If there’s one thing I hate hearing, it’s that “you shouldn’t eat chocolate every day”. Like hell I shouldn’t. If one square of dark chocolate is your ‘cheat’ for the entire week, then while I take my hat off to your willpower, my heart goes out to your underprivileged tastebuds. Perhaps that’s why I don’t quite look like Candice.
Now don’t get ahead of yourself. I’m not condoning putting away a whole block of Cadbury Marvellous Creations with your nightly cuppa, I’m simply saying that ruling out chocolate completely is just cruel. The whole reason for my blog is to show people that eating ‘clean’ is not about depriving yourself, but nourishing yourself with healthier versions of otherwise calorific fare; so you can have your cake and eat it, too! There are always ways to enjoy the things you LOVE. Even the naughtiest indulgences can be twitched and tweaked into guiltless wholesomeness. Except for churros, french fries and cheese fritters – unfortunately, I haven’t yet discovered a healthy way to deep-fry. It’s a billion-dollar baby subject to pursuit, though.
Essentially, generic milk chocolate is composed of half fat and half sugar, and therefore a quarter fructose (since sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose). No wonder it tastes so damn good. An Australian icon, Cadbury Milk Chocolate’s ingredients (in descending order from most to least) are as follows: Full Cream Milk, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Milk Solids, Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, 476), Flavours. Just one 25g serving of the sweet stuff (about 4 squares, and how many people stop at that?!) hosts a measly 2g of protein, but contains 4.7g of saturated fat and a whopping 14.3g sugar (that means over 7g of pure fructose!!!) Hmmm…
No, I don’t eat Cadbury Milk Chocolate, or any other commercial milk chocolate for that matter, on a daily basis (a few sneaky M&Ms here and there never go astray). I have, however, found a way to enjoy chocolatey goodness whenever I feel like it. This way, I can eat my 25 grams or so without the burden of fructose and saturated fat-induced guilt lingering on my conscience until my next workout. Two words: RAW CACAO. It’s no Cadbury, but I’ve come to LOVE it. In fact, since cutting out fructose and added sugar almost entirely (a. because I’m intolerant to it and b. after reading David Gillespie’s ‘Sweet Poison’ – READ IT!’), I actually prefer the bitterness of cacao over sickly sweet milk chocolate, anyway. This is because my taste buds have become so much more sensitive (as they should be), and I’ve come to appreciate even the slightest hint of sweetness – once downright addictive, I now find the sugar overload in more than a few bits of commercial milk chocolate simply unpalatable.
If you already adore dark chocolate and, even better, raw cacao, then you’re going to love this recipe. If you can only just tolerate dark chocolate (think after-dinner mints and Cherry Ripe), you won’t be totally impossible to convert. However, if any chocolate with a cocoa percentage higher than 20 makes you cringe, let alone Lindt Excellence 85%, then you’re going to struggle with my proposition. Even so, I’m assuming (hoping) that most of you reading this will already be pretty cacao-inclined, or at least willing to humour me and give it a go.
An omnipotent superfood, cacao (pronounced ka-cow) is the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate. The cacao bean is comprised of 54% fat (cocoa butter), 31% carbohydrates, 11% protein, 3% polyphenols and 1% minerals. Raw cacao nibs are made by removing the skin from the cacao seed and cracking it into smaller pieces and raw cacao powder is created through a cold-pressing process whereby the fat is removed. All raw forms of cacao are packed with iron, dietary fiber, calcium, zinc, potassium and potent antioxidants. Cacao is commonly known for being super rich in antioxidants, protecting the body from a build-up of free radicals which are thought to damage healthy tissue and give rise to cancerous cells and cardiovascular diseases. While this is a highly compelling health benefit, raw cacao also provides a number of other beneficial nutrients. As a rich source of manganese, raw cacao helps oxygenate the blood. It’s also a rich source of magnesium, which helps to balance brain chemistry, and is high in sulfur which helps with tissue growth, rejuvenation and repair. Sulfur also builds strong nails and hair and promotes elastic, supple and glowing skin.
To make that heavenly sweet confectionery we all love and know as ‘chocolate’, cacao beans are roasted to form cocoa, which is then mixed with fats and a stack of sugar until the beans are unrecognizable. The high heat used to roast the beans reduces the levels of antioxidants in the cacao, diminishing the powerful health benefits of the unprocessed, raw cacao. So, no, milk chocolate does not contain enough endorphin-releasing, “bliss” chemicals to increase your mood and alleviate stress, but cacao does. Instead of reaping the benefits of the wondrous superfood that cacao is, the high amounts of saturated fat and refined sugar added to virtually nutrient-less cocoa to produce commercial chocolate has adverse effects on our health, physically and mentally. And that’s before it’s combined with fluffy marshmallows, gooey caramel and sweet, buttery biscuit pieces.
So, since Winter is fast-approaching, I figured that I’d be needing an emergency treat at my disposal, ready for all my upcoming date nights with my doona and Pretty Little Liars. Because let’s face it, Winter Nights have this abominable tendency to creep into our cosy homes and strangle our willpower, no matter how good we’ve been for the entire day. And nothing complements couch-potato season quite like chocolate does. Rest assured, this recipe is totally guilt-free, so as long as you’ve got a batch of it in the fridge, you’ll have no excuse to hit the Nutella jar like it’s a tub of yoghurt when cravings strike. Not only is it an innocent treat, you’re actually better off eating this than going without it! As well as cacao, my ‘chocolate’ makeover is packed with a myriad of other superfoods such as coconut oil, goji berries, quinoa and buckwheat! Free rein to dunk chocolate into my tea at night, every night?! I’ve got a warm and fuzzy feeling in my belly just thinking about it…
Antioxidant-Packed Dark ‘Chocolate’ Bark
Note: the amount of raw cacao I have specified below (1/2 cup) produces a very true and deep cacao flavour. Some may find this little bitter, so if you’re new to cacao/raw chocolate, try starting with 1/4 cup and add more to taste.
1/2 cup raw cacao powder (I use Loving Earth brand)
1/2 cup organic melted coconut oil
Plain activated buckinis (roasted buckwheat – I use Loving Earth brand)
Organic goji berries
Chopped raw nuts, activated if possible (I use macadamias and almonds)
Organic unsweetened coconut chips or flakes
1 tsp organic vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
Stevia or other sweetener of choice, to taste.
- In an air-tight container/jug/shaker, add the melted coconut oil and cacao powder. Shake vigorously to combine completely, producing a rich sauce-like consistency.
- Add the vanilla and your sweetener of choice until a desired sweetness is reached – I recommend pure organic stevia extract powder, such as Nirvana Organics brand. You could also use organic honey, rice malt syrup or agave nectar, but although these provide more health benefits than refined cane sugar, they still contain high amounts of fructose. So, if you want the ‘chocolate’ to be sugar free and ‘cleaner’, simply use Stevia or another low-cal natural sweetener such as Xylitol.
- Line a small tray or dish, such as a 15cm cake tin, with baking paper. Scatter the remaining ingredients in the bottom of the prepared dish, creating a thick layer, about 1cm. Pour over chocolate mixture and top with more goji berries, buckinis etc if you wish.
- Refrigerate for a few hours until set, then break into bite-sized pieces. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.