In case you haven’t read my blog about Chocolate – Healthy or Not?, then spoiler alert – yes it is***.

(***All those stars mean there are terms, conditions, and fine print).

Sigh! I know, it would be so cool if this one single delicious ingredient could be given a decisive go ahead.

It’s your prerogative

How you use chocolate in your diet is your choice, but for most of us it’s going to feature in some way. So, to make the search for healthier chocolate recipes easier, I put together a little recipe round up for you.

I thought we could start with 5 recipes. (Mostly because I have personally made each one and my family and I may be a little overloaded on chocolate at the moment).

About that fine print I mentioned

Treats are something that need to be eaten mindfully and in moderation. While all these recipes are gluten free, they inevitably use some form of sweetener, (always natural). If you are experiencing issues with blood sugar or hormones, I urge you to partake in moderation.

Who’s on the list

The health and wellness community is diverse and when I reached out to my colleagues for recipes, I was thrilled to get responses from all over the globe (Canada, Australia & South Africa). Whether you are near or far you can enjoy what we each have to offer.
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Grain-Free Chocolate Zucchini Fudge Cake 

Chocolate and fudge in the same sentence!

This gem is loaded with protein and fiber to help with managing blood sugar spikes. Zucchini is a truly underrated fruit and you will be surprised (and delighted) at how well it works with this recipe. Another bonus is the handy swop outs to accommodate a vegan diet – so everyone can try this one out.

Caitlin is a Certified Holistic & Culinary Nutritionist and Yoga Instructor based in St John, Canada. She is a passionate advocate of changing our relationship with food to live our best lives. To find out more about her incredible story and for more recipes, be sure to visit her site: Nourished by Caitlin Iles and follow her on social media: @nourishedbycaitlin

Double Chocolate Almond Granola

https://www.mealsbytiia.com/recipes/double-chocolate-almond-granola/Tiia knocked it out the park with this recipe.

If a chocolaty start to the day is what you are after, then her Double Chocolate Almond Granola is what you have been looking for.

Using raw cacao powder to boost the antioxidant and magnesium goodness as well as offering the option to add a little collagen powder. I love a recipe that manages to pack a nutritional punch and doesn’t compromise on taste. Tiia is a Culinary Nutritionist based in Toronto, Canada and helps her clients with meal prepping, planning and much more. For more recipes be sure to head on over to her site: Meals by Tiia and follower her on social media: @mealsbytiia

Fully Loaded GF Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are not only delicious but so quick and easy to prepare. Great for whipping up when guests come over or as a gift for your friends – trust me they will thank you, or to have with your afternoon tea – no sharing needed.

Sharan follows a Gluten Free eating plan to best manage her health and does not compromise on taste. The smell alone will have you drooling.

Sharan is a certified Health and Hormone Coach based in Melbourne, Australia. Through her own journey of dealing with 3 autoimmune diseases Sharan focuses on feeling well, living well and loving life. Follow Sharan on social media: @whysettleforordinary or download the recipe here with all her contact details.

GF Dark Chocolate Torta Caprese

This is decadence at its best!

If you want to impress with an after-dinner slice of chocolaty heaven – then this is the go to recipe. It’s like a soft pillow of chocolate.

Shoots and Leaves are an eatery based in Umhlanga, KZN, South Africa. Their food is always fresh with something new on the menu each day. Using local whole foods their harvest table lunches are legendary and a must try if you are in the area.

To order your box of farm fresh veg, wholesome frozen meals for the week or meet up with friends for a delicious lunch check out their website: Shoots & Leaves or connect with them on social media: @shoots_and_leaves_sa

Download the recipe here with all their contact details.

Chocolate Truffle Cups

This is one of my personal favorite recipes to make. From my days of following a ketogenic diet and loving the texture of smooth buttery fat bombs, it was a springboard from there. Tahini with coconut syrup is also reminiscent of the old days when I would have peanut butter and syrup.

