Last summer, on the August long weekend, the hamlet near us celebrated Consecon Day. Our favourite winery, Red Tail, organized lots of activities in honour of Consecon Day. One of them was a Cooking Demonstration that my friend Trish Krause conducted, and I assisted her with it. We had a wonderful group of people that had many interesting questions about the ingredients we were using. After the demo we were available for more questions while the Jazz Band was setting up. And of course try to stop a couple of Nutritionists from talking about food.
One of the conversations I had involved my favourite ingredient – chocolate. I grew up in Germany with a dad that had a hollow tooth that needed to be filled with Lindt Chocolate and Ritter Sport on a daily basis. Of course I adopted the same habit and could devour an entire chocolate bar within a few minutes. Savouring the chocolate was out of the question, since I had to fight off 2 brothers. This habit followed me to Canada were Lindt was replaced with Snickers and Mars Bars. It wasn’t until I started taking classes at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition where I was faced with quite an conundrum. I knew that chocolate bars were not considered part of a healthy diet, but now- I learned why! I started by reading ingredient labels, not only on chocolate bars, but every other processed food as well. The first ingredient listed on a Snickers bar is sugar, which means it contains more sugar than any other ingredients that are following. Then it also has soy lecithin. In North America (Monsanto Nation), almost all conventional soy is genetically modified, unless labeled organic or non-GMO. Milk products fall under the same category – the cows were given GMO grains and in the United States the cows are also given genetically engineered growth hormones, unless is says organic or non-GMO on the label. Another ingredient is artificial flavour – this could be any number of chemicals derived from petroleum that a manufacturer decides to add, without any concern for the potential health effects. After all of the processing of our foods, the artificial flavouring is needed otherwise the taste of the chemicals would be lingering in your mouth and/or the food wouldn’t have any taste any more and you most likely would not buy it. Does this not all sound so yummy?
Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is a trans-fat, an unnatural man-made fat that creates dysfunction and chaos in the body and is linked to heart disease, cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, chronic health problems like asthma, chronic immune disease and it makes you gain weight. It decreases the immune function, interferes with the body’s ability to utilize omega-3 fats and causes reproductive problems by interfering with sex hormone production. And the list goes on. If this isn’t enough, the amount of soy in our processed foods causes yet additional problems. And it doesn’t matter if it is organic or not. The western attitude ‘more and bigger is better’ has proven to cause problems from a health point of view. Soy has been added to so many processed foods; soy milk has replaced cow’s milk; tofu entered the realm of burgers; and breast milk was replaced by soy formula for babies. With so much soy on a daily basis in our diet it can wreak havoc with our health. Unfermented soy contains goitrogens which block the synthesis of thyroid hormones and upsets thyroid function. Soy also has phytoestrogen compounds that resemble human estrogen. We are exposed to too much estrogen compounds already, and by adding soy to our daily diet it can escalate the imbalance of hormone levels in our body. There are many more reasons for not having an excess of unfermented soy in our diet, but carrying on will leave me short on mentioning CORN SYRUP, or sometimes called HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS), GLUCOSE, FRUCTOSE. So much is wrong with this poison and manufacturers are adding it freely to so many of our foods, including peanut butter, soft drinks, cakes, pastries, BBQ sauces etc, etc, even foods you least expect it – Kellogg’s cereals, ketchup, Nutri-grain cereal bars, cough syrup, Cool-Whip, salad dressings and the list goes on. Side effects to name a few are heart disease, obesity, increased belly fat, insulin resistance, it speeds up the aging process, and it triggers immune system problems. I think in the near future I will get to writing a blog just on HFCS and other food additives because it makes my hair curl (even more) just thinking about how our food has been manipulated and altered — and in the end, despite a momentary pleasurable sensation from eating such manipulated food, we are left with a whole slew of health problems.
I think I have ranted enough, so I need to tell you now what happened after I discovered how all the bad stuff in my diet can wreak havoc on my health. Well, we were sitting in Nutrition and the Environment when one of my classmates got up and wrote a healthy alternative to conventional chocolate bars on the blackboard. I have worked through a multitude of variations, and changed the recipe quite a bit since that day in class, and here, finally, is MY favourite chocolate recipe:
5 tablespoons of organic raw Cacoa Powder
5 tablespoons of organic Coconut Oil
2 tablespoons of Maple Syrup (can be reduced if you like to add raisins, dates etc)
3 tablespoons organic Almond Butter
pinch of Himalayan Salt or any other Sea Salt
Handful of chopped Raisins, Dates (optional)
Handful of chopped Nuts (optional in any combination) or seeds, like Hemp bits, sunflower seeds etc.
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon Maca Powder (available in Health Food Stores)
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
and if you like a bit of a kick, add a pinch of cayenne pepper
1. melt Coconut Oil in hot water bath
2. add Cacao Powder and Maple Syrup and stir very well until perfectly smooth
3. add Almond Butter and stir into chocolate mixture
4. mix all the chopped Raisins, Nuts, Ginger Powder, Maca, Cinnamon and Salt and add to the chocolate
5. spread onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and transfer to the freezer
6. let freeze for at least 3-4 hours, and then start enjoying the chocolate by just breaking off small pieces
Please note: the chocolate should stay in the freezer, because at room temperature the coconut oil will soften.
There are many brands of coconut oil on the shelves of the supermarket, what you need to look for is “Organic, unrefined, expeller-pressed coconut oil”. This is the least unprocessed product derived directly from organic coconuts with minimal processing. The more products are processed the less nutritional value is left.
I found that only a small piece of this chocolate is needed to satisfy my craving.
You probably want to know why this type of chocolate is sooo much better for you? Please continue to read:
Cacao Powder: contains a high amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect our DNA from free-radical damage. Cacao is a great source of magnesium which relaxes muscles, helps build strong bone, increases brainpower and supports the heart. Cacao also contains zinc, chromium, Vitamin C, fiber and tryptophan, a mood enhancing nutrient. A new study found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for 2 weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in people who felt highly stressed.
Coconut Oil: has very many health benefits, they include healthier skin and hair, lower cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased levels of immunity, proper digestion and metabolism. It has been show to provide relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and other viruses, cancer, and bone strength. The reason it is so effective and healthy is because of high levels of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. The presence of these acids contributes to coconuts antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial and general body nourishing properties.
Maple Syrup: is an excellent source of manganese, a co-factor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. It contains zinc, and together with manganese they support our immune system. Zinc acts as an antioxidant, and prevents endothelial damage caused by oxidized LDL cholesterol (decreasing the progression of atherosclerosis). Maple Syrup is therefore a much better choice as a sweetener than sugar.
Ginger: promotes the elimination of intestinal gas and relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract. It is effective in preventing all symptoms of motion sickness. Ginger contains gingerols, which are very potent anti-inflammatory compounds. When consumed regularly these substances in ginger can reduce pain experienced with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and improve mobility.
Cinnamon: has many compounds in its volatile oils that have healing properties. One helps prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets. Cinnamon has been studied extensively for its ability to stop bacterial growth and fungi (Candida). Cinnamon has also blood sugar balancing properties, by stimulating insulin receptors and inhibit enzymes that inactivate those receptors. Therefore, cinnamon can significantly help people with Type 2 Diabetes improve their ability to respond to insulin and help balance blood sugar levels. Smelling cinnamon has the potential to boost brain activity. Cinnamon is also an excellent source of calcium and fiber and with this combination improved colon health and protects against Heart Disease.
Maca Powder: has a perfect balance of proteins, carbs, antioxidants, plant sterols, minerals and vitamins. Maca helps improve levels of energy, capacity to hold up against stress, it balances hormone levels and revitalizes the whole body.