You have probably heard that chocolate is good for you, and the darker the better. On the other hand, isn’t too much chocolate a precursor for cavities, diabetes and a host of other problems?
The botanical name, theobroma cacao, comes from the Greek for “food of the gods,” so it is no surprise that this food has been widely commercialized as a “super food.” So is there any truth in the claim that chocolate is good for you? Yes. Cacao, in its unprocessed form does have health benefits. It is chock full of antioxidants and nutrients. However, cacao in its pure state is bitter and most people have been conditioned to the sweet taste of the processed form.
Most processed chocolate sold in stores contains refined sugar, “natural flavors” (which are nothing more than chemical food additives used to flavor food) and preservatives. If you are looking to enjoy cacao’s health benefits, here are some easy ways:
- Opt for raw cacao powder instead of processed cocoa powder. Cocoa powder has been roasted at high temperatures, and as a result, contains lower levels of antioxidants.
- Use raw cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips. Cacao nibs are chopped up cacao beans, and work as great substitutes for chocolate chips. They add a nice crunch without the added sugars and mystery ingredients.
- Look for bars that do not contain refined sugar or additives like natural flavors. Good chocolate is not cheap, and finding it can be even harder. Most store shelves are stocked with bars from just a handful of big food companies. Opt for bars sweetened naturally with ingredients like dates, maple syrup or coconut sugar.
- Make your own. If you like experimenting in the kitchen, what better way than to try making your own chocolate? You do not need any fancy equipment, and basic chocolate has minimal ingredients. Here is the easy recipe for you.
Vegan Dark Chocolate
- ½ cup of cacao discs or bar (no sugar added)
- 2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons of raisins
- 1 tablespoon of chopped almonds or hazelnuts
- Fill a small pot ¼ of the way with water and place a heat-safe bowl on top (or use a double boiler if you have one). Heat to high.
- Once the water is boiling, add the cacao and maple syrup and remove to medium heat. Stir occasionally. You can substitute honey for maple syrup, if the vegan variant is not a priority for you.
- Once the cacao has melted, add any desired toppings, stir and remove from heat.
- With a silicone spatula, spread the chocolate onto a lined baking sheet and place in the freezer until chocolate has hardened. Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator and enjoy!