Almond Cocoa Butter RecipeOctober 26, 2010 Written by JP [Font too small?]
As you may know by now, I rely on events in my life to help inspire the columns that I write on this site. I was recently asked about an apparent paradox relating to dark chocolate. A client asked me how cocoa could possibly be heart healthy when it contains natural stimulants such as theobromine. “Won’t that cause my blood pressure to rise?”. Today I’ll address that question and the larger issue of cardiovascular health and cocoa. I’ll also include a supremely simple recipe that I sometimes use to satisfy my dark chocolate fix.
Three recent studies appearing in prestigious medical journals are perhaps the best way to reassure ourselves and others that high quality cocoa actually promotes cardiovascular health. The latest is published in the September 2010 issue of Clinical Nutrition. An analysis of 4,970 adults of all ages (25-93 years) found that those consuming chocolate five or more times a week were 57% less likely to have coronary heart disease compared to those who didn’t eat chocolate at all. Another population-based study involving 31,823 women aged 48 to 83 determined that “moderate chocolate intake (1 to 2 servings per week) was associated with a lower rate of HF (heart failure) hospitalization or death”. Finally, a newly published review entitled, “Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Risk: What About Cocoa and Chocolate?” details that cocoa flavonoids seem to improve endothelial function and reduce blood pressure enough (-4.5mm Hg) to “decrease the risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality”. (1,2,3)
A quick note before I present the recipe that follows. There are many different types of cocoa powder on the market. You can find conventionally grown or organic, dry roasted or raw, Dutch processed or non, sweetened or unsweetened. The most recent scientific inquiry into the chemical composition of cacao beans and cocoa ingredients explains that there are advantages to both the raw and roasted varieties of cacao. Raw cocoa appears to contain higher levels of epicatechin, an antioxidant. On the other hand, roasting dramatically increases the levels of catechins. Therefore, either type of cocoa powder will likely yield health benefits. What should you avoid? Dutch processed cocoa products, which results in a loss of up to 98% epicatechin and 80% catechins. On a personal note, I always make sure to buy organic cocoa in order to reduce the potential pesticide burden and to support the health of cacao farmers. (4,5,6)
Almond Cocoa Butter
1 Tbs organic cocoa powder
2 Tbs almond butter *
1 oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk **
1 tsp organic instant coffee
1/2 dropperful liquid stevia ***
Nutritional Content: Calories: 200. Protein: 7 grams. Fat: 16 grams. Fiber: 4 grams. “Net” Carbohydrates: 5 grams.
Barney Butter Almond Butter * Blue Diamond Almond Breeze (refrigerated variety) ** NuNaturals Alcohol Free Stevia ***
Pour the almond milk into a large mixing cup. Add the almond butter, cocoa powder, coffee and stevia. Stir with a spoon until smooth. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for later use. Please note that refrigerating the mixture gives it a fudge-like consistency.
It’s important to remember that improving the health of the cardiovascular system almost always supports the function and structure of other systems throughout the body. A publication appearing in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology reports that drinking high-flavonol cocoa drinks may improve cognitive performance and mood in healthy adults. This finding is based on a crossover experiment which provided three different beverages to 30 healthy men and women on separate occasions: a) a control or placebo drink; b) a chocolate drink containing 520 mg of cocoa flavonols; c) a chocolate drink with 994 cocoa flavonols. Both of the cocoa beverages resulted in acute benefits relating to brain function (mental fatigue, “Rapid Visual Information Processing” and “serial subtraction tasks”). The noted improvements seem to be prompted by enhanced cerebral blood flow directly caused by the cocoa consumption. What’s more, the addition of a hint of coffee only adds to the cognitive and energy boosting properties of this recipe. (7,8.9)
Cocoa butter wasn’t exactly a staple in my household when I was growing up. In fact, the first time I tried it was when I made it myself a few weeks ago. The consistency and flavor of this almond cocoa butter lends itself well as a frosting for muffins, a filling for cookie sandwiches or as a stand alone ingredient such a soft serve ice cream. As you can imagine, it is rather rich and not just in terms of caloric content. This decadent dessert is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that support overall wellness in addition to satisfying your sweet tooth. There isn’t a wasted ingredient in it. However, what I like best about it is that it allows me to enjoy an occasional chocolaty treat that doesn’t seem as if it’s healthy at all. To my mind, that’s the best of both worlds.
Tags: Almonds, Cocoa, Stevia
Posted in Food and Drink, Nutrition, Recipes