Chocolate Episode on 11 Alive

 CACAO POD ( top ), Cacao Protein Bites rolled in shredded coconut and beet root powder ( middle ), Beet root powder, Raw cacao nibs ( bottom )

CACAO POD (top), Cacao Protein Bites rolled in shredded coconut and beet root powder (middle), Beet root powder, Raw cacao nibs (bottom)

Did you know that last year American's purchased more than $345 million dollars in chocolate with 58 million pounds sold for Valentine's Day!  Weight-wise, that is equal to approximately 4,500 African bush elephants or over 330 Boeing 737 planes!  Wow, I think we have a chocolate obsession and with good reason.  It's both delicious and nutritious, depending on the kind of chocolate you buy and eat.

Chocolate is grown on the Theobroma cacao tree (ca·ca·o: kəˈkou,kəˈkāō) and eating cacao dates back to Honduras 1,400 BC (according to some historians) and other's say it was the Aztec and Mayans in Mexico where it is believed that the cacao was first made into a fermentable drink using crushed cacao beans, hot chili's, honey, and spices.  Other stories suggest that the Europeans added more sweeteners to make it palatable before the evolution of chocolate as we know today took place.  

 Cacao pod on tree in Isla Bastimentos, Bocos del Toro, Panama at Up in the Hill organic farm

Cacao pod on tree in Isla Bastimentos, Bocos del Toro, Panama at Up in the Hill organic farm

Raw cacao powder contains upward of 300 different plant chemicals (phytonutrients) and four times as much antioxidant kick of your basic dark chocolate bar (and 20 times greater than blueberries!).  Raw chocolate also contains a healthy blend of calcium, magnesium, protein, B-vitamins, antioxidants, flavonoids, and essential fatty acids.  In its raw state, cacao truly is a 'superfood' of the Gods.  PS I love to use raw cacao powder in everything from smoothies, protein balls, desserts and protein shakes!

Raw cacao powder is loaded with antioxidants (free radical scavengers), especially  flavonoids.  Research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology studied the flavonoid, epicatechin which is also found in green tea.  This special antioxidant has significant neuroprotective (neuro = brain) benefits in animals and humans specifically related to learning and memory and also stimulates a positive mood in humans.  Flavonoids help to preserve cognitive abilities during the aging process, which might explain why my smart as a whip grandmother loved chocolate!  

 At Up in the Hill organic farm, Isla Bastimentos, Bocos del Toro, Panama holding a cacao pod

At Up in the Hill organic farm, Isla Bastimentos, Bocos del Toro, Panama holding a cacao pod

Flavonoids also decrease risk of Alzheimers, decrease risk of stroke, great for the heart, lower blood pressure  - all positives for the human brain!  Raw cacao also is a good source of the lovey-dovey, bliss neurotransmitter/brain chemical, phenethylamine or PEA.  THAT's why we love it so much...it makes us feel good!

Looking forward to having fun sampling some of Atlanta's finest chocolates with the 11alive on Friday, February 9th in the 5am and 6am morning newscasts.  Thank you to Nicobella Organics, Xocolatl Chocolates and Baker Dude Cupcakes for generously supplying me with the chocolate goodies for my segments!  I reached out to each of these companies because I am aligned with their company mission, ethics, and purchase them myself so it was a no-brainer.    

Some of the recipes I created are below:

 Nutrition Atlanta ABC Pudding... Dana at 11alive tried this before our Facebook Live interview and said "WOW THIS IS MY JAM!"

Nutrition Atlanta ABC Pudding... Dana at 11alive tried this before our Facebook Live interview and said "WOW THIS IS MY JAM!"

 

NUTRITION ATLANTA ABC PUDDING (Avocado, Banana, Cacao)

Makes about ½ cup servings; Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium avocados*
  • 2 small ripe bananas
  • ½ cup coconut milk or unsweetened plant-based nut milk
  • ¼ - ⅓ cup agave nectar, coconut nectar, or pure maple syrup 
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup raw cacao powder *(I used Divine Organics rio arriba premium chocolate from Thrive Market)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Xocolatl Chocolate Hazelnut Spread**
  • Optional toppings: beet powder, raw cacao nibs, fresh organic berries and/or mint but amazing alone

Add first five ingredients to a food processor and blend until mixed well.  Add cacao powder and hazelnut spread and pulse until smooth and creamy.  Top with beet powder (I purchased my bag at Sprouts but found a better price at Walmart), raw cacao nibs, fresh organic berries and mint!

