If you’ve been reading my articles for a while you know that I used to be a chocoholic. Throughout my teens and late twenties, I was a ‘sugar-burner’ with a very sweet tooth. When presented with dark vs. milk chocolate - I would always go for the latter option. This, as you can imagine, did not end well for me, in fact, together with other lifestyle choices, it wrecked my health.
What’s wrong with milk chocolate? Well, for a start, it is a very processed product that contains milk, sugar, soy, questionable oils, and other preservatives. In fact, milk chocolate cannot accurately be referred to as ‘chocolate’ - a more appropriate name would be ‘chocolate flavoured candy’. Now older & wiser, I know better and am truly able to appreciate the rich flavour of dark chocolate.
With this article, I want to show you that the benefits of real chocolate are real and delish! Plus I asked some of my fave health-conscious peeps in China to share mouth-watering, gluten-free, grain-free, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free chocolate recipes.
Ok, now to the benefits...
Dark chocolate is more than just a scrumptious treat as it comes with plenty of health benefits. Why? Because real chocolate is full of antioxidants, phytonutrients, brain stimulating compounds, and even resistant starch.
Antioxidants are vital to health. Why? And what are antioxidants? They are vitamins, minerals & phytochemical (flavonoids, polyphenols, and flavanols) that protect the body from disease-causing free radicals.
Numerous studies (referenced below) indicate that people who consume a moderate amount of 85 percent and above dark chocolate experienced:
improved blood flow to the heart & the brain
improved lipid profiles (increased HDL cholesterol and reduced levels of inflammation).
better cognitive function
Chocolate has also been shown to help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar.
Even one of my fave Paleo experts, Sarah Ballantyne, in her recent article, wrote:
“Gut microbes love polyphenol-rich foods like green and black tea, and dark chocolate!”
- Yes, she along with many other experts consider chocolate as a gut microbiome superfood. And considering scientists now say that our second brain is in our gut we better take care of it by adding some good quality chocolate ;-)
Ok, now some final thoughts on chocolate…
In all my desserts, smoothies and savoury dishes I like to use 100% raw cacao powder or cacao nibs. I get my 100% cacao chocolate on iherb. You can save 10% on your first order with a coupon code TCQ200.
Remember not all dark chocolate is created equal so if you opt out for a bar of store-bought chocolate always pick one with at least 75% to 100% cacao content (cocoa solids & butter).
Final tip, don’t mix your chocolate with milk as by doing that you will destroy healthy flavonoids and be left with just another sugary candy! In fact, the worse thing you can do is get yourself a nice dark chocolate powder and drink it with milk from a cow. Why? Because the protein casein, found in cow’s milk, binds to the flavonoids and makes them unavailable to our bodies.
Now, go ahead and treat yourself to some quality dark chocolate. Or if you like, try one of these amazing recipes:
Hi, I’m Sky, raised in Israel and living in Shanghai since 2010. Food lover, traveler, health and fitness obsessed (well in a good way...) and mother of two small children. My favourite chocolate dessert is probably cacao - tahini - dates no-bake brownies. It’s easy to make, super nutritious and healthy
No Bake Chocolate Tahini Brownies
one cup of pitted Medjool dates
1/4 cup raw pecans
1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
one teaspoon chia seeds
2 tablespoons raw tahini
3 spoons raw cacao (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup goji berries
a dash of salt
100gr dark chocolate 🍫
Add dates, pecans, walnuts and only some of the pistachio to the food processor. Blend until smooth. Next add tahini, coconut, chia, cacao powder, and vanilla. Process again until chunky -add 1/2 spoons of warm water if it’s too dry. Next: add remaining pistachio and berries to the food processor and pulse just for a few seconds. Pour the mixture into a loaf tin and cover with parchment paper. Pressing evenly onto the sides. Melt dark chocolate and pour all over the brownies, evenly. Garnish the bars with crushed goji, pistachio, and some pecans or coconut flakes if you wish. Place the bars into the freezer for 45-60 minutes so they become harder. Slice and Enjoy!
Hi, I'm Natalia, currently based in Shenzhen, I'm a human potential coach, biohacker, ancestral health enthusiast that hates cooking and loves eating. And here is my fave chocolate dessert.
