Chocolate is good for the soul, good for relationships (think Valentine’s Day), and yes, it can even be good for the health of your heart. To benefit and enjoy a truly delicious taste, you need to select the good stuff!
DELICIOUS Cocoa Brownies are Heart Healthy Too!
A little background: Chocolate originates from Cacao beans that grow on trees in tropical climates. Cacao beans are slow-roasted at low temperatures to bring out their flavor and aroma. The outer shell of the bean is cracked and discarded, leaving broken cacao “nibs”. The nibs are then crushed and ground into a thick paste called chocolate liquor (does not contain alcohol) which is rather bitter by itself. The chocolate liquor can then separated into cocoa butter and cocoa powder.
Cocoa butter is the naturally occurring fat with a relatively good fatty acid profile. Food manufacturers often add milk fat to chocolate as it is less expensive than the cocoa butter. Unfortunately, milk fat is artery clogging.
Cocoa powder is rich in naturally occurring, heart healthy antioxidants called flavanols that help to lower blood pressure and relax blood vessels. (You want your blood vessels to be flexible like a rubber band for expanding and contracting for blood flow.) Since natural cocoa powder is slightly acidic tasting, food manufacturers Dutch-process it with alkaline, which unfortunately destroys most of the beneficial flavanols.
Bottom line when buying chocolate:
1. Look for Cocoa butter as the main source of fat.
2. Avoid chocolates and cocoa that have Dutch or Alkaline in ingredient list as they won’t contain the healthy antioxidant flavanols.
3. Skip milk chocolate: go Dark! Although, there is no true definition for Dark Chocolate here in the U.S., select based on the higher percentage of cacao in the ingredient list. Go for at least 55-60% cacao when selecting chocolate. Some brands go up to 80-90%.
4. Enjoy in moderation, an ounce or two (small pieces). Chocolate can still be high in calories and quite a bit of sugar can be added to offset its bitterness.
Double Chocolate Good Heart Brownies
In addition to the antioxidants in both the cocoa and the chocolate chips, these brownies contain heart healthy flax and walnuts, both sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. The flax adds quite a bit of moisture to the brownies, so that only a small amount of healthy canola oil is needed.
2/3 cup Bittersweet or 55% Cacao (or higher) Dark Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup Organic Canola Oil
2/3 cup Turbinado or Raw Sugar
2 large Eggs at room temperature
2 tsp pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 cup Ground Flax or Flax Meal
1/2 cup Natural Dark Cocoa Powder (NOT dutch, alkaline)
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 cup chopped Walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Melt dark chocolate chips in a medium-large glass mixing bowl.
3. Add Canola oil to chips and blend well. Let oil from measuring cup drip into an 8″ square pan.
4. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla to chocolate/oil mixture and whisk together well.
5. In smaller separate bowl, mix together flour, flax, natural dark cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Blend dry ingredients well with a wire whisk.
6. Add dry ingredients to wet until blended. Fold in walnuts.
7. Use wax paper to spread oil from measuring cup around the baking pan.
8. Bake brownies about 20 minutes and allow to cool before cutting