HEALTHY HOLIDAY GIFT CHOCOLATES: 3 EASY INGREDIENTS

I’m squeezing in one more blog article before the holiday season, in case you are like me, and love to give food as HOLIDAY GIFTS. Chocolate is always a holiday favourite, and it’s possible for it to be healthy too! So here is a recipe that is easy to make, that you can package up to give away, or that you can finish off a special meal with. You can feel great about gifting this healthy version!

 I tucked freeze dried strawberries or pineapple into a few of these chocolates! Candied ginger is also a nice treat to find inside.

I tucked freeze dried strawberries or pineapple into a few of these chocolates! Candied ginger is also a nice treat to find inside.

This recipe uses 3 ingredients: raw cacao paste, raw cocoa butter, and yacon syrup. Cacao paste is the least processed form of the cocoa bean next to the bean itself (which you can purchase as whole beans or cacao nibs). It is rich in magnesium, potassium, iron and other minerals, and is a good source of polyphenols, which have antioxidant activity (1). Cocoa butter is the fat extracted from the cocoa bean. Yacon syrup is made from yacon root, which is a root vegetable grown in South America. The syrup’s sweetness is derived from fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which is a prebiotic that feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut. We can’t digest these carbohydrates, so they stay in our gut and are used by our bacteria instead. Since we can’t digest FOS, there are no sugars that enter the blood stream, making this a possible option for people with diabetes (2). FOS would not be suitable for someone with IBS or SIBO as it can aggravate symptoms in individuals with these conditions. Caution should be used for anyone with digestive symptoms such as bloating, cramping or abdominal pain. I’m including a variation for those who don’t tolerate FOS.

REASONS TO GIFT CHOCOLATE

If the taste of chocolate isn’t enough to tempt you, there are also numerous health benefits that can result from consuming chocolate, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, support for the immune system, cancer protection, and as already mentioned, there are antioxidant benefits (3).

Yacon chocolates.jpg

RECIPE

140g raw cacao paste
140g raw cocoa butter
1/2-2/3 cup yacon syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)

DIRECTIONS

Place cacao paste and cocoa butter over a double boiler, and melt.  Once melted, remove the top section and mix in the syrup.  Spoon the liquid mixture into candy molds, and place into the refrigerator or freezer until hard.  It only takes about 10 minutes in the freezer.  Once it has solidified, remove pieces from the molds, and put them into a container, or gift bag.

Candy molds can be found at Amazon or various stores such as Michael’s. The variety of shapes you can find is amazing! You can customize your chocolate shapes to fit the person you are gifting to. This recipe should fill 4 trays.

VARIATION

You can replace the syrup with honey. This version is just as tasty, but the honey doesn’t emulsify into the mixture as well as yacon syrup, so you’ll need to keep stirring the mixture as it goes into the molds, and the chocolates need to be kept refrigerated. I make this a lot, and love it, but for gift giving it’s nice not to have to refrigerate the chocolates.

Add the 3 ingredients to your shopping list, and put “chocolate making” on your list of things to do! If you don’t have candy molds, the easiest thing to do is order them online, or make a chocolate bark instead by adding your favourite nuts, seeds or dried fruit, and pouring the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat.

What’s your favourite way to use chocolate?

Happy, Healthy Eating and Gifting!
Best Wishes for the Holidays!
Tracey

HIGH FAT FOR A HEALTHY HEART

Have you heard the news that fats are good for us?  Maybe you’ve even heard that saturated fats are good for us.  It’s true.  After decades of being told that we should be eating a low-fat diet, research is proving that low fat is detrimental to our health.  It’s bad for our brains, it’s bad for our hearts and it’s bad for hormone related conditions, but today I’m going to focus on the heart.

We’ve all heard about HDL (the good cholesterol) and LDL (the bad cholesterol).  Doctors look at blood levels of these as indicators of heart health.  In a healthy individual we typically see high HDL and low LDL.   High LDL is seen as being problematic.  But it turns out that not all LDL is bad.  There are different types of LDL particles:  large and buoyant, or small and dense.  It’s the small, dense particles that are the ones that put you at risk for heart disease.  It’s possible to have high LDL levels, and have low risk for heart disease if they happen to be the large particles, and conversely you can have low LDL levels, but if they happen to be small particles then you may be at risk for heart disease.  Just looking at total LDL is NOT a good indicator.  We can thank researcher Ronald Kraus for unraveling the complexity of LDL.