200g 90% dark chocolate
100-150g coconut sugar
65g almond flour
80g raw cacao powder
4 large eggs at room temperature
150g 85% chocolate (chopped)
Optional ingredients to make them more nutrient-dense:
2 tablespoons collagen
1 tablespoon mushroom powder (chaga/reishi/cordyceps etc)
1 teaspoon ashwaghanda
Melt butter on low heat, take off heat and add 90% chocolate
In a separate bowl mix well all dry ingredients except the 85% chocolate and add the butter-chocolate mixture
Add the eggs one at a time beating with a fork or blender each time until shiny
Add the chocolate chunks
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25-30 minutes until set on top but gooey on the inside.
Hi, I’m Sara founder of Cakemyday - a company that makes healthy plant based cakes and creates awareness on plastic waste. This is my favourite chocolate recipe.
PALEO BROWNIES (vegan)
PREP TIME:5 minutes
BAKING TIME:20 mins
TOTAL TIME:25 minutes
SERVINGS:9 -12 brownies
¾ cup melted coconut oil,
1/2 cup cocoa powder,
½ plant-based milk of your choice ( almond milk, rice milk) mixed with 1 tbs of chia or flax seed meal
½ cup unsweetened chocolate or chips,
½ to ¾ of the sweetener of your choice ( maple syrup, coconut sugar etc) depending on how sweet you want them
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1tsp of baking powder
Preheat oven to 350° and line a 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder. Separately mix the milk with the flaxseed or chia seed meal, then add the oil and vanilla and sweetener of your choice. Then add this to the bowl and mix everything with the chocolate chips till you get a chewy thick mixture
Last step, pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes
Store in the fridge after the first day to keep fresh.
I’m Valeria, a student of TCM, a huge chocoholic (and generally a big eater). Which is why it was a bummer when my digestion wasn’t working well all through my childhood and young adulthood. I trained in nutrition therapy and gong sound therapy and work with people online and in person to address two enormous aspects that influence our digestion: diet and stress.
I like my chocolate dark and moody, 85 to 99% cacao is what I always prefer. I am sensitive to caffeine, so I can’t enjoy it every day, and recommend monitoring your reactions, for some even the tiniest amount of raw cacao-based treat can mean hours of alertness, which is not what we are looking for in the evening.
This bite was an invention for a client who was in love with Snickers bars, but was determined to stick to her nutrition plan. A cube of 99% dark chocolate, spoonful of crunchy peanut butter, generous sprinkle of sea salt and half a date is a crunchy, rich, delicious bite full of nutrients.
Hi! I’m Camilla. I'm a swing dance teacher, wellness junkie and health coach. Passionate about new ways to experiment with life and cooking included! All time favourite Paleo friendly chocolate dessert: Homemade hot cacao drink. Ingredients: organic raw cacao powder, almond milk / coconut milk (optional), cinnamon (optional). No sugar added.
And finally, Kelly! I met Kelly last year when she was a participant on one of my wellness retreats and I have been impressed with her healthy baking and cooking ever since.
I’m Kelly, from Shanghai, China. I’m a Paleo food lover. I decided to switch to the Paleo way of eating due to the refined foods, trans fats and sugar that made me fat and caused skin problems. My favourite Paleo-friendly chocolate dessert is the chocolate salami.
* 90g cocoa powder（100% pure）
* 100g erythritol sweetener
* 100g butter or coconut oil
* 100g (or more your choice ) nuts (almonds, pecans) chopped
* 2 egg yolks（or you can use flaxseed eggs if you are vegan, not tested yet)
* Some erythritol ( or other sweetener) powder
* In a bowl place the cocoa powder, butter, egg and sugar.
* Mix all together until a smooth paste
* Put nuts into the chocolate mixture. Once all the ingredients are well mixed, take a sheet of baker sheet and drop the chocolate and nuts mixture and shape it as a salami.
* Wrap it up into the baker sheet and place in the freezer for a couple of hours.
* When ready to serve, sprinkle some powdered sweetener all around your salami, slice it up.
If you like these recipes, check out my blog for more. If you decide to make any of my recipes don't forget to tag me on Instagram @ThriveInShanghai. I’d love to see it!
P.S. I have a quick announcement to make… ready?
For those ready to make a commitment, I have limited spaces available for one-on-one work. I find that free information is a great start, but it's personalised support and accountability that really make the difference. Find out more here. Time to ditch the dieting for good, make peace with food and love our healthy bodies.
Yours in health,