With Valentine’s Day this week I want to share with you this homemade superfood dark chocolate that’s made with way better for you ingredients and NO refined sugar. Let’s face it, chocolate is happening on Valentine’s Day. And you should enjoy every bite of it. But here’s my philosophy on chocolate: if you’re gonna do it, eat the good stuff.
Like, you could just snag a piece of whatever happens to come home in your little one’s backpack… but why waste it on the drug store stuff? You’ll have a few pieces and then probably wish you hadn’t. Be prepared for the chocolate snack attack and have some of this homemade superfood dark chocolate (a.k.a. love bark) waiting for you in the freezer. I know you haven’t tried it yet, but trust me, you’d rather be eating this…
Not only is this “love bark” totally rich and decadent, every ingredient in this homemade superfood dark chocolate is considered “good foryou.” Now, I don’t usually like labeling foods good and bad and of course what’s good for one person could be so not good for another – dark chocolate (or raw cacao, it’s main ingredient) is considered a superfood, but it’s not a superfood for you if you’re allergic. Anyway, I digress, what I mean is everything listed below is considered to be a health-promoting food and there’s not one bit of refined sugar, which you’ll find in just about every chocolate bar you can pick up from a store.
Instead, this homemade superfood dark chocolate is sweetened with a little bit of honey (and you can use as much or as little as you like) which has a much gentler effect on blood sugar and won’t give you that spike and crash you feel when you’ve had too much sugar.
What’s a Superfood?
“Superfood” is a word to classify a food that has a higher nutritional density per calorie. Basically you’re getting the most nutritional (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, etc.) bang for your caloric buck when you’re eating a superfood.
“Superfoods” sound like they should be these rare, hard to find, expensive foods that we’ve never heard of before until they’re the latest trend, and yes, some of them are (like, who’s heard of moringa, matcha, or camu camu?). But plenty of foods we come across every day have superfood status, too. I’m thinking of almonds, avocado, spinach, kale, blueberries, salmon… These are all considered superfoods and you’re probably eating a lot of these on a realgar basis already. So, if you are, congrats! You’re already doing some major good for your bod.
Homemade Superfood Dark Chocolate
This homemade superfood dark chocolate is yet another way to get in some superfood ingredients while indulging a little bit, too. Here are the ones to know:
Not to be confused with cocoa powder, cacao powder is the raw, unaltered powder from the cacao bean and it’s loaded with antioxidents which help protect our cells from damage. Cacao powder can be used as the main ingredient in dark chocolate and is the reason why every now and then you see the headline “chocolate is good for you!” And it certainly can be, just look for cacao as the main ingredient and at least 70% (or even better, 80%) dark chocolate.
Going all the way back to ancient civilizations honey has been used as a healing ointment to help with a variety of ails from soothing a sore throat to healing wounds, to lessening seasonal allergies. It’s reputation for healing comes from it’s antibacterial, antiseptic and antioxidant properties. Honey also contains a wide array of trace minerals that help to maintain blood sugar balance and lessen the effect of the naturally occurring sugars in honey, making it a great whole food, natural sweetener.
This warming and slightly-sweet spice is high in antioxidants and also works to help balance your blood sugar by decreasing the amount of sugar that goes into your blood stream after a high-sugar containing meal, making it a great addition for people with diabetes. Cinnamon is also highly anti-inflammatory, can help with fighting viruses and infections and can even help keep your breath fresh by working to combat bad bacteria in the mouth. It’s also great to add if you’re trying to curb your sweet tooth because it has a naturally sweet taste, especially when combined with vanilla (more on that below…).
Another one high in the a-word… antioxidents, goji berries are also extremely high in vitamin C. Ounce for ounce goji berries have up to 500x more vitamin C than an orange. They also have 18 amino acids (one of the only fruits to come anywhere close to being considered a protein source) and 20 trace minerals (including zinc, iron, phosphorus and B2). They’re known to improve immune function, detoxify the liver and even help keep your energy and mood up.
