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Dessert That's Actually Good For You? Try This TCM-Inspired, Raw Cacao Vegan Chocolate

Editor: Snow Xia, L.Ac






Have a sweet tooth? There are so many ways to make healthier desserts that do you more good than bad. It really comes down to using the right ingredients. Here we are sharing a quick and delicious goji berry raw chocolate recipe that’s also jam-packed with antioxidants and other medicinal benefits. This is also a vegan and gluten-free dessert recipe. But first, let’s talk a little bit about the health benefits of cacao.


Raw Cacao


The bitter nature of cacao associates with the heart meridian. It can benefit heart organ functions, improve mood and increase feelings of happiness and bliss. Cacao’s warming nature boosts Chi and nourishes kidney yang, giving it anti-aging and energy-building properties. From a Western perspective, we can see similar conclusions. Cacao is a great source to supplement nutrients and minerals in readily absorbable forms. It is high in iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, protein and fiber. All of these micro and macronutrients aid bodily functions. Cacao also has a great amount of polyphenols, which have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. Cacao also contains antibacterial and immune-stimulating properties that may benefit your teeth and skin. Furthermore, it promotes healthy digestion, reduces the risk of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and can aid in weight control by regulating metabolism, reducing appetite, increasing fat burn, and increasing satisfaction.


It’s A Powerful Antioxidant


Antioxidants protect our cells against free radicals that cause cell damage. When there are more free radicals than antioxidants in our body, we experience oxidative stress, which is linked to many chronic diseases.


There are many different classes of antioxidants, the ones found in cacao are flavonoids and phenolics. Flavonoids are associated with longevity since they have anti-inflammatory ability, can improve brain function, prevent cardiovascular diseases, and some cancers.

Phenolics have very similar benefits to flavonoids and have anticancer, antimicrobial and anti-aging properties, act as antidiabetic agents by manipulating the glucose and insulin receptors and stimulate collagen and elastic enzymes for skin cell renewal.


It Acts As An Antidepressant


Cacao contains tryptophan, which helps to stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain. It also contains the neurotransmitter, phenylethylamine; a natural antidepressant. This is also one of the chemicals produced in the brain when a person is in love. Cacao is known to have the highest concentration of phenylethylamine amongst all of the foods that contain this neurotransmitter.


It Improves The Circulatory System


Cacao is very high in potassium. Potassium has shown to decrease the risks of heart disease and keep our blood pressure stable. On the other hand, flavonoids in cacao have the ability to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow and prevent blood clots. Research has also shown that cacao flavonoids can increase insulin sensitivity, which lowers the risks of diabetes and lowers blood pressure in healthy participants.


Know The Difference


Keep in mind that all these benefits are in raw cacao, not necessarily commercial chocolate. Dark chocolate higher than 80% cacao will give you these benefits, but white chocolate or sugary chocolate with additives can give you the opposite effects.


Organic, raw cacao powder is an excellent alternative for chocolate chips or cocoa powder for making desserts. Do not confuse raw cacao powder with cocoa powder. Both cacao and cocoa come from the same bean, but cocoa passes through very high temperatures and added processes to reduce the bitter taste. It’s exactly these manufacturing processes that reduce the nutrients and polyphenol content by 60%.

Other ingredients in this recipe are hand-picked for their medicinal benefits...


Goji Berries (also called wolfberry)


In China, goji berries have been used for many generations as a longevity herb. For this reason, it has long been used in Chinese cooking and desserts. Goji berries are sweet, neutral, nourishing, and balancing. These qualities help to tonify the blood, enrich the liver and kidney yin, moisten lung yin, and brighten the eyes.


Many studies have in fact shown the effectiveness of goji berries in improving eye health. These berries are high in zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that protects your lenses and retinas against damage. They also improve sleep, help with weight loss, decrease diabetes, high blood pressure, and give you a feeling of well-being and calmness.


From a western nutrition perspective, goji berries are high in fiber, iron, and vitamin A and C. Vitamins A and C act as antioxidants and are key for immune function, while iron’s role is to transport oxygen throughout the body and produce healthy red blood cells.


Cardamom


In TCM, cardamom has a warming and pungent nature, and is associated with the lung and stomach meridians. Cardamom hence aids with digestion, promotes the free movement of Chi, warms the G.I and dispels fluid build-up.


Orange peel

Also known as Chen Pi, this herb is also commonly used as a tea and snack in China to improve minor digestive discomforts such as indigestion, bloating, and nausea. Being associated with the spleen, stomach and lung meridians, it helps to regulate Chi movement and metabolize fluid build-up.



Raw Cacao Chocolate (Prep Time: 5 mins | Cook Time: 25 mins)




INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup grated or chopped organic raw cacao butter

  • 1 cup organic raw cacao powder

  • 6-8 tbsp maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)

  • 1 inch (3 cm) vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


CREATIVE TOPPINGS TO JAZZ IT UP


We used bourbon maple syrup from an upstate farm and chose to make a couple of different combinations with available ingredients in the pantry. This is the time to get creative and try out fun combinations that your heart desires! Here are a few ideas.

  • goji berries and Bulgarian rose petal

  • chili flakes and pink Himalayan salt

  • cardamom and orange peel

  • Lavender and dried blueberries


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat a pot of water to hot (not boiling!) then turn off the heat.

  2. Put the cacao butter inside a bowl, then the bowl inside the pot.

  3. Let the cacao butter slowly melt, so the nutrients do not decompose.

  4. Once the cacao butter melts, add the cacao powder slowly, stir to combine.

  5. Then add maple syrup and vanilla bean/extract. Mix until smooth.

  6. Sprinkle your chosen toppings to the bottom of the silicone molds.

  7. Pour the cacao mix into the molds.

  8. Place in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes. Once the chocolate becomes semi-solid, sprinkle more toppings on top.

  9. Place in the fridge to set for another 30-60 minutes. Once set, the chocolate should be able to remain solid even at room temperature.

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