For The Love of Chocolate

CHOCOLATE: A necessary evil, an addiction, a daily ritual?

I will confess. If I have any vice it is for chocolate. Hot chips – don’t care. Natural confectionary – the little dinosaurs don’t do it for me. MacDonald’s – you would probably have to pay me. But chocolate…

One of the things I LOVE about my job as a dietitian is taking something deliciously naughty and turning it into something nice and healthy. That way you feel completely indulgent and at the same time every cell in your body is singing with gratitude.

Chocolate is made from a plant called the cacao tree. The bitter beans of this tree are harvested and then fermented. After this the beans can then be roasted, ready to make chocolate. The problem is what comes next, the addition of FAT SUGAR, SALT and other additives to enhance taste and preserve texture.

Why am I so addicted to chocolate?

Feeling like you are on a high and euphoric after scoffing down some chocolate? Hold onto your chocolate block – there is a scientific reason!! Chocolate triggers chemical pathways in the brain, which release a hormone called dopamine. What does dopamine do? Amongst many other outcomes it stimulates reward and pleasure centers within the brain.

Still holding onto your chocolate block? Good because I have some furthur confronting news. What happens is that over time our body becomes desensitised to this dopamine release. So what happens? YOU NEED MORE CHOCOLATE to feel just as good! 

Cacao vs. cocoa – I’m so confused?

Raw Cacao: Made from crushed unroasted beans

Cocoa: Raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures

So… what is the difference? When analysing both products it appears that raw cacao has a higher ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). This means a higher antioxidant activity. Antioxidants aid in preventing cell oxidation, a process known to contribute to ageing and chronic disease risk.

Other Health Benefits of Cocoa and Cacao

  • Blood Pressure reduction: A Cochrane Review in 2012 found cocoa to reduce blood    pressure by 2-3mm Hg (small but statistical significance).
  •  Increases HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels: Cacao and cocoa have been seen to suppress LDL (not so healthy) cholesterol oxidation (Baba et al 2007).
  • Good source of dietary fibre to promote healthy digestive system
  •  Contains other minerals and vitamins such as: calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, zinc,

Last week I started experimenting with making my own chocolate, inspired by another blog post (I wont take all the credit here!).

This is the base recipe:

½ a cup of melted coconut oil

2/3 cup of raw cacao powder

5 tbsp. maple syrup

Method:

1.     Slowly melt the oil over a low heat. Add in the other ingredients and combine until silky smooth.

2.     Add something experimental and nutritious:

  • 1 tbsp flaxseed
  • 2 tbsp sultanas
  • 30g roughly chopped almonds
  • 1 cap vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup smashed raspberries
  • A small amount of peppermint oil
  • A combination of the above!

3.     Cover a small container with baking paper (here you can moderate the thickness and shape of your chocolate) and add the chocolate mixture

4.     Freeze for 10 minutes

5.     Enjoy and savour S-L-O-W-L-Y:

  • What does the chocolate smell like - vanilla, nutty, sweet?
  • What flavours can you taste?
  • What kind texture do you feel in your mouth? 
  • How does the chocolate look - crumbly, smooth, sharp, interesting?
  • How does a bite sound - do you take a crisp bite or does it melt silently into your mouth?

Remember that coconut oil still contains high amounts of saturated fat and should be used in moderation (ie. Don’t eat all you chocolate in one go!). My next step will be to trial some macadamia oil in the mix. Wish me luck!

Keep happy and healthy!

Ash xx

Chili Con Carne

Winter is upon us and suddenly we are craving warming and filling foods. Better make them healthy! I made this one the other weekend in my slow cooker. But you can do it just as easily on the stove. If you are vegetarian this one can also be for you! Why not add some extra beans and veggies and omit the lean beef. Feel free to also experiment with your extras. I added some jalapeños to mine and next time I will definitely consider some salsa or avocado.

High in FIBRE with brown rice and many veggies. High in VITAMIN C with tomatoes to maintain a strong immunity. LOW GI to fill you up. And also this more than provides enough leftovers to save you time when things get busy. This recipe also tastes better with every passing day as the flavours mix and mingle more and more. DELICIOUS! :)

Ingredients (serves 8 - Plenty of leftovers!)

3 cloves garlic (minced or finely chopped)

1 brown onion (chopped)

1 red capsicum (chopped into small pieces)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cumin powder

1 red chill

Black cracked pepper

750g lean mince

1 can kidney beans

400g tinned tomatoes

1/2 bunch fresh basil (finely chopped)

Brown rice

4xsmall wholemeal pita bread

Light sour cream (small tub)

Reduced fat cheese (25% Bega)

Method:

1. Add olive oil, garlic, onion and capsicum to a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until brown

2. Add in lean beef mince and cook until brown

3. Add tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, cumin and chili. Keep on a medium heat until completely mixed and food is warm.

4. Leave to simmer and steam with the lid on for 30mins with reduced heat

5. Whilst this is simmering add a cup of brown rice with 2.5 cups of water to a rice cooker or saucepan. Cook until almost all water is gone and then steam with the saucepan of the heat.

5. Add basil and pepper to season to the chill con carne mix

6. Cut up wholemeal pitas into 6 pieces per pita and place in the grill for 5-10 minutes. WATCH THIS CAREFULLY they seem to go from brown to black quite quickly from experience!

7. Serve: A good large spoon of brown rice, a good couple of large spoon of the chill con carne mixture onto a plate. Garnish with sour cream on top and a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese. Add pitas around the plate.

8. Enjoy and feel nourished!! 

Food is a RELATIONSHIP

Are you constantly trying to cut calories or always on a “diet”?

Do you constantly see food as a stress, burden or associated guilt?

Do you announce to your friends restrictions throughout the year – alcohol, chocolate, ice cream?

The reality is that I end up with a lot of people in my clinic that could answer YES to at least one of the questions above. It might be because they are concerned about their health, which is a good thing, however this isn't always the case. And sometimes any psychological drive can become toxic or obsessive.

I see a lot of people who are carrying more weight on their bodies than they need to be. I also see many people with eating disorders. But interestingly I have found the same thing time and time again. THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD IS BROKEN.

Many people are using this relationship as a way to de-stress, as a distraction (boredom), to reward, celebrate, punish or deal with their emotion. What happens if you were to do this in a relationship with a PERSON? Do you think they would appreciate you just using them all the time for the above? Do you think you could do all this without any CONSEQUENCE?

My most successful clients work with me to mend this disconnect. We focus on nourishment and strategies to work with food so that it can be appreciated in a positive light. To be inspired with it’s creativity and variety to enhance our experience with how this food can physiologically affect our bodies.

Many of us are in denial about a broken relationship and ignore it, simply haven’t got the knowledge to improve it or believe it’s too hard to make a change when we are so comfortable.

If you are drowning and looking for a rope. I am your rope. Let me change your life.

Ash x