Chocolate tastes good, makes us feel good, and is actually quite good for us!
So I was delighted to partner with the Impact HUB Honolulu to host a Healthy Homemade Chocolates class and share chocolate recipes with our community. I chose three different recipes that can help you incorporate more chocolate into your life: a decadent Chocolate Sauce, healthy Chocolate Energy Bites, and gorgeous Homemade Chocolate Bark.
But first, maybe you need some reasons to add more chocolate into your life…? If you don’t care to learn more about the health benefits of chocolate, click here to skip ahead to the recipes.
Is Chocolate Really Healthy for Us?
Yes, chocolate is really good for us – if you choose the right type of chocolate. Generally, you want to get chocolate that’s as close to 100% cacao as possible. This includes raw cacao/cocoa powder (see note below about the differences), unsweetened chocolate, cacao nibs, and high-percentage chocolate bars (try for 70% and higher).
Cacao (ca-cow) is the raw form of chocolate: so we’d say a cacao tree, cacao pods, cacao nibs, and raw cacao powder. Once it’s alkalized and processed, then it becomes cocoa (co-co). These powders have a different flavor, with raw being a little bit less roasty and dark. Raw cacao can also be about twice the price, so choose whichever fits your budget best. For drinks, smoothies and sauces, raw and roasted are interchangeable, but don’t use raw cacao powder for baking.
Chocolate has a collection of health benefits: as listed on Dr. Carolyn Dean’s website, a 100 gram (or 3.5 ounce) dark chocolate bar (70-85%) contains: 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the RDA for iron, 58% of the RDA for magnesium, 89% of the RDA for copper, 98% of the RDA for manganese.
But whether you choose cacao or cocoa, it’s good for you! Dr. Owais Khawaja explains that chocolate is both a good antioxidant and helps reduce inflammation; some of the beneficial effects can include reduced risk of cancer and dementia. Chocolate is also high in flavonoids, which help protect plants protect themselves from environmental toxins and help repair damage – lucky for us non-plant humans, it can benefit us in similar ways.
Chocolate is also high in flavanols, which have, “antioxidant qualities [and can] have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.” To learn more about how chocolate can benefit our body, read this article from Harvard.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that you can just eat chocolate and be totally healthy. No, definitely not. Eat lots of veggies and lentils and whole grains too. But can you enjoy dark chocolate on occasion without any guilt? Definitely!
Healthy Homemade Chocolate Recipes
In my class, I taught three easy recipes from my archives. We made Homemade Chocolate Energy Bites, Homemade Chocolate Sauce (from my cookbook, Gettin’ Saucy), and a simple Homemade Chocolate Bark (or medallions).
The energy bites are my Maca Energy Bites with cacao instead of maca. If you want something with a bit more protein, check out my Hemp Protein Bars, which is a similar but more involved recipe made with hemp protein powder, pumpkin seeds, and lots of chocolate powder.
The Homemade Chocolate Sauce is a creamy, rich, very dark chocolate sauce that you can use as a dip, a drizzle, or stir into hot chocolate or mochas. Find that recipe (with the added bonus of maca!) here Homemade Superfood Hot Chocolate. When you make the base, it will be quite firm – more like the texture of frosting. If you want to use as a drizzle sauce, stir in some warm water, 1-2 teaspoons at a time until thinned to desired consistency, then drizzle over food of choice. Store any extras in the fridge for about a week, warming before each use.
And below is the recipe for the Homemade Chocolate Bark, which is infinitely customizable, fun, and kid-friendly. Pick your favorite mix-ins, melt your chocolate, and the recipe is basically done.
Base for the Chocolate Bark:
3 (3-4 ounce) bars dark chocolate (or 12 ounces chocolate chips)
Mix-ins for the Chocolate Bark:
Flavors: 1 teaspoon of any of the following: orange extract, vanilla extract, peppermint flavor, coffee flavor; or choose salty-sweet and use a generous pinch of sea salt
Dried fruits: cranberries, raisins, cherries, golden berries, chopped dates, goji berries
Nuts: crushed walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, toasted shredded/flaked coconut
Seeds: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, black sesame seeds
Herbs/Teas:crushed red chili, hibiscus tea, cinnamon, matcha powder, crushed coffee beans
Miscellaneous items: crushed pretzels, potato chips, puffed rice, granola, cacao nibs
- Line a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
- If using chocolate bars, break apart into small pieces and place into a dry, heat-proof glass bowl. Alternatively, add all chocolate chips to the bowl.
- Put a small amount of water in a saucepan, and place bowl of chocolate on top. Bring water to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Do not let water splash into the chocolate.
- Stir carefully until chocolate melts and is very smooth. This might take 5-10 minutes.
- If using flavorings, stir into chocolate at this time.
- When chocolate is fully melted, pour onto baking sheet. While chocolate is still warm and soft, add toppings of your choosing, pressing gently into chocolate if needed.
- Place baking sheet in fridge for half hour or longer until fully cooled. Once cooled, break into pieces and place in a reusable container. Store in the refrigerator, but enjoy the chocolate at room temperature.
Yield: 12 ounces of chocolate bark
More Deliciously Healthy Vegan Chocolate Recipes!
Maca Mocha Smoothie (above)
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (below)