*if your avocados are not quite ripe, add them to a closed paper bag with an apple or pear and check on daily until the avocados give when you apply pressure.  My hard avocados were perfect in 2 days!  See my nutrition hacks on Instagram...

** why I like Xocolatl hazelnut spread... the clean, quality ingredients!  Xocolatl deleted the soy and vegetable oils and used cocoa butter for a better product that makes this pudding NEXT LEVEL according to my picky tastebuds. Nutella tastes like cheap plastic to me.  This coming from a kid who was addicted to every Little Debbie product available.  Just sayin'.

 

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:  This ABC pudding definitely tasted like bananas to me and this might sound odd but I'm ok with banana's in food as long as they don't have a strong banana scent or taste. That being said, it certainly didn't stop me from eating the dish after snapping pictures of it though!  The texture is really creamy and tastes delicious.  Initially I added bananas to cut down on the fat content, albeit healthy fats, in case I wanted a bigger portion.  I think next time I will use just one small banana and play around with adding some spices like chili and/or cinnamon.  I might try unsweetened almond milk but really liked the extra fat in the coconut milk for making a creamy pudding texture. 

 

 Nutrition Atlanta Brownie batter hummus topped with organic beet powder and raw cacao nibs

Nutrition Atlanta Brownie batter hummus topped with organic beet powder and raw cacao nibs

 

BROWNIE BATTER HUMMUS

Serving size... plenty, trust me!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (15 ounce) can cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup agave nectar, coconut nectar, or maple syrup
  • ½ cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
  • ⅓ cup creamy salted cashew butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (optional but great anti-inflammatory booster!) 
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional toppings:  2 Tablespoons cacao nibs, mini chocolate chips, crushed cashew nuts

Add ingredients to a food processor and blend until mixed well.  The mixture will be thick just like brownie batter.  I encourage you to sample it then refrigerate in glass sealed container.  Serve with beet chips, fruit slices, graham crackers or right off a spoon.  This dessert hummus is so decadent and rich, you won't need much to feel satisfied.  When I want just a little something on the sweet, chocolatey side- this definitely does the trick!  Raw cacao powder is going to have significantly more antioxidants than cocoa powder so you get what you pay for (I prefer organic and fair-traded but do what makes sense for your budget).  

 Nutrition Atlanta Cacao Protein Balls (coated in organic beet powder and organic shredded coconut)

Nutrition Atlanta Cacao Protein Balls (coated in organic beet powder and organic shredded coconut)

 

NUTRITION ATLANTA NUTTY CACAO PROTEIN BALLS

Makes roughly 25-30 protein balls

INGREDIENTS 

  • 2 ½ cups raw almonds, pecans, and walnuts *I used soaked and dehydrated nuts
  • ½ - ⅔ cup raw cacao powder
  • ½ - ⅔ cup agave nectar, coconut nectar, or pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt 
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon hemp seeds or chia seeds
  • 1-2 Tablespoons low-sugar protein powder of choice
  • 1-2 Tablespoons organic beet root powder** 
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon Shilajit (ancient medicinal, mineral-dense, tar-like supplement that compliments raw cacao powder)

Add ingredients to a food processor and pulse until ingredients are mixed well and a big ball forms.  Using a teaspoon, form 1 inch balls rolling the dough in palm of hands (might be kind of sticky).  Roll in beet root powder, shredded coconut, hemp seeds, or other toppings  → total feel good brain food!  These snuck their way into breakfast quite a few mornings with my favorite green veggie juice.  No guilt with these clean plant-based ingredients!  I love the earthy flavor shilajit brings to this combination, although you can make it without this powerhouse too because you do have to cultivate a taste for this mineral-dense tar that oozes from the Himalayan mountains.  I love the bitter taste of it with raw chocolate; a little goes a long way.

**because conventional beets are genetically-modified and I have yet to read research confirming that it is safe to the human body to consume GMO (genetically modified organisms) food, I default to organic products until I read otherwise.  If you have any valid research indicating so, please email me jennifer@nutritionatlanta.com!

 

 

PS The tour I took at Up in the Hill  in Bocos del Toro, Panama, was nothing short of an amazing, agricultural and educational tour.  I can't recommend it enough if you like to geek out on plants and our amazing planet like I do!  I'd go back in a heartbeat!