So we’ve all heard before that chocolate is good for us. For most of us, we like to translate this in our heads as meaning we can eat more candy bars. Unfortunately, most chocolate, especially that made into candy bars and sweet candies retains very little, if any, of the benefits of natural cacao. Cacao or the cocoa bean is the seed from which chocolate is made. Remember that tip about trying to eat foods as close to their natural form as possible? Well there are plenty of yummy chocolate treats you can make yourself using 100% real cacao. At first you may find it to be much less palatable than the chocolate you are used to consuming. But over time, as you get your diet back to its roots, you will find it to be one of your favorite treats with the addition of a small amount of a natural sweetener like honey.
You can get your cacao in the form of 100% cacao powder or 100% cacao chocolate bars.
I keep both on hand in my pantry. When buying your cacao be sure that the label does not say that it is alkalized or dutch processed. Unfortunately “dutched" does not mean your chocolate comes from the far-off land of Holland. Instead, it actually means it was put through a chemical process that drastically reduces the flavanol content of the cocoa thus diminishing the healthy effects of chocolate.
So what are the benefits of cacao??
Cocoa or cacao is full of antioxidants and flavonoids. It has been linked to significantly lower levels of cardiovascular disease and cancers. Flavanol-rich cocoa is believed to help with improved blood flow which in turn benefits the heart and other organs of the body. It has also been linked to having anti-aging properties, enhancing brainpower and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Start incorporating this powerhouse into your homemade desserts and shakes!
Here’s a recipe appropriate for a cold Winter night:
- 1 Cup Organic Heavy Cream* or Full Fat Coconut Milk
- 2 TBSP 100% Cacao powder
- 2 tsp Raw Honey (use just enough to sweeten. If you find this to still be too bitter add more to taste. Eventually you may find you need much less sweetener to make your food palatable)
- (Vanilla or peppermint if desired)
- Extra whipped cream for topping
*YES! I use heavy cream. The thing about full-fat cream is that it is satiating AND it doesn't contain carbohydrates (which can cause those insulin spikes followed by hunger). For those of you who are lactose-intolerant (the carbohydrate found in dairy) or whey or casein-intolerant (the proteins found in dairy products), you might actually find that you don’t have a problem with full-fat cream (like heavy cream, sour cream or butter) because it is just the fat from dairy and thus doesn't contain the lactose, whey or casein that most people often have allergies to.
DIRECTIONS (Makes 1 cup of hot cocoa. Double, triple, quadruple for more cups):
Mix a small amount of heavy cream (or milk preference of choice) with your cocoa powder and honey in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the cocoa powder and honey are well dissolved, add the remainder of 1 cup of heavy cream. Heat to desired temperature. Pour into your favorite mug and voila! (You could add a little vanilla or peppermint if you prefer. OR add more chocolate from your 100% Cacao bar for extra chocolate goodness and for an even thicker consistency. Play with your recipes and find what you like).
If you want an extra little treat and something that will keep you full for HOURS, add some fresh whipped cream by just whipping heavy cream. Don’t add sugar to this. The cream alone will taste great on your sweetened hot cocoa.
Now grab your favorite Christmas movie, curl up on the couch and enjoy :)