Easter Special: The Sweet History of Chocolate

Hello Everyone,

Easter means chocolate! Once a year, we indulge ourselves on the sweet goodness. But do you know how chocolate was discovered? In today’s blog I’ll be discussing the history of how chocolate became an iconic sweet, the benefits of raw cacao and I’ll be sharing my favorite Health Hot Chocolate drink!

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History of Chocolate

Chocolate may be the “food of the gods,” but for most of its 4,000-year history, it was actually consumed as a bitter beverage rather than as a sweet edible treat. Anthropologists have found evidence that chocolate was produced by pre-Olmec cultures living in present-day Mexico as early as 1900 B.C. The ancient Mesoamericans who first cultivated cacao plants found in the tropical rainforests of Central America fermented, roasted and ground the cacao beans into a paste that they mixed with water, vanilla, honey, chili peppers and other spices to brew a frothy chocolate drink.

Olmec, Mayan and Aztec civilizations found chocolate to be an invigorating drink, mood enhancer and aphrodisiac, which led them to believe that it possessed mystical and spiritual qualities. The Mayans worshipped a god of cacao and reserved chocolate for rulers, warriors, priests and nobles at sacred ceremonies.

When the Aztecs began to dominate Mesoamerica in the 14th century, they craved cacao beans, which could not be grown in the dry highlands of central Mexico that were the heart of their civilization. The Aztecs traded with the Mayans for cocao beans, which were so coveted that they were used as currency. (In the 1500s, Aztecs could purchase a turkey hen for 100 beans.) By some accounts, the 16th-century Aztec emperor Montezuma drank three gallons of chocolate a day to increase his libido

In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors such as Hernán Cortés who sought gold and silver in Mexico returned instead with chocolate. Although the Spanish sweetened the bitter drink with cane sugar and cinnamon, one thing remained unchanged: chocolate was still a delectable symbol of luxury, wealth and power. Chocolate was sipped by royal lips, and only Spanish elites could afford the expensive import.

European Introduction

Spain managed to keep chocolate a savory secret for nearly a century, but when the daughter of Spanish King Philip III wed French King Louis XIII in 1615, she brought her love of chocolate with her to France. The popularity of chocolate quickly spread to other European courts, and aristocrats consumed it as a magic elixir with salubrious benefits. To slake their growing thirst for chocolate, European powers established colonial plantations in equatorial regions around the world to grow cacao and sugar. When diseases brought by the European explorers depleted the native Mesoamerican labor pool, African slaves were imported to work on the plantations and maintain the production of chocolate.

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Chocolate remained an aristocratic nectar until Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten in 1828 invented the cocoa press, which revolutionized chocolate-making. The cocoa press could squeeze the fatty cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving behind a dry cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder that could be mixed with liquids and other ingredients, poured into molds and solidified into edible, easily digestible chocolate. The innovation by van Houten ushered in the modern era of chocolate by enabling it to be used as a confectionary ingredient, and the resulting drop in production costs made chocolate affordable to the masses.

Chocolate Industrialisation

In 1847, British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons created the first solid edible chocolate bar from cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. Rodolphe Lindt’s 1879 invention of the conching machine, which produced chocolate with a velvety texture and superior taste, and other advances allowed for the mass production of smooth, creamy milk chocolate on factory assembly lines. You don’t need to have a sweet tooth to recognize the familiar names of the family-owned companies such as Cadbury, Mars and Hershey that ushered in a chocolate boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s that has yet to abate. Today, the average American consumes 12 lbs. of chocolate each year, and more than $75 billion worldwide is spent on chocolate annually.

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Benefits of Cacao

Here are a couple of interesting points…

  • Cacao is chock-full of therapeutic benefits and could easily be considered one of nature’s best medicines.
  • Cacao is considered a ‘super-antioxidant’ because it has such a high ORAC score (a measure of antioxidant amounts).
  • The unprocessed raw cacao bean earns a higher ORAC score than acai berries, spinach or blueberries.
  • The high antioxidant activity helps protect the heart, prevent cellular damage, and keeps us looking – and feeling – younger (bonus!).
  • The super bean contains oleic acid, which has been linked to lower cholesterol.
  • Cacao is also a great source of magnesium, which helps with calcium absorption, metabolism, and protein synthesis. It may also be useful in the prevention of or treatment for congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, and premenstrual syndrome.
  • Cacao also contains iron, copper, calcium, potassium, and zinc.

