by Buffy Ellen
Chocolate, oh, chocolate - how I love thee. My initial love affair with this dark creamy bean began a number of moons ago, when I wrote about the top 5 benefits of cacao here (think antioxidants, iron, magnesium, calcium, and mood-boosting neurotransmitters). Since that time, I seem to have shared a not insignificant 30+ recipes here on the blog that include it. 30? That’s some addiction.
So why do you, I, and most other people I know (ladies, I’m looking at you) love chocolate so much? Yes, of course it tastes good, and more often than not, is paired with sugar and dairy, which have their own addictive qualities. But is that the only thing driving our cravings, or is it something else also that causes us to reach back for that 2nd, 3rd, ok 10th piece?
Before we get to that – this tart. Oh. My. Goodness. (Mila actually says that now… oops). Rich chocolate, creamy hazelnuts, a chewy biscuity base. Yes, this not so naughty Nutella Tart is going to hit you right between the eyeballs thanks to…
Chocolate, flavonoids, and your brain
So why do we love our chocolate so much? Apart from the taste, chocolate is full of compounds called flavonoids, in particular epicatechin and catechin. Research has shown these antioxidants to exert cardiovascular benefits, as well as suggesting they may be able to enhance cognition, attention, processing speed and memory too. Research on the latter is still in its infancy, but it could be positive news for addressing the cognitive decline experienced in old age, as well as just an extra brain boost for the rest of us. And, perhaps might explain why we might reach for the bar of the good stuff when we’re tired, sleep deprived, or under cognitively demanding conditions (exams/assignments/dead-lines anyone?).
The exact workings of the cognitive improvement are not 100% understood, but it appears to be a combination of two things. Firstly, an improvement in neuronal activity (brain cells sharing information more efficiently with each other), and secondly, an increase in vascular responsiveness and cerebral blood flow. Veins dilate/get wider => more blood flow gets to the heart and brain => lower blood pressure and stress on the heart AND more juice to the head space.
How do we know if we’re actually getting these flavonoids with our chocolate? Well, the processing of cacao (in particular, roasting), has been shown to greatly reduce their concentration. Also important is the genetic pool from which your cacao comes. That’s why, if you want to reap the full benefits, you’re best to use cacao products that are (a) certified organic, and (b) raw. NOTE – most chocolate in the supermarket is neither. AND it’s then been doused in a hefty serving of hormone-containing dairy and inflammation-causing sugar. If you’re buying chocolate pre-made, I recommend looking for bars that tick all the boxes above (organic, raw, dairy-free and low in sugar – these ones here and here are my two favs). Or better yet, make your own! I’ve been making all my chocolate treats the past year with this fabulous cacao powder from BioBalance here. It ticks all our boxes, as well as having a smooth, creamy taste – unlike some cacao powders which can be bitter. And in this tart, it’s the business.
Til next week friends, stay happy and well.
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Please note - if you are wanting to meet any of the specific dietary requirements above, please read my notes below the recipe.
Makes a 35 x 11cm (14 x 4 inch) tart, serves 8-12
Takes 20 minutes + 1-2 hours to set
Want to make this recipe but missing an ingredient? Simply click on the ingredient link to go to our store and order it online. We deliver to NZ, Australia and internationally daily.
Always use certified organic, local and fairly traded ingredients wherever possible
Dry1 c dates1 c hazelnuts1/2 c almonds3 tbsp cacao powder1/4 tsp sea salt1 tsp vanilla extract2 tbsp cacao butter, melted
Wet2 medium avocados1/2 c plant-based milk (almond/rice/oat/soy all work great)1/2 c cacao powder1/2 c hazelnut butter1/4 c + 3 tbsp liquid sweetener (I love coconut nectar or brown rice syrup)1 tsp vanilla extract1/8 tsp sea salt1/2 c cacao butter, melted
c = 250ml cup, tbsp = 15ml tablespoon, tsp = 5ml teaspoon
PS - the lovely plates, linen and tableware I’ve used are from Citta Design.
Buffy is the founder of Be Good Organics, and loves creating delicious yet simple plant-based whole foods recipes.
Buffy also oversees our Be Good Organics online store, full of plant based goodies that she personally uses and loves. Sign up for our newsletter below to be the first to receive her weekly recipes.
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I'm Buffy, a food obsessed nutrition nerd, former financial research analyst and investment banker, and now - full time blogger, nutritionist and soon to be naturopath. I live in Auckland, New Zealand with my partner Tony, our two cats Zeus and Luna, and our cute-as-pie little girl Mila. Can't wait to share some healthy recipes with you! READ MORE HERE...
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