Diet and LDL

With the knowledge that we want high HDL, high large LDL and low small LDL, it’s important to look at how we can accomplish this through diet. In addition to changing how we view LDL, Kraus looked at how different diets affect different LDL particles.  Kraus demonstrated that when people eat a high carbohydrate, low fat diet, it correlates with small, dense LDL, which is the marker that increases your risk of heart disease. In contrast, a low carbohydrate diet increases HDL and large LDL particles and decreases small LDL particles.  That is exactly what you want!  (Source

The idea that saturated fats contribute to heart disease doesn’t hold up against the research. (Source)  It’s time to accept that fats aren’t artery clogging!

The Fat-Carbohydrate Relationship

When we take fats out of our diet, we tend to replace them with carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are found in vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes and of course sugars. People need a feeling of satiety when they eat (or else they don’t stop eating).  Consuming protein makes us feel full and then fat makes that feeling last.  When proteins and fats are not consumed, then people eat more grains and legumes to get that feeling of satiety. In processed foods, more sugars typically get added as fats are removed.  Low-fat yogurts are an example where when fat is taken out, more sugar is added in. 

If you eat a whole-foods diet, you might be asking yourself, “What’s the problem with eating more grains, legumes or fruits and vegetables?”   After all, isn’t this what we’ve been told is a healthy diet?  As we’ve just seen with HDL and LDL, it’s not necessarily a healthy diet if we want a healthy heart.  But let’s look at some other factors involved in fat consumption and heart health.

 Gut Health = Heart Health.

The health of your gut also has significant implications for the health of your heart.  Living inside our guts are trillions of organisms collectively known as the microbiome.  Just like humans have wastes that we excrete through our feces, urine and sweat, the organisms in our guts have metabolic byproducts (or waste products) known as metabolites.  Different species produce different metabolites.  Let’s look at a group of organisms known as Gram-negative bacteria.  These organisms are lumped together based on a staining procedure used for viewing under a microscope. Gram-negative bacteria produce a metabolite called lipopolysaccharides (LPS).  LPS normally isn’t a problem.  However it becomes a problem when you have intestinal permeability (leaky gut).  Leaky gut allows LPS to leak through the barrier of the small intestine.  Just outside that barrier is our gut associated lymphatic tissue (GALT).  An easy way to understand GALT is to think of it as the largest part of our immune system.  It makes up 80% of our immune system, and all of it is imbedded in the tissue of our digestive system.  So when LPS leaks out, it comes into contact with our immune system where it binds onto immune cell receptors.  When this happens, it initiates a whole sequence of metabolic changes that lead to inflammation and heart disease. 

Diet and Gut Health

 So by now it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a low carbohydrate, high fat diet is also the best diet to restore the health of the intestinal barrier.  The GAPS diet is one of the best diets to repair intestinal health, and its founder Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride strongly advocates the use of saturated animal fats as part of a nutritional approach to heal the gut.

Nutritional Approach to Heart Health

If heart health is to be addressed using a nutritional approach, it needs to specifically address small LDL particles and intestinal permeability.  Knowing that a low carbohydrate, high fat diet is beneficial for both of these aspects of heart health leads us to protocols that have these two features.  Ancestral and GAPS diets are good places to start.  These diets include animal proteins such as meat, fish and eggs, vegetables, seasonal fruit, raw nuts and seeds and of course fats.  For people who tolerate dairy, these diets can also include high-fat, fermented dairy items such as yogurt, kefir, cultured cream, and cheeses.

Fat Sources

Great sources of healthy fats include:
Avocado
Coconut milk (full-fat), coconut butter, coconut oil
Raw nuts and seeds, and butters made from them
Grass fed and finished meats
Eggs from organic, free-range poultry
Wild fish
Butter, cream, yogurt, kefir and cheese from pasture-raised animals (if dairy is tolerated)
Olive oil

Further Reading:

The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz
Eat Fat Get Thin by Mark Hyman MD or order the Fat Summit http://fatsummit.com
The Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride


Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey