Let’s chat about one of my favourite foods – chocolate.
*Gasps from the audience.*
Seriously, when did chocolate become a ‘naughty’ food, and why is food considered ‘naughty’ in the first place? Chocolate can be a source of joy AND vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s all about how you eat it.
So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Is chocolate a health food?
Does eating chocolate make you put on weight?
If you’re going to indulge in chocolate, is there a specific type you should choose?
Will eating chocolate be the cure to all of my life stressors? Oh, okay, that one’s just me.
The answer is: maybe.
The health benefits of dark chocolate are pretty impressive; it’s full of antioxidants that fight free radicals, nutrients that give us energy and minerals that raise serotonin and lower inflammation.
So, what’s the twist?
As with all food, quality and quantity are paramount. The type of chocolate, the ingredients added to it and how much you’re having will determine just how beneficial chocolate is for you.
What is chocolate, and what's its origin?
I thought you’d never ask! Get ready for chocolate school with your teacher, me.
Cacao is derived from cold-pressed unroasted cocoa beans and has triple the number of antioxidants as green tea. Cacao contains many a nutrient, including vitamin A, C, D, E and B vitamins, as well as the minerals calcium, zin, iron, copper, potassium and magnesium.
Which chocolate should you choose?
Dark chocolate contains a higher amount of cacao and less sugar and milk fat than milk or white chocolate. The higher the percentage of cacao, the better the benefit.
When choosing chocolate, have a look at the ingredients panel. Many chocolates contain inflammatory oils that can diminish the anti-inflammatory power chocolate holds. Check for cheap oils, partially hydrogenates oils or palm oil and avoid those as much as possible.
How much chocolate should you have?
If you’re someone who has good self-control (good for you.), I recommend one to two small squares of dark chocolate per day. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, be aware that a piece of chocolate can contain 12mg of caffeine, so be careful not to overindulge, especially late at night.
What’s the best way to have chocolate?
I love enjoying chocolate in homemade treats and lucky for you, today I have two decadent chocolate treats to share with you.
Let’s start with my coconut rough.
Coconut rough is one of my all-time favourite treats and is a fun one for adults and kids alike. Coconut and chocolate are one of my favourite flavour combinations and always lends itself to a funky texture that kids love. If you’re like me and like to have a tasty chocolate snack to reach for in the afternoon, these will forever go down like a treat.
Chocolate and Coconut Roughs
These coconut roughs are a truly healthy answer to your confectionery cravings.
- 70 g (21/2 oz/11/4 cups) unsweetened coconut flakes
- 65 g (21/4 oz/1/2 cup) slivered almonds
- 140 g (5 oz/2/3 cup) organic nut butter
- 40 g (11/2 oz/1/3 cup) organic coconut butter
- 3/4 teaspoon stevia powder, or coconut sugar, maple syrup or honey
- 1/2 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 2 tablespoons raw cacao nibs
- Line a 6-hole (250 ml/9 fl oz/1 cup) capacity muffin tin with paper liners.
- Place the coconut flakes and almonds in a large bowl.
- Place the nut butter and coconut butter in a bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water until melted.
- Add the stevia, vanilla extract, cacao powder and nibs, stirring frequently until well combined. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the coconut flakes and almonds, stirring well, so they are well coated.
- Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin holes and pop in the fridge for 1 hour, or until set.
- The roughs will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Let’s be real here – is there anything better than a muesli bar?
Yes, a muesli bar covered in chocolate.
While I used to devour muesli bars like it was no one’s business, store-bought bars are typically laden with sugar, honey and preservatives to give it the stickiness and sweetness we know and love. Once you try a homemade muesli bar, you’ll never go back!
I asked my friend Alexx for her favourite Crunchy Chocolate Buckwheat Bars and here they are. They’re the ideal accompaniment to a morning cuppa or filler for a mid-afternoon snack craving. These bars have a nutty flavour because of the buckwheat, are super tasty but also filling, fibre-rich, gluten-free and nutritious. They’re also free of nuts which makes them playground-friendly for school children. I guess you can say these buckwheat bars bring everyone to the yard.
Crunchy Chocolate Buckwheat Bars
- 65 g (21/4 oz/1 cup) additive-free shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 75 g (21/2 oz/1/2 cup) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) coconut oil
- 125–170 ml (4–51/2 fl oz/1/2–2/3 cup) rice malt syrup
- 120 g (41/4 oz/1 cup) tapioca flour
- 1 organic egg
- 160 g (53/4 oz/1 cup) buckwheat ‘buckinis’
- 120 g (41/4 oz) 85% dark chocolate, for melting and drizzling (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Place all the ingredients, except the buckinis and dark chocolate, in a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Add the buckinis and pulse a few more times.
- Spread the mixture evenly and firmly over the prepared baking tray and bake for 20–25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and make indents into the mixture marking out your 12 bars.
- Cool on a wire rack, and when cool, cut completely into 12 bars. Drizzle over the melted chocolate before serving.
Enjoy! Lee xx