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Double Chocolate Brownies

July 1, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll almost certainly relate to this scenario. Diet or no diet, there comes a time in every chocoholic’s life when they throw caution to the wind and succumb to the powerful temptation of a rich, decadent brownie or two. In the eyes of cocoa devotees, brownies are everywhere. You’ll see them in bakeries, mail order catalogs and even health food stores. And sadly, denial and willpower only take you so far. In those instances where a brownie simply cannot be denied, consider making this healthy reinvention that you can truly feel good about enjoying.

This brownie recipe doesn’t taste like a stereotypical health food brownie. You’d never know that it’s dairy free, gluten free and low in carbohydrates. That’s part of the fun of making this type of treat. You can share it with the people you care about and later inform them that they unknowingly ate something that was actually nutritious. This even works with kids. Or, you can keep it your own little secret.

In order to transform a conventional, refined grain and sugar laden brownie into something genuinely health promoting, you’ll need to swap out several ingredients. Start by ditching the wheat flour in favor of almond  meal. Instead of using a milk chocolate base, opt for non-alkalized, organic cocoa powder. Next, skip the butter by using full fat, organic coconut milk. Finally, employ an all natural sugar substitute in place of caloric sweeteners such as agave syrup, evaporated cane sugar and honey.

Unrefined cocoa provides an excellent source of antioxidants, dietary fiber and magnesium. Study after study indicates that this form of dark chocolate supports a healthy cardiovascular system via improvements in circulation, inflammation, lipid levels and oxidative stress status. But, the key to accessing these health benefits is to select cocoa products that haven’t been “mellowed” using a process known as alkalinization or Dutching. Valuable antioxidants including catechins and procyanidins are lost during this common processing technique. Be sure to check labels before buying your cocoa ingredients. (1,2,3)

The rationale for replacing butter or cream with organic coconut milk is found squarely in the scientific literature. Recent studies reveal that coconut milk and oil may: a) elevate HDL (“good”) cholesterol and reduce waist circumference in women; b) lower oxidative stress in the energy producing portion of heart cells or mitochondria; c) offer protection against liver and ulcer damage in experimental animal models. (4,5,6,7,8)

Healthy Fellow Double Chocolate Brownies

1 cup almond flour/meal
1 cup organic coconut milk
3/4 cup Truvia (stevia blend)
1/2 cup organic cocoa powder
4 large organic, omega-3 eggs
3 Tbs 60% semisweet chocolate chips
1 Tbs organic apple cider vinegar
2 tsp organic vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp org. instant coffee

Nutritional Content: Calories: 110. Protein: 4 grams. Fat: 9 grams. Fiber: 2 grams. “Net” Carbohydrates: 3 grams. Based on a serving size of one brownie. There are 16 brownies per batch.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Sift the dry ingredients (almond flour, baking soda, cocoa and coffee powder, sea salt and stevia) into a large bowl. Stir well before adding the wet components (apple cider vinegar, coconut milk, eggs and vanilla). Use an electric mixer to blend the ingredients until completely smooth. Grease a 9″ x 9″ pan. Pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly on top of the brownie batter. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes. Start checking for doneness at the 25 minute mark. I always use a wooden toothpick as a guide – poke it in the center of the brownie pan, if it comes out reasonably clean it’s time to take the pan out of the oven. We like our brownies a little “gooey”. I suggest refrigerating any leftovers you may have.

Cocoa Flavanols Provide a Wide Array of Health Benefits

Source: Eur Heart J (2010) 31 (13): 1554-1556. (link)

In reality, you could successfully use many varieties of nut “flours” in this recipe. But, in the spirit of trying to put together the heart healthiest treat possible, I decided on almond meal in particular. Almonds are a veritable powerhouse of cardioprotective substances. They’re abundant reservoirs of arginine (an amino acid), essential nutrients (calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin E), and also provide a fair share of plant based protein. In addition, almonds possess a class of compounds known as phytosterols, which naturally lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. A just published trial examined the cholesterol lowering effects of three natural agents: almonds, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and walnuts in a group of 18 hypercholesterolemic patients. All three demonstrated some degree of benefit, but almonds outshined its two competitors. Eating almonds over a 4 week period lead to a decline in LDL cholesterol of 13.4% compared to 10.8% for walnuts and 7.3% for EVOO. Another advantage of using almond flour in deserts is that it blunts post-consumption blood sugar spikes. (9,10,11)

Everything I’ve written up to this point is for naught if the brownies don’t taste good. Bar none, I think these brownies taste great. As some of you may already know, Mrs. Healthy Fellow isn’t a big fan of most stevia sweetened products and recipes. Having said that, she LOVED these brownies, stevia and all. I’ve been keeping count in the refrigerator! Another point of note is that I tested my blood sugar before and after eating a few of these brownies. My starting blood sugar was 83 mg/dL. After 30 minutes, my blood sugar was 84 mg/dL. At the one hour mark, it chimed in at only 87 mg/dL. These are fantastic figures and offer proof positive that delicious desserts can, in fact, be recreated in ways that promote wellness rather than detract from it.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Food and Drink, Nutrition, Recipes

13 Comments & Updates to “Double Chocolate Brownies”

  1. Kelly Says:

    I knew when I saw that post with that lovely chocolate brownie that you would have a healthy recipe for me to try – thank you. I’ll give it go. Not big on the stevia myself, so I will have to substitute honey or something there. Love the coconut milk in the ingredient list, yum.