It all makes for a deep chocolaty, buttery truffle in a bed of crispy hazelnut. A mineral rich treat sure to satisfy the chocolate lover in you.

Chocolate Truffle Cups

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Set Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Dessert, Treat
Keyword: chocolate
Servings: 12

Equipment

  • Cupcake Tray
  • Cupcake Liners
  • Spoon
  • Bowl
  • Whisk
  • Measuring Equipment

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup Dates pitted
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil melted
  • 50 grams Cacao Powder
  • 75 ml Coconut Syrup
  • 2 tbsp Tahini

Instructions

  • Preheat oven tp 160°C and line cupcake tray with cupcake liners
  • CUPS: Blend hazelnuts and dates in a food processor for 1 - 2 minutes. (Duration will depend on processor strength). The mixture will be course but stick together when rolled into a ball.
  • Divide mixture into 12 equal sized balls and press each ball tightly into cupcake liners. (It should reach about halfway up the sides)
  • Place tray in the oven and bake for 8 - 10 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove and place on cooling rack. (Discard cupcake liners just prior to serving). Prepare filling while cups are baking and cooling.
  • FILLING: Add melted coconut oil, cacao powder and coconut syrup to a medium well and mix well.
  • Once cups have cooled (5-10min) pour or spoon filling into each cup until it just reaches the top.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow filling to firm up. (To set it quicker place in freezer for 10-15 minutes)
  • Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Substitutes: Use raw honey or maple syrup instead of coconut syrup
More flavor: Experiment with filling and mix in chopped basil/mint, dried orange or coconut.
Dates too dry: soak them in warm water for a few minutes, then discard the water and use the dates
Leftovers: Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge. (Can be frozen, but may affect the crispiness of the cups)

Yet another health question that we all wish had a simple yes/no answer! The next question is – when you say chocolate what do you mean? Chocolate meant something completely different to me 10 years ago to what it means to me today…

Confused?

Let me explain.

Until I got really serious about my food and did a bit of research, the word chocolate would conjure up very specific images. My favorite chocolate bar, the silken sauce over my ice cream or the powder I used for my hot chocolate (or ate from the can if I’m being honest). The only variation I couldn’t instantly eat was the cocoa powder for baking.

Many of you know (as I do) that it was also a one-way ticket to acne breakouts, a few extra kilos on the hips and a headache. But then – there was all this hype about dark chocolate being healthier, certain types of chocolate helping with blood pressure regulation and being an antioxidant? How could it possibly be healthy and cause so much havoc in my body?

So What’s The Difference?

It turns out that there are different types of chocolate. They are differentiated by varying processing methods.

Type of Chocolate

You may have noticed the chocolate ingredient being listed as either cacao or cocoa. Back in the day I thought that was just a spelling error, but it turns out there is a bit – nay – big difference.

Cacao

Also known as: raw cocoa, raw cacao, superfood, vegan cocoa, true chocolate
Taste profile: strong, bitter, acidic
Appearance: dark brown, fine dust like powder
Variations: nibs/liquor, powder
Used in: baking, drinks, sauces, desserts, cooking
Processing: Other than the initial fermentation, drying and grounding process, very little is done
Nutrition Profilei: As the processing is very limited and done at a low heat or using friction only. The nutritional profile is mostly unharmed. Without getting into the technical stuff the beneficial components are:
Minerals – magnesium being the most notable and useful as a relaxant
Polyphenolic compounds – flavan-3-ols being the component responsible for the bitter flavor and for the potent antioxidant effects.
Healthy fats – oleic acid the same found in olive oil

Using good quality dark chocolate made with raw cacao has been shown to be beneficiali in the fight against cardiovascular disease, lowering cholesterol, insulin resistance and much more. But, before you decide it’s all good, let’s talk about cocoa.

Cocoa

Also known as: cocoa powder, coca, hot chocolate, chocolate
Taste profile: creamy, mild
Appearance: light to dark brown powder
Variations: powder
Used in: baking, drinks, sauces, desserts
Processing: It begins with the same processing is followed as cacao. Thereafter it is heated and most likely mixed with other components. NOTE: Most cocoa powders are also mixed with fillers, anti-caking agents, sweeteners, whey powders and various other additives.
Nutrition Profile: The nutritional profile starts out exactly the same as cacao. It gets diminished by additional processing, adding of ingredients and dilution.

So how much chocolate is in my chocolate?

It appears to be anything from zero, typically labeled as ‘flavored’ and synthetic based, all the way to 100%, which is usually found in specialized boutique shops. The only way of really knowing is making sure you read the label or contact the manufacturer. Alternatively, buy cacao or cocoa powder and make your own dishes. This is the ultimate level of controlling how much chocolate is in your chocolate.

Getting back to “When you say chocolate, what do you mean?”

Hopefully, you are a little less confused by that question now. Chocolate, like so many foodie words nowadays, is used very loosely. Cacao and cocoa are also used interchangeably by manufacturers, so it can get confusing. What I have come to understand is this (based upon my personal opinion):

  • Chocolate is an ingredient or flavor (not the enemy)
  • Chocolate can be used for good (as part of a healthy eating plan), or
  • Chocolate can be used for bad (loaded with fillers, additives and miscellaneous stuff)
  • Chocolate as it is presented to the masses is more sugar than chocolate
  • When I would say ‘I need a chocolate fix’, I actually needed a sugar fix. Now, I use chocolate as a key part of a healthy diet. A chocolate treat can either help build my health or send me on a sugar frenzy..
  • Both options can be made with raw cacao.

What’s going to stop you from using cacao

Okay, so maybe you are all fired up about using the healthier version of chocolate. There are a few things that may put you off though, so let’s deal with them quickly.

Raw Cacao is expensive

  • Maybe some of you can find a reasonably priced supplier, but here where I live it’s right up there with buying an island. As a result, I am very selective about when and how I use it. I make it count. It is going to be rich, decadent and as healthy as possible.

Raw Cacao is strong

  • This helps with the expensive thing. Raw cacao is potent and you don’t need as much as you would with regular cocoa.
  • If you are swopping out cacao for cocoa, try the full amount for the first try of the recipe. If you it’s too overpowering, reduce the amount by a teaspoon or two for the next attempt.
  • If this is a new ingredient you are trying, experimentation will be required.

Raw Cacao is bitter

  • Many of you are probably picturing a delicious cup of hot chocolate after the reference earlier, but beware. This requires using a neat version of the powder and you may be in for a little surprise. Remember those flavan-3-ols mentioned under the nutritional profile – they are strong and as healthy as they are, they are bitter. Again, you are introducing a new flavor and it takes time and adjustment. You cannot use it the same as common cocoa. Perhaps start with blending cocoa and cacao to begin with and then gradually changing the ratio.

Chocolate – Healthy or Not?

If you are looking at chocolate as an ingredient in the purest form you can get and afford – then the answer is an easy yes. What you add to it to get the end product that you will be eating or drinking is what determines its ultimate level of healthy or not.

Recipes Please!

Now all this talk about chocolate probably has you motivated to try out a few recipes? I am way ahead of you. Pop on over to: 5 Effortless Chocolatey Recipes For You To Try. I added one of my own favorites and reached out to my colleagues for some recipes. They are diverse and delicious, so be sure to check them out, and don’t forget to show us. We love to see your creations #nutrichologist

 

CAUTION

Something I did not mention earlier is the compound Theobromine. This is one of the compounds in chocolate that makes us humans so happy when we eat chocolate. The more diluted the cacao is the less of an effect it has on us. The problem arises when we think it’s a good idea to feed it to our pets. Depending on the strength it can have a mild to lethal effect on our pets. It’s known as chocolate poisoning and causes anything from mild diarrhea and nausea to seizures and death. Dogs are particularly vulnerable. To be safe, please do not feed chocolate to your pets.

 

REFERENCES

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696435/