February is celebrated for Valentine’s Day with flowers, chocolate, and other sweets, but it’s also Heart Health Month. So, how do you enjoy luscious chocolate without filling your body with sugar? We’re sharing a chocolate recipe that’s bursting with nutrients and antioxidants and so satisfyingly sweet!
We like this recipe because it features real food ingredients and follows the Mediterranean diet. It’s also easy to adapt to the nuts and chocolate you have on hand. Studies show the ingredients may even lower low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) or “bad cholesterol.”
Picking Chocolate with the Most Health Benefits
First, though, a quick primer on the health benefits of chocolate. All chocolate begins as cacao (kuh-kaw) beans, the seeds of small tropical evergreen trees. Cacao is rich with nutrients like magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, and zinc. Research shows this bean also contains flavonoids, the antioxidants that help fight inflammation and protect our cells.
You get the most minerals and flavonoids from raw cacao because it’s dried, fermented, and cold pressed at very low temperatures. When you bake with cacao powder or nibs, you lose some of its health benefits, so many people use it raw.
The more commonly known cocoa (kow-kow) has fewer antioxidants and nutrients than raw cacao because it’s heated more in processing. Yet, studies show it also offers health benefits like reducing LDLs and controlling chronic inflammation that can lead to heart disease.
It’s Not How Dark the Chocolate Is, But how Much Cocoa It Has
Remember, dark chocolate needs at least 70% cocoa to tout these rewards. The higher the percentage of cocoa in your chocolate, the more benefits you get. Chocolate low in cocoa is mostly sugar and milk. Because white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, the fat is separated from the cacao bean when processed, it lacks nutritional benefits, and isn’t even chocolate!
Okay, let’s get to your healthy chocolate! These three-ingredient bars from Fit Mitten Kitchen are ready in five quick and easy steps! Experiment with nuts you have on hand; almonds, pecans and cashews are our favorites. You might also try the chocolate substitution featuring cacao or cocoa powder for divinely rich chocolate.
3-Ingredient Chocolate Date Nut Bars
- 1 cup (11-12) medjool dates; pit and soak in water for 5 minutes; drain
- 1 ½ cup mixed nuts
- 1 cup quality dark chocolate chips *Option for to substitute ½ cup cacao/cocoa powder mixed with ¼ cup melted coconut oil and ¼ cup liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup.
- Line a 9"x5" loaf pan with parchment paper or silicone pan.
- Blend drained dates and nuts until pieces are small and the mix is sticky.
- Press nut and date mixture into the pan evenly.
- Melt chips (or cocoa/oil/honey mix) over low heat, stirring until smooth. Pour over bars.
- Chill bars in the freezer for 10-30 minutes. Remove from pan and slice into bars.
We hope these enrichen your day!