F. Elias, P. Dearborn, and M. Robbins, “Habitual chocolate intake and type 2 diabetes mellitus in the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study: (1975-2010): Prospective observations,” Appetite, vol. 108, pp. 263-269, Jan 01, 2017.

[10]        C. Matsumoto, A. B. Petrone, H. D. Sesso, J. M. Gaziano, and L. Djousse, “Chocolate consumption and risk of diabetes mellitus in the Physicians’ Health Study,” Am J Clin Nutr, vol. 101, no. 2, pp. 362-7, Feb, 2015.

[11]        J. Balzer, T. Rassaf, C. Heiss, P. Kleinbongard, T. Lauer, M. Merx, N. Heussen, H. B. Gross, C. L. Keen, H. Schroeter, and M. Kelm, “Sustained benefits in vascular function through flavanol-containing cocoa in medicated diabetic patients a double-masked, randomized, controlled trial,” J Am Coll Cardiol, vol. 51, no. 22, pp. 2141-9, Jun 03, 2008.

[12]        K. M. Strat, T. J. t. Rowley, A. T. Smithson, J. S. Tessem, M. W. Hulver, D. Liu, B. M. Davy, K. P. Davy, and A. P. Neilson, “Mechanisms by which cocoa flavanols improve metabolic syndrome and related disorders,” J Nutr Biochem, vol. 35, pp. 1-21, Sep, 2016.

[13]        J. Mursu, S. Voutilainen, T. Nurmi, T. H. Rissanen, J. K. Virtanen, J. Kaikkonen, K. Nyyssonen, and J. T. Salonen, “Dark chocolate consumption increases HDL cholesterol concentration and chocolate fatty acids may inhibit lipid peroxidation in healthy humans,” Free Radic Biol Med, vol. 37, no. 9, pp. 1351-9, Nov 01, 2004.

[14]        F. P. Martin, S. Rezzi, E. Pere-Trepat, B. Kamlage, S. Collino, E. Leibold, J. Kastler, D. Rein, L. B. Fay, and S. Kochhar, “Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects,” J Proteome Res, vol. 8, no. 12, pp. 5568-79, Dec, 2009.

[15]        B. P. Meier, S. W. Noll, and O. J. Molokwu, “The sweet life: The effect of mindful chocolate consumption on mood,” Appetite, vol. 108, pp. 21-27, Jan 01, 2017.

[16]        A. K. Pandurangan, Z. Saadatdoust, N. M. Esa, H. Hamzah, and A. Ismail, “Dietary cocoa protects against colitis-associated cancer by activating the Nrf2/Keap1 pathway,” Biofactors, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 1-14, Jan-Feb, 2015.

[17]        M. Kim, X. Wu, I. Song, M. Fu, S. H. Chang, M. P. Lisanti, and R. Pestell, “Selective cytotoxicity of synthesized procyanidin 3-O-galloylepicatechin-4b, 8-3-O-galloylcatechin to human cancer cells,” Cell Cycle, vol. 7, no. 11, pp. 1648-57, Jun 01, 2008.

[18]        I. Amin, B. K. Koh, and R. Asmah, “Effect of cacao liquor extract on tumor marker enzymes during chemical hepatocarcinogenesis in rats,” J Med Food, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 7-12, Spring, 2004.

[19]        P. R. Taub, I. Ramirez-Sanchez, M. Patel, E. Higginbotham, A. Moreno-Ulloa, L. M. Roman-Pintos, P. Phillips, G. Perkins, G. Ceballos, and F. Villarreal, “Beneficial effects of dark chocolate on exercise capacity in sedentary subjects: underlying mechanisms. A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial,” Food Funct, vol. 7, no. 9, pp. 3686-93, Sep 14, 2016.

[20]        D. Grassi, V. Socci, D. Tempesta, C. Ferri, L. De Gennaro, G. Desideri, and M. Ferrara, “Flavanol-rich chocolate acutely improves arterial function and working memory performance counteracting the effects of sleep deprivation in healthy individuals,” J Hypertens, vol. 34, no. 7, pp. 1298-308, Jul, 2016.

[21]        L. Dubner, J. Wang, L. Ho, L. Ward, and G. M. Pasinetti, “Recommendations for Development of New Standardized Forms of Cocoa Breeds and Cocoa Extract Processing for the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease: Role of Cocoa in Promotion of Cognitive Resilience and Healthy Brain Aging,” J Alzheimers Dis, vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 879-89, 2015.

[22]        A. Moreira, M. J. Diogenes, A. de Mendonca, N. Lunet, and H. Barros, “Chocolate Consumption is Associated with a Lower Risk of Cognitive Decline,” J Alzheimers Dis, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 85-93, May 06, 2016.

[23]        G. E. Crichton, M. F. Elias, and A. Alkerwi, “Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study,” Appetite, vol. 100, pp. 126-32, May 01, 2016.

[24]        S. Jang, J. Sun, P. Chen, S. Lakshman, A. Molokin, J. M. Harnly, B. T. Vinyard, J. F. Urban, Jr., C. D. Davis, and G. Solano-Aguilar, “Flavanol-Enriched Cocoa Powder Alters the Intestinal Microbiota, Tissue and Fluid Metabolite Profiles, and Intestinal Gene Expression in Pigs,” J Nutr, vol. 146, no. 4, pp. 673-80, Apr, 2016.

[25]        M. Ruscigno, Superfoods for life, Cacao, USA, 2014.

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2 Responses to “Recipe: Healthy bar of chocolate

  • Bernadett
    1 year ago

    This recipe does really provide a new and intensive experience of chocolate! It is ery easy to prepare. I tried it with almonds and coconut chips.

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