Almonds are considered to be the most nutritionally dense nut. They’re touted for being able to help reduce total cholesterol, especially that “bad” LDL cholesterol. They’re high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous (when you hear these three think BONES!), potassium, iron and vitamin E (antioxidents… there’s that a-word again!). To make sure you’re getting the max benefits look for raw or “unsalted dry-roasted” almonds and steer clear of packages that list any added oils or sugar.
What About Coconut Oil?
I thought you might ask… Superfood, not a superfood?… There’s been a lot of controversy over whether coconut oil deserves all it’s praise as a heath food. Coconut oil is a saturated fat but it also has a lot of benefits that other saturated fats do not. For one, and this is my favorite, coconut oil is antimicrobial and can help your body fight disease-causing bacteria, fungi, yeasts and viruses. It’s also unique in that the main type of fatty acid in coconut oil, medium-chain tryglycerides (MCTs) is an efficiently burning fat meaning our bodies use it up quickly, it gives a burst of energy and doesn’t typically get stored as fat.
I think where it gets tricky is when coconut oil or any saturated fat meets sugar. Across the board, it’s the combination of fat and sugar that really gets us into trouble.
All that being said, coconut oil is still a saturated fat and even some foods with known health benefits should still be consumed in moderation. A tablespoon of coconut oil a day is generally recommended as a safe amount to receive the health benefits without overdoing it.
If you’e interested in learning more about this side of the debate, here’s a good article about more of the benefits.
The Magic of Vanilla and Cinnamon
I mentioned above that one of the benefits of cinnamon is it has a naturally sweet taste, especially when combined with vanilla, so it’s great to use when avoiding or trying to cut down on sugar.
It’s really common to consume sugar with vanilla and cinnamon so our brain recognizes the combo. And even when we have two out of the three, even if it’s just the vanilla and cinnamon, our brain registers a sweet sensation. I’m not totally sure how this works but it does. It’s like the brain is so used to having these three together that it doesn’t notice when one is missing. It’s a little trick to get that sweet taste without any sugar.
I wrote this recipe including all three (honey, cinnamon and vanilla) and thought I’d leave the experimenting up to you. So give it a try, feel free to play around with it using as much, or as little, or dare I say no sweetener and see what your taste buds think.
Taming Your Sweet Tooth
If you’re new to going sugar free and need that sweet taste in full effect, go ahead and use all the honey. Then as you come back to this recipe try scaling it back bit by bit – from a tablespoon to a teaspoon to maybe one day a drop or none. You’ll be surprised how your taste buds adjust as they get used to having less and less of that sugary sweetness…. and how you’ll get the same (if not more) satisfaction from having smaller amounts of sugar or even just naturally sweet foods like honey, fruit and sweeter vegetables like sweet potatoes.
If the thought of all this makes you want to reach for the Hershey’s bar, I can help you through it, too.
One of my favorite things I hear clients say is their tastebuds have totally changed. Often I’m told the sweets and treats that used to satisfy them are simply too sweet and they can’t eat them the way they used. They’d much rather have the healthier, lower-sugar option.
They’re totally in control. And it happens a lot faster than you might think.
I can help you do it. Just drop me an email and let’s talk…
Homemade Superfood Dark Chocolate (a.k.a. Love Bark)
1/4 cup virgin unrefined coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1 tsp-1tbsp honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (I like this alcohol-free one)
toppings: goji berries, almonds, cashews, coconut flakes, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, nut butter, etc.
In a medium sized bowl combine coconut oil, cacao, honey, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir until you have a smooth chocolatey mixture.
Line an 8×8 square baking dish with parchment paper and pour chocolate into the dish spreading it out to evenly cover the bottom.
Put it in the freezer for 2 minutes to let it set.
Take it out of the freezer and sprinkle with superfood toppings: goji berries, almonds, cashews, coconut flakes, cacao nibs, etc.
Put back in the freezer and freeze another 15-20 minutes until it’s completely hardened.
Take it out of the freezer and lift parchment paper and chocolate out of the dish. Break or cut chocolate into pieces – you can make them as large or as small as you like. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.
Enjoy! And Happy Valentine’s Day!
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