Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean, which literally means ‘food of the gods’. And, historically, chocolate was so prized, cacao seeds were used as a form of currency (and, of course, some enterprising sorts even found a way to make counterfeit cocoa). It turns out those Mayans and Aztecs knew a thing or two because modern scientific research is finding new ways in which chocolate – good quality chocolate, at least – can be worth its weight in gold when it comes to your health. The healthiest forms of chocolate are dark chocolate (70% cocoa content or higher) and cacao nibs, the original, natural form. Just in case you are wondering, the health benefits of milk or white chocolate, and any of the processed sweetened stuff are slim to none!
1. HEALTHY HOT CHOCOLATE
1 cup/ 250ml almond milk/oat milk/cashew nut milk
1 tbsp raw, organic cacao powder
1/2 tsp pure maple syrup
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan over high heat and stir using a whisk, breaking up any lumps as you go. Optionally, warm up your milk first, then transfer milk and the rest of ingredients into a blender and stir everything on high speed. This way you will create a fluffy, chocolate heaven in a mug. Enjoy!
2. FRUIT & NUT CHOCOLATE BARK
350g dark chocolate or 1 cup of melted coconut oil mixed with 2-3 tbsp raw cacao powder
125g blanched almonds, toasted and chopped
100g unsweetened dried fruit (eg cranberries or mango)
pinch of sea salt
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Melt the dark chocolate by filling the bottom of a saucepan with couple of cms of water and bring to a simmer over a medium-high heat. Put the chocolate in a glass bowl and set over the simmering water, stirring occasionally. Once melted, tip into the prepared tin and smooth with a spatula so the chocolate is evenly distributed. Scatter over the remaining ingredients (you can add a pinch of dried chillies if you’re feeling brave) and chill in the fridge until the chocolate sets (about 30 mins). Peel off the parchment and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to a month (if it lasts that long).
3. CHOCOLATE & BANANA ICE CREAM
(makes 2 servings)
2 bananas, chopped and frozen
1 tbsp cocoa powder or raw cacao
Strictly speaking, this isn’t ice cream in the traditional sense, containing neither cream nor sugar. When ripe frozen bananas and cocoa powder are combined together in a blender you get a creamy, guilt-free, scrumptious frozen treat. Put the frozen bananas in a food processor and pulse until smooth. When the mixture is smooth, add the cocoa powder and blend until incorporated. For soft ice cream, serve immediately. For a firm chocolate banana ice cream, transfer it back to the freezer for at least an hour.