  2. Bridget Says:

    I am SO trying this! Kelly…do yourself a favor and try another natural sweetener with a lower glycemic index. Have you tried erythritol? It’s about 70% as sweet as glucose, so you may have to adjust quantity, but it’s as close to 0 on the glycemic scale as you can get, and comes from natural sources and it’s particularly synergistic with chocolate…and works well in combination with other sweeteners. Try some different varieties of stevia, including liquid, in your baking (if you get a ‘bitter’ taste from tasting it straight up) and you may be surprised about how they’ve ‘mellowed’ the taste and sweetness.

  3. JP Says:

    Thank you, Kelly and Bridget!

    I hope you both enjoy it as much as we do. We’re making another batch this weekend! 🙂

    Be well!


  4. anne h Says:

    Love the vinegar – never saw that one coming!

  5. JP Says:

    Thanks, Anne. 🙂

    The combination of baking soda and vinegar adds some airiness or lift to the recipe. Otherwise the brownies might be a bit too dense … if that’s possible. 😉

    Be well!


  6. Karen Says:

    These are so close to “real” brownies!! So good with a spoonful of low carb ice cream on them that my college aged daughter who is home for 3 weeks has wanted me to bake them over and over. (I think this is the 3rd batch!) Gave samples to some of my co-workers who are running out to buy almond flour and coconut milk. Thanks for a great recipe!

  7. Karen Says:

    P.S. I used ZSweet (erythritol/stevia) instead of Truvia and it worked out well.

  8. JP Says:


    I loved hearing that! Thanks so much for letting me know! 🙂

    Also, it’s good to know about your success using ZSweet. I’ve yet to try it in our test kitchen. But, I’ll get around to it sometime soon. It’s always helpful to have as many different options as possible.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Another reason to enjoy these brownies regularly … they protect your cardiovascular system during times of stress:


    Thromb Haemost. 2014 Sep 11;112(6).

    Effects of dark chocolate consumption on the prothrombotic response to acute psychosocial stress in healthy men.

    Flavanoid-rich dark chocolate consumption benefits cardiovascular health, but underlying mechanisms are elusive. We investigated the acute effect of dark chocolate on the reactivity of prothrombotic measures to psychosocial stress. Healthy men aged 20-50 years (mean ± SD: 35.7 ± 8.8) were assigned to a single serving of either 50 g of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate (n=31) or 50 g of optically identical flavonoid-free placebo chocolate (n=34). Two hours after chocolate consumption, both groups underwent an acute standardised psychosocial stress task combining public speaking and mental arithmetic. We determined plasma levels of four stress-responsive prothrombotic measures (i. e., fibrinogen, clotting factor VIII activity, von Willebrand Factor antigen, fibrin D-dimer) prior to chocolate consumption, immediately before and after stress, and at 10 minutes and 20 minutes after stress cessation. We also measured the flavonoid epicatechin, and the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine in plasma. The dark chocolate group showed a significantly attenuated stress reactivity of the hypercoagulability marker D-dimer (F=3.87, p=.017) relative to the placebo chocolate group. Moreover, the blunted D-dimer stress reactivity related to higher plasma levels of the flavonoid epicatechin assessed before stress (F=3.32, p = .031) but not to stress-induced changes in catecholamines (p’s=.35). There were no significant group differences in the other coagulation measures (p’s≥.87). Adjustments for covariates did not alter these findings. In conclusion, our findings indicate that a single consumption of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate blunted the acute prothrombotic response to psychosocial stress, thereby perhaps mitigating the risk of acute coronary syndromes triggered by emotional stress.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update: Enjoying dark chocolate judiciously can improve the health of overweight individuals …


    Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry – February 25, 2015

    Natural cocoa consumption: Potential to reduce atherogenic factors?

    Short-term consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa has been demonstrated to improve various facets of vascular health. The purpose of the present study was to determine the effect of 4 weeks of natural cocoa consumption on selected cardiovascular disease (CVD) biomarkers in young (19–35 years) women of differing body mass indices (BMI; normal, overweight or obese). Subjects (n=24) consumed a natural cocoa-containing product (12.7 g natural cocoa, 148 kcal/serving) or an isocaloric cocoa-free placebo daily for 4 weeks in a random, double-blind manner with a 2-week washout period between treatment arms. Fasted (>8-h) blood samples were collected before and after each 4-week period. Serum was analyzed to determine lipid profile (chemistry analyzer) and CVD biomarkers (26 biomarkers). EDTA-treated blood was used to assess monocytes (CD14, CD16, v11b and CD62L), while citrate-treated blood was used to measure changes in endothelial microparticles (EMPs; CD42a−/45−/144+) by flow cytometry. Natural cocoa consumption resulted in a significant decrease in haptoglobin (P=.034), EMP concentration (P=.017) and monocyte CD62L (P=.047) in obese compared to overweight and normal-weight subjects. Natural cocoa consumption regardless of BMI group was associated with an 18% increase in high-density lipoprotein (P=.020) and a 60% decrease in EMPs (P=.047). Also, obese subjects experienced a 21% decrease in haptoglobin (P=.034) and a 24% decrease in monocyte CD62L expression in (P=.047) following 4 weeks of natural cocoa consumption. Collectively, these findings indicate that acute natural cocoa consumption was associated with decreased obesity-related disease risk. More research is needed to assess the stability of the observed short-term changes.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 04/11/16:


    J Alzheimers Dis. 2016 May 6.

    Chocolate Consumption is Associated with a Lower Risk of Cognitive Decline.

    Cocoa-related products like chocolate have taken an important place in our food habits and culture. In this work, we aim to examine the relationship between chocolate consumption and cognitive decline in an elderly cognitively healthy population. In the present longitudinal prospective study, a cohort of 531 participants aged 65 and over with normal Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE; median 28) was selected. The median follow-up was 48 months. Dietary habits were evaluated at baseline. The MMSE was used to assess global cognitive function at baseline and at follow-up. Cognitive decline was defined by a decrease ≥ 2 points in the MMSE score between evaluations. Relative risk (RR) and 95% confidence interval (95% CI) estimates were adjusted for age, education, smoking, alcohol drinking, body mass index, hypertension, and diabetes. Chocolate intake was associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline (RR = 0.59, 95% CI 0.38-0.92). This protective effect was observed only among subjects with an average daily consumption of caffeine lower than 75 mg (69% of the participants; RR = 0.50, 95% CI 0.31-0.82). To our knowledge, this is the first prospective cohort study to show an inverse association between regular long-term chocolate consumption and cognitive decline in humans.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Updated 06/13/16:


    Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Jun 6.

    Effects of dark chocolate on NOX-2-generated oxidative stress in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

    BACKGROUND: Activation of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase is considered a pathogenetic mechanism determining fibrosis and disease progression in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Polyphenols exert antioxidant action and inhibit NADPH oxidase in humans.

    AIM: To analyse the effect of cocoa polyphenols on NADPH oxidase isoform 2 (NOX2) activation, oxidative stress and hepatocyte apoptosis in a population affected by NASH.

    METHODS: In a cross-sectional study comparing 19 NASH and 19 controls, oxidative stress, as assessed by serum NOX2 activity and F2-isoprostanes, and hepatocyte apoptosis, as assessed by serum cytokeratin-18 (CK-18) levels, were measured. Furthermore, the 19 NASH patients were randomly allocated in a crossover design to 40 g/day of dark chocolate (>85% cocoa) or 40 g/day of milk chocolate (<35% cocoa), for 2 weeks. sNOX2-dp, serum isoprostanes and CK-18 were assessed at baseline and after 2 weeks of chocolate intake.

    RESULTS: Compared to controls, NASH patients had higher sNOX2-dp, serum isoprostanes and CK-18 levels. A significant difference for treatments was found in subjects with respect to sNOX2-dp, serum isoprostanes and serum CK-18. The pairwise comparisons showed that, compared to baseline, after 14 days of dark chocolate intake, a significant reduction in sNOX2-dp serum isoprostanes and CK-18 M30 was found. No change was observed after milk chocolate ingestion. A simple linear regression analysis showed that ∆ of sNOX2-dp was associated with ∆ of serum isoprostanes.

    CONCLUSION: Cocoa polyphenols exert an antioxidant activity via NOX2 down-regulation in NASH patients.

    Be well!


  13. JP Says:

    Updated 09/17/18:


    Molecules. 2018 Sep 1;23(9).

    Daily Consumption of Chocolate Rich in Flavonoids Decreases Cellular Genotoxicity and Improves Biochemical Parameters of Lipid and Glucose Metabolism.

    In recent years, the incidence of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes has increased largely worldwide. In the present work, we evaluated the genoprotective effect of the consumption of flavonoids-rich chocolate on 84 young volunteers. Biochemical indicators related to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular risk and metabolic syndrome were also determined. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study was performed in the Autonomous University of Baja California. The treatments comprised the daily consumption of either 2 g of dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa, or 2 g of milk chocolate, for 6 months. The total amount of phenolic compounds and flavonoids was determined in both types of chocolate. Anthropometrical and Biochemical parameters were recorded prior to and after the study. The evaluation of the genotoxicity in buccal epithelial cells was performed throughout the duration of the study. Flavonoids from cocoa in dark chocolate significantly prevented DNA damage, and improved the nucleus integrity of cells. This effect could be related to the antioxidant capacity of the dark chocolate that decreased cellular stress. Biochemical parameters (total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-cholesterol level in blood) and anthropometrical parameters (waist circumference) were improved after six months of daily intake of 2 g of dark chocolate with a 70% of cocoa.

    Be well!


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