COCOA PODS GROWING ON THE TREE
Like many people today, my life is really busy with kids, work, house, garden, dogs, etc. I like to cook and I do quite a bit of it. My refrigerator is always filled with ingredients and left-overs. But you can have a full refrigerator, and still need to find time to eat. There are some days, at least once a week, when I am running around, seeing patients, returning phone calls, dashing over to the hospital, picking up the kids, swinging by the store for something that I need for dinner, when there is just not enough time to sit down and eat. (Caveat: Optimal support of digestive health, not to mention gracious living, would call for a schedule that included time to sit down peacefully for a meal, but given my current reality, this is my adaptation.)
On those crazy days, there is a convenient snack, a homemade chocolate, that I make from