Chocolate… a health food? Yes, it’s true! Cacao — from which chocolate is made — is chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Small amounts of dark chocolate can be part of a healthy diet.
But most commercial chocolate is loaded with junk — trans fats, fillers, emulsifiers, and sugar. These things far outweigh any health benefits (and they don’t help us stay lean, either).
What to do? Why, make your own chocolate, of course!
Kaisa Jaakkola takes us step-by-step through the process of making our own “custom blend” of chocolate that not only tastes better than a waxy Easter bunny, it’s better for us too
Make your own (healthy) chocolate
by Kaisa Jaakkola
My first clear memories of chocolate go back to when I was about five years old.
It was a little secret between me and my dad – mom probably didn’t know about it. When dad took me to daycare, he’d give me a little mint chocolate bar. The sweet taste, the amazing feeling of chocolate melting on my tongue… ahh… Who could resist that?
To me chocolate has been comfort, security and love since then: when times got tough as a teenager, when I broke up with my first love, in times of happiness and in times of sorrow. There’s such a scale of emotions that are attached to chocolate that you could say I’m a “chocoholic”.
After diving into the world of healthy nutrition some years ago, and commencing a career as a fitness and nutrition coach, my affair with chocolate came to an end. I learned that chocolate contained unhealthy white sugar and bad fats. It was addictive. And, I thought, it certainly wouldn’t help me stay lean. Overall, chocolate just seemed just bad for me.
Oh my beloved chocolate I was miserable for some time. I grieved for the loss. What would I do without it? It appeared as though my lifelong affair with chocolate had come to an end.
Dark chocolate: A superfood
Then, through my training as a nutrition coach, I learned that dark, organic chocolate has a high nutritional value. I hadn’t liked dark chocolate before, but now, I think it tastes great. One piece of it with a good cup of tea or coffee is heaven to me now.
I have also learned that raw chocolate, or actually cacao (which chocolate is made of) is known as a “superfood”. Superfoods contain relatively vast amounts of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants – many more than “normal” foods. Cacao has the highest concentration of antioxidants than any other food in the world. It’s a complete protein, meaning it has a full complement of amino acids, and is very high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
Raw cacao is also a mood enhancer. It increases serotonin and affects other neurotransmitters which make us feel happy. It also enhances the blood flow in the brain and enhances brain function, which can help in situations where a person may be cognitively impaired, like fatigue or sleep deprivation. So popping a couple of cacao nuts when feeling tired can be a much better choice than drinking a pot of coffee to keep the eyes open.
Food that brings us bliss, keeps us alert, and nourishes us? What could be better?
It was time to renew my love of chocolate, and deepen our relationship. I felt creative and excited. I was going to challenge myself to make chocolate.
As it turns out, chocolate making is very quick and easy. Anyone can do it. Kids absolutely love making their own chocolate (as do grownups). I know. I have tried. I highly recommend you try it too – having a group chocolate party is so much fun!
Here are the ingredients you need on hand to make your own raw chocolate.
Make sure you use the best available quality of raw cacao and other ingredients. Many cheap varieties don’t have the same properties as the best cacao in the world (a variety known as Criollo). You can find this cacao and all the other ingredients you need from Sunfood.com.
Enjoy in moderation (1/2 – 1 oz per serving) with good friends or family. This superfood combination shouldn’t be measured in calories, which tell nothing about the properties of this food. Its nutrient density can’t be put into such numbers as protein, carbs and fats.
What you’ll need
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) cocoa butter, grated
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) virgin coconut oil
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) (raw) organic cocoa powder
- 2 tbs (30 mL) lucuma powder (it’ll make the chocolate creamy, like milk chocolate, and add sweetness)
- 1/4 (60 mL) – 1/2 cup (125 mL) agave nectar for sweetening or liquid stevia to taste (organic honey or raw cane sugar is okay too if you’re not afraid of calories and carbs; or you don’t have to use any sweetener at all)
What you’ll do
Grate 1/2 cup of the cocoa butter. It will melt easier when it’s grated. Measure also 1/2 cup of coconut oil.
Place cocoa butter and coconut oil in a small, heat-safe cup or bowl. Then place the cup or bowl in a shallow pan containing a small amount of nearly boiling water. Stir the oil and butter occasionally until it’s smooth.
Measure 1/2 cup cocoa powder. If you’d like to add any other dry ingredients, measure them out now and stir them together with the cocoa powder. I often use 1/4 cup lucuma powder, some goji berries and 1 tbsp maca.
Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with melted coconut oil and cacao butter. Stir continuously until smooth.
If you want to sweeten your chocolate, pour 4-6 tbsp agave nectar into the mix and stir. Lately I’ve used stevia liquid to sweeten my chocolate. My favourite is Vanilla Stevia by NuNaturals (you can get it from iHerb.com).
Make chocolate making fun! Go ahead and check if the chocolate is sweet enough. Who wouldn’t like to lick the spoon! I often add stevia, taste, add some more, taste again… you get the point.
You can also add the rest of the additions at this point – like goji berries, chili, nuts and so on. Use your imagination and make the best chocolate in the world!
Pour the melted chocolate on a pan or plate coated with aluminium foil. You can also use an ice cube tray. Kids love chocolate that’s made into funny forms (with an ice cube tray) like bunnies and such. You can also throw some of the additions on top of the chocolate to make it look nice.
Place the chocolate for 30 minutes in the freezer or 60 minutes in the refrigerator until set. Enjoy!