The world rejoiced when it was scientifically proven that chocolate is good for you but now it has been discovered that the polyphenols found in cocoa extracts have many other health benefits for delaying brain aging and may prevent or possibly delay Alzheimer’s disease. Now, for all of you that are going to race out and buy any old block of chocolate because I said it was good for you, I need to halt you right now! In the act of research I have put myself on the line and spent a very difficult week investigating the benefits of chocolate. I know it was a tough job but someone had to do it!
Here’s my Willy Wonka week of chocolate
Day 1. Eating Chocolate
So here the real deal – It is essential that the chocolate you eat is at least 70% cacao, which means more of the good stuff and less sugar. I have to be honest I almost gave up having dark, high cacao content chocolate as it was so bitter and dry and as Mick Jagger said “I can’t get no satisfaction”. Until I tried chocolate from the Remarkable Chocolate Co. All their chocolates are of the highest quality and made using traditional European techniques. Pure sustainable chocolate with no added palm oil – which means velvety smooth melt in your mouth choccy. I am not kidding their dark 70% cacao chocolate is heavenly and don’t get me started about their ginger and salted caramel chocolate – my fav as it has a nice little punch of spice with the sweet yet salty caramel – utterly sublime.
The secret behind its powerful punch is cacao, also the source of the sweet’s distinct taste. Packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine, this little bean is a disease-killing bullet which can help to reduce stress. Chocolate can increase brain power as the flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain which can also improve performance and alertness. What I also love is that research has proven that people that eat one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third. Now that’s something to celebrate! Note small amounts please!!! Dark chocolate is full of beneficial vitamins and minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium, and in a 100g bar of dark 70% cacao you get 67% of the recommended daily amount of iron. Heres also a crazy fact – It reduces cholesterol. What? Consumption of cocoa potentially lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease which is pretty exciting stuff. At the end of the day chocolate simply makes you feel better as it contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. So who doesn’t want an endorphin boost and be starry eyed?
Day 2 – Chocolate in your Skincare
I was astounded to discover there are so many skincare products that contain chocolate including body butters, scrubs and moisturisers. This magical ingredient is especially rich in antioxidants and can help to keep your skin firm, resilient and smooth. Loving the sound of that! Some of the key benefits of chocolate in skin care products and body treatments include nourishing and softening dry skin – thanks to cocoa butter which also acts as a deep moisturizer. Our wonderful friend “antioxidants” in chocolate can also help reduce free radical damage and smooth out wrinkles. Fantastic, and for those of you that have break outs, cacao can calm and heal irritated skin as well as detoxifying of skin cells. Kind of crazy as it is against what we have been told about chocolate causing pimples. It is in fact the nasty old white sugar that will cause breakouts not beautiful pure and dark choccy.
I couldn’t resist making my own concoctions due to my love of creating skincare products so I conjured up a body scrub which I have to say is incredible and smells good enough to eat, and you can!
The base of my scrub is Cacao “nibs” from Ola Pacific . Cacoa nibs are basically chipped, de-husked cacao seeds where it still contains the natural oil. Cacao is thought to be the highest source of antioxidants, and highest source of natural magnesium. Used throughout many cultures for health benefits so perfect for my body scrub.
Here is my recipe.
Charlottes Chocolate Body Scrub
1 Cup of Cocao Nibs
1/2 Cup of Cocoa Butter
1 Cup of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
- In a morter and pestle grind down one cup of nibs so they still remained gritty but not too chunky.
- Add one cup of pink Himalayan sea salt
- Combine these two gorgeous ingredients with one of my favourite cooking and skincare ingredients, cocoa butter.
- Mix well
One of the reasons why I love cocoa butter so much is for its high concentration of antioxidant compounds, including oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. By reducing the occurrence of oxidative stress, cocoa butter can help reduce the signs of aging. This for me makes it the perfect oil to nourish your body inside and out! My wonderul German Aupair and my daughter India loved it, particularly India who ate her fav Remarkable Chocolate while having a body scrub. She said it was the best day ever!
How to apply
- Stand under a warm shower or soak in the the bath for at least 5 minutes until your skin is soft.
- Turn off the shower or jump out of the bath.
- Using circular movements apply the scrub all over your body paying extra attention to dry spots or lumps and bumps!
- Use it as a facial scrub too but exfolliate gently.
- Wash off under warm water.