Spicy Cacao Hot Chocolate

Serves: serves 2
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups almond milk (or other milk)
  • 2 tablespoons cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • pinch of cinnamon/clove/nutmeg/chilli (around 1/2-1tsp each depending on desired flavour)
  • tiny pinch of Himalayan sea salt
optional toppings:
  • coconut whip** (see homemade instructions below)
  • shaved dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. In a blender, mix the almond milk, cacao powder, spices, maple syrup, coconut oil, and salt. (You can also whisk this together by hand). Transfer to a medium saucepan and heat. Taste and adjust the sweetness if desired. If it’s too thick, add a little bit more almond milk.
  2. Serve with coconut whip and shaved dark chocolate, both optional.
 Homemade Coconut Whip:
  • solids from 1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
  • Few drops of vanilla extract

Method:

  • Make the coconut whip by combining the ingredients in a mixer and mix until whipped and fluffy.
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Easter Special: Maintain your Health over the Easter Holiday

Hello Everyone,

With Easter just around the corner it’s difficult to avoid the obligatory binge: chocolate (anything), hot cross buns and, let’s be honest, everything in sight… especially if your family starts to pressure you into having ‘just one more’ slice or serving. While it can take three seconds to consume a 200g Easter egg, it can take a three-hour run to counteract the sugar content. A hot cross bun slathered in butter isn’t much better, sitting around the 350 calorie mark, and will take 40+ minutes of running to burn it off. Not ideal, right?

So, let’s get a grip this Easter with these healthy habits.

1. Portion control

You will eat chocolate, that’s a given… but just remember portion control. Ultimately, everything is fine in moderation.

Instead of eating large eggs at hourly intervals (which can be up to a third of your daily intake if you are trying to lose weight), buy individually wrapped mini eggs. The process of unwrapping each small egg is more time consuming and will make you more aware of the treats you are consuming. It’s a simple trick, but it works – and you’ll still get among the festivities.

chocolate bar

2. Quality control

Step away from the cheap foil-clad bunny and exchange it for some dark, good quality chocolate. Ideally something with at least 70 per cent dark cocoa which has the added bonus of antioxidants. The high levels of cocoa have also been shown to lower blood pressure.

If you want to take your health kick a step further over Easter, head to your local health food store and get yourself some Raw Organic Cacoa NIBS – these cocoa beans are straight from the source and is what all chocolate and cocoa products are produced from.

The nutritional benefits of raw cacao products include: being a source of beta-carotene, amino acids (protein), Omega-3 EFA’s, calcium, zinc, iron, copper, sulphur, potassium, and one of the best food sources of muscle relaxing and also stress relieving magnesium. Other good news is that it is only 92 calories and 0.54 grams of sugar per 15 grams serving!

You can also add raw nibs to your cooking (use instead of chocolate chips), add to your smoothies or grind with your coffee beans.

3. Feast

On breakfast that is! Make sure you start the day right with a protein-rich breakfast and filling fibre so you aren’t reaching for a chocolate an hour later. Never eat Easter eggs on an empty stomach as this will cause havoc on your blood sugar levels for the rest of the day.

Think veggie and protein-packed omelettes or a protein shake with berries, chai seeds and a handful of spinach leaves to get your day off to a nutritious start.

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4. Think outside the box

Rethink the basket of eggs and swap it for a basket of beautiful local fruit. How about a pot of herbs for a gift that keeps giving? Get in the kitchen and whip up some homemade treats.

5. Snack regularly

Snack on something small and healthy every 3-4 hours you will help balance your blood sugar levels, which in turn will help avoid that nasty energy drop.

Foods that cause a spike in blood sugar are generally sugar and refined carbohydrates (aka chocolate and hot cross buns). They cause the body to produce insulin, which makes you crave food constantly, leading to weight gain and a variety of health conditions including diabetes.

They key to a balanced snack is to always included the 3 macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and good fats).

Options include:

  • Natural yogurt with berries and walnuts. Add a scoop of protein powder for an extra power punch.
  • Hummus with vegetable sticks.
  • A homemade meat pattie with a small side salad.
  • An apple with a teaspoon of almond butter and a drizzle of honey.
  • Bowl of vegetable and barley soup.
  • Shaved turkey, sliver of avocado wrapped in lettuce.
  • Banana smoothie with milk/nut milk, LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond mix), scoop of protein powder, cinnamon and ice.

6. Plan ahead

Make sure you stock the fridge so there are always healthy options on hand, have pre-made delicious options ready to go, and don’t space meals too far apart.

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7. Hydrate

Need another reason to drink water? Research has shown that by increasing water consumption by 1.5 liters a day, you can burn an extra 17,400 calories per year. Additionally, a study by Dr. Brenda Davy, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, found that people who drank water before a meal consumed an average of 75 fewer calories at that meal.

Another glass, anyone?

8. Burn off a bunny

To counterbalance the extra calorie intake over Easter it is important to exercise every day, whether it be a beach walk, sprint session, bike ride with the family, a game of cricket or a home workout – just move that body!

You don’t have to waste hours of your day either – chose intense interval training which will burn more in a shorter time frame – perfect!

Want to burn off a small 50g bunny (approx 275 calories)?

  • Power walk with the dog for 85 minutes
  • Dance up a storm for 56 minutes
  • Swim freestyle for 36 minutes
  • Jump on the crosstrainer for 33 minutes
  • Clean the house intensely for 70 minutes.

