Valentine’s Day, then Easter…tis the season for chocolate! I consider chocolate a healthy choice for dessert or snacks, but, not all chocolate is created equal. It’s always best to choose dark chocolate (55% - 85% cocoa) because it has a higher amount of cocoa and less sugar & fat than regular milk chocolate.
What is cocoa?
Cocoa beans are actually seeds of the cacao pod (fruit), which grow on cacao trees in South America. They are dried, roasted and ground to make cocoa powder & cocoa butter; the basic ingredients of chocolate.
The more cocoa, the better
Cocoa is rich in theobromine & flavonoids; substances which improve circulation, and may be used to treat high blood pressure & heart disease. This means chocolate is good for your heart – what a perfect excuse to give your sweetie chocolate on Valentine’s Day!
Chocolate keeps us young & happy
Cacao is rich in antioxidants, which protect us from free radicals (out of control molecules that wreak havoc on our cells, which can cause cancer & pre-mature aging), and is said to raise serotonin; a neurotransmitter in the brain that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.
My favorite chocolate
Giddy YoYo Raw Chocolate Bars My friends at Living Kitchen introduced these to me, and they’re amazing. Made with all-natural, quality ingredients; they have an intense chocolate flavor, and being raw, they retain all the health benefits of cacao. I like combining a couple squares with dates & almonds – a match made in heaven.
Giddy YoYo cacao nibs Cacao nibs are the result of crushing the beans after they’ve been dried & roasted. Nibs have a crunchy texture, and true chocolate flavor. They’re not sweet, but taste amazing when combined with banana in oatmeal or smoothies, or used as a substitute for chocolate chips in baking. They are truly a super food because they contain no additives or extra ingredients. I sprinkle a tablespoon in my Homemade Cereal every morning – delish.
Camino A Canadian company that sells fair trade, organic, chocolate available in 12 delicious flavors (my favorite kind is the Espresso 55% cocoa).
Homemade healthy chocolate
If you really want to impress your sweetie, family or best friends on Valentine’s Day; here’s a recipe for Peanut Butter Brownies that are gluten-free, and have no butter, eggs, refined flour or sugar. Want to know the best part? They’re healthy, easy to make & delicious – enjoy!
Peanut Butter Brownies
(gluten free, sugar free, dairy free)
2 cups cooked quinoa (3/4 cup dry)
2 cups pitted dates ½ cup cocoa powder 2 tsp vanilla extract 4 tbsp coconut oil (melted) ½ tsp sea salt
Frosting ½ cup natural peanut butter 4 tbsp real maple syrup 2 tbsp coconut oil (melted) 1/4 tsp sea salt 1 tbsp raw cacao nibs
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 350F 2. In a small pot, combine 3/4 cup dry quinoa with double the amount of water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat down to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork. 3. In a food processor, combine cooked quinoa, dates, cocoa powder, vanilla, coconut oil and sea salt. Process until smooth (batter will be very sticky). 4. Spread batter into a small square baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. 5. While brownies are baking; combine the ingredients for the frosting in a small bowl. 6. Allow brownies to cool before icing. Cut into squares and store in the fridge or freezer.
Lauren is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in downtown Toronto and is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. She loves to cook with wholesome, natural ingredients and make meals that are healthy, easy & delicious. She aims to do something active every day, which usually includes jogging, dog-walking and weight training. In her spare time she can be found spending time with her husband, their 3-year old Yorkie, friends & family, and travels with her husband every chance they get. Lauren offers nutrition consulting services and writes a blog called ‘the other big O’ where she educates her readers about nutrition, shares her health & fitness tips, and healthy recipes.