- Instead of towel drying if you have a towelling bath robe pop this on and allow for the moisture and oil to seal into your skin and air dry. If you don’t pat dry your body gently leaving some moisture.
- Now glow!
Day 3 – Using Chocolate in Savoury Cooking
If you don’t have a sweet tooth you can still get the benefit of chocolate in a more savoury way. I called on my gorgeous friend Katrina Horton who is one of the best cooks I know and has a fabulous food blog. Lucky for me she jumped at the chance as she loved the idea of using chocolate in a different way and also like me embraces the benefits of a great quality dark choccy.
As Katrina explained to me most natural cacao available today has undergone a fermentation process and like her Kombucha and Sauerkraut it contains Polyphenols which enhance our body’s chemistry set, keeping inflammation and disease at bay and promoting healing and vitality.
Katrinas Pulled Pork Mole
For the recipe click here
Day 4 – Drinking Hot Chocolate
Here’s is a really lovely thing I discovered about drinking a gorgeous cup of Cocoa. Drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day can boost memory in elderly people by almost a third and can also increase blood circulation. So please make sure anyone older in your life over 70 starts indulging; making sure though it is a good quality cocoa and sweeten with coconut sugar, honey or stevia. What a great excuse for a creamy cup of goodness!
In the name of research I thought I would push myself and try a few different hot chocolates. I know right? Tough! I headed to Little Bird as I heard via the hot chocolate grape vine that theirs was rated one of the best. I ordered their Spicy Hot Chocolate made from a blend of organic spices and raw cacao, served with nut milk and sprinkled with flaky chocolate. It was quite sensational, not sweet at all and nicely rounded with a balance of spice. I then went to the extreme and visited the Chocolate Boutique Cafe in Parnell. I decided to go all out and have an Italian Denso Hot Chocolate. It was so thick and sweet my spoon literally stood up on its own. Two sips and I was done, however if you have an incredibly big sweet tooth then this ones for you!
Day 5 – Chocolate Mood Boosting Happy Temple Powder
My fascination with Korean Temple Food where fermenting is key has inspired me to create my own well being powders that I craft to what the body needs. I really love the philosophy of temple food prepared by buddhist monks that comes from the heart with love and awakens your mind. By tailor making a wellbeing powder to suit, allows me to put my heart and soul into it, getting to the essence of what your body requires. The Temple Powder I decided to create – keeping our chocolate theme in mind – is for my darling mother Colyn. As she can’t tell me if she unhappy it is hard to sometimes identify her mood and as she sadly can no longer smile, Mum does look permantly sad (although that is not always the case). When she goes very quiet I know something is up so here is my powder that I designed to boost her mood and give the endorphins a kick start. I chose a selection of mood boosting ingrediants including Aswangda which is fantastic for depression and Cordyceps which is a adaptogen so a great stress buster and of course our incredible mood boosting Cacoa.
Charlottes Chocolate Happy Temple Powder
1 T Grape Seed powder
1/2 Cup Organic Ground Cinnamon
1 Cup Aswangda Powder
1 Cup Cordyceps Mushroom Powder
1 Cup Oraganic Coconut Sugar
1 Cup Organic Ground Cacao Nibs
1 Cup Organic Macca Powder
Mix ingrediants together and store it in an air tight glass jar.
This powder can be blended in a smoothy, sprinkled on your meusli or added to a soothing cup of hot chocolate. It has a nutty, bitter Chocolate flavour so can also enhance cooking. I made my mama her fav rice pudding with coconut cream and sprinkled it in the top. It was super delish! I was so incredibly happy to see her lift the spoon which is usually quite challenging for her. Extra bonus. I was on a huge natural high after I ate my Chocolate inspired Temple Powder. A very happy Friday.
Prior to this week I had already started on my investigation into chocolate – call it a chocoholic hobby! I had been introduced to the beautiful benefits and taste of the Remarkable Chocolate Co – the family owned business of Mark McCutcheon and Tracy Melville-Smith. The time, care and thought that they have put in is immense, in fact I loved it so much I am now part of the Remarkable team doing tastings for everyone to try at Farro Fresh and Nosh. This weekend I am at Farro Ponsonby, on Saturday 11-3pm and Farro Mt Wellington on Sunday 11-3pm. Please come and visit me one weekend to sample the best Chocolate for a Beautiful Mind.