A medium 25g egg:

  • 30 minutes brisk walk
  • 15 minutes jogging/skipping/boxing

A large 100g egg

  • 2 hour brisk walking
  • 1 hour run/skipping/boxing

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Healthiest Regards,

and a Happy Easter!

Tegan- Nutrition Nourishment

 

Guilt-Free Easter Recipes: Egg-cellent Treats for the Family

Hello Everyone,

The kids are now officially on school holidays and Nutrition Nourishment will be posting child-specific blogs to help get beneficial advice regarding health and wellbeing. Keep an eye out for recipes, health advice, kids activities and back-to-school aid over the coming weeks.

Easter is only a round the corner. Do you feel you can’t indulge in traditional goodies with the kids without spoiling your diet? Well check below for these delicious gluten and dairy-free treats that will please the whole family!

Hopping Raw Chocolate Tahini Spread

If your a nutella lover, you’ll adore this nut-free, dairy-free chocolate fudgey spread. It can be used as a ganache on cakes, spread onto toast, accompanied as a dip with berries or even eaten within a spoon. See Below for recipe…

Ingredients:

1/4 C unhulled Tahini

1 Tsp Cold-pressed Virgin Coconut Oil

1 Tsp organic maple syrup or (rice malt syrup if fructose is an issue)

2 Tsp of raw organic Cacao powder

Method:

Step 1: Place Tahini, maple syrup and coconut oil into a food processor and blend to combine.

Step 2: Slowly add cacao powder to ensure a smooth consistency without any lumps.

Step 3: The mixture can be stored in the fridge to create a fudge consistency or stored in an air-tight container at room temperature to make for easy spreading. Enjoy!!!

Tip: to get into the easter spirit, why not roll the mixture up into small egg-shaped balls for a chocolate easter egg treat thats completely guilt free!!! This would make a lovely gift!

Bunny’s Grain-free Hot Cross Buns!!

Hot cross buns made in health heaven featuring gluten free, dairy free, high protein and low GI! Enjoy heated up with a spread of butter for a perfect compliment to a cup of tea or coffee. See below for recipe…

Ingredients: Fruit Buns

3 C Almond meal

1/2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt

1/2 tsp Baking soda

1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil, coconut oil or butter

2 Tsp Raw Honey, or Rice Malt Syrup

1 Orange, zested and juiced

1 tsp vanilla paste

3 Organic Free- ranged eggs

1 tsp ground Cinnamon

1/2 Tsp groung ginger

1 large Pear, finely diced

1 C Raisins

White- Chocolate Ganache: Cross

1/4 C Cacao Butter or Coconut Oil (melted)

1/4 C cashew butter or tahini

1/2 C Coconut cream, warmed

1 Tsp Raw Honey or Rice Malt Syrup

1/2 tsp Vanilla paste

Method:

Step 1: Preheat oven to 160 degree. Combine almond meal, salt, baking soda, oil, honey, orange zest and juice, vanilla paste and eggs into a large mixing bowl and stir until combined.

Step 2: Add cinnamon and ginger spices, then the pear dices with raising and mix well to combine. (Using hands for this step may be helpful)

Step 3: use an ice-cream scoop to measure out equal rounds into a baking tray or a 12 muffin tin lined with baking paper.

Step 4: Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through.  Remove from oven and place on bench to cool.

Tip: Insert a clean sewer into the middle of the buns and if it comes out clean the buns are ready! You may even find covering the buns with foil will prevent over-browning of the top.

Step 5: To make ganache for the criss-cross, place all ingredients above into a food processor and blend until well combined.

Step 6: Allow the ganache mixture to cool slightly so it thicken into a piping consistency. Spoon into a piping bah and create the crosses on cooled buns. ENJOY!!!

Easter-ful Chocolate Cake

Completely guilt free chocolate cake for a wholesome and nutritious treat. It’s gluten free, dairy-free and high in proteins. This cake is sure to be a winner at your family gathering! See below for recipe….

Ingredients:

3 C Almond Meal

1/2 C Cacao Powder

2 tsp gluten-free baking powder or baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

4 Organic Free-Ranged Eggs

2 tsp vanilla Extract

1/c C Extra Virgin Olive Oil or melted butter

1/2 C Almond milk, or milk of choice

4 Tsp Raw Honey or Maple Syrup

Method:

Step 1: Preheat oven to 160 degree and line cake tin with baking paper.

Step 2: Combine almond meal, cacao, baking powder and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. For wet ingredients combine in a separate bowl, eggs, vanilla, oil/butter, milk and honey/maple. Mix to combine.

Step 3: Pour wet ingredient into dry mixture and mix. Pour into lined cake tray.

Step 4: bake for 45 mins or until cooked through, then remove from oven to cool on bench top.

Step 5: Once cooled, frost with hopping raw chocolate tahini spread for a delicious bunny-worthy family cake.

Nutrition Nourishment encourages the kids to join in the cooking fun for these delicious easter treats. This makes a wonderful and tasty school holiday activity to keep the kids busy, while providing some gorgeous treats for everyone!!

As Always

Healthiest Regards

Nutrition Nourishment