I’ll have a few recipes throughout the month of February, that feature healthy (and easy) chocolate desserts. (If you don't like chocolate, fear not. The entire blog won't be chocolate-covered. There'll still be my regular natural health and nutrition posts, along with non-chocolate food ideas for you.)
I’ve posted the delicious benefits of chocolate before, but here’s a brief refresher on why chocolate is healthy, what kind of chocolate is best for your health and the reasons why eating chocolate in moderation, is the way to go:
Dark Chocolate's Health Benefits
Chocolate contains proanthocyanidin flavonoids, that reduce free radicals, much like green tea and red wine. These are antioxidant-rich colours found in whole foods (sometimes referred to as, “vitamin P”). The flavonoids in chocolate help to relax blood vessels and aid in heart health.
But there’s a little problem. The alkalization and roasting process that commercial chocolate has to go through destroys these components. A highly processed chocolate bar contains lecithin, hydrogenated vegetable oils and synthetic substances, so go for a quality dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate (at least 70%) is a good source of magnesium and a variety of other essential minerals, including iron, zinc, copper and manganese. Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in our body and is incredibly important. It aids in bone and teeth formation, helps to relax muscles, aids in the absorption of potassium and calcium, controls blood pressure, prevents muscle twitching, reduces menstrual cramping (due to its ability to relax muscles) and helps with the uptake of vitamin D.
Why Eating Chocolate in Moderation is Important
Eating chocolate before bed isn't the best idea, as it contains theobromine, a caffeine-like stimulant that can cause hyperactivity, insomnia/restless sleep, mood swings and stomach aches. If you're a migraine sufferer, chocolate can aggravate symptoms. Theobromine is also toxic to dogs, so keep your pooch away (the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is to dogs).
- Those living in regions where cocoa is produced and consumed (Central and South America) have a lower incidence of heart disease and cancer due to chocolate's flavanol phytonutrients. The high concentration of flavanols encourage blood vessel function.
- Chocolate enhances memory. A double-blind study of 90 elderly, cognitively impaired individuals were given a daily, high-flavanol cocoa drink to consume daily and this resulted in increased mental quickness, decreased blood pressure, as well as cardiovascular and metabolic improvements.
- It keeps your blood pressure under control and enhances neural activity (as the cocoa helps to dilate blood vessels -this means more oxygen to your brain).
- Scandinavian researchers found that high consumption of chocolate was associated with lower risk of stroke. (Dark chocolate is an anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet and antioxidant.)
- Dutch processing removes the bitterness from chocolate and drastically reduces the flavanol count. Buy unprocessed or raw cacao for the most health benefits.
Healthy Chocolate Brands
I recommend fair trade dark chocolate (at least 70%). You can learn more about the importance of fair trade here. Healthy chocolate brands that I like (and have personally eaten) are: Giddy Yoyo, Theobroma, Endangered Species Chocolate, Camino, Alter Eco, Navitas Naturals (raw cacao & cacao nibs) and Enjoy Life (dairy, nut, soy & gluten-free chocolate chips). These are just the healthy chocolate brands I've tried and enjoyed -there are many more out there!
I’d like to start the Clean Wellness Month of Healthy Chocolate strong, with my one of my favourite, quick chocolate dessert recipes: Healthy Dark Chocolate Pudding. This is the easiest chocolate pudding you’ll ever make. It literally takes 2 minutes, is completely dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, egg-free, soy-free and melts in your mouth.
One of my taste-testers said, “you should package this and sell it.” So, maybe I’ll go into the pudding cup business, who knows.
Feel free to get creative by adding natural flavourings like, orange zest, pure mint extract or a teaspoon or two of Teecino for a mocha flavour. You can also garnish it with raspberries, cacao nibs or shredded coconut.
This would be the perfect snack to pack in your lunch. It can also act as a post-workout recovery food due to it's high potassium and magnesium content, contributing to muscle recovery. Adding a scoop of protein powder isn't a bad idea either, if you're eating this as a post-exercise pudding. Of course, it can be very elegant as well, depending on the serving vessel you choose.
This Healthy Dark Chocolate Pudding recipe will serve two, generously; a ménage à trois, modestly; or a double date, diminutively. (Or, you can keep it all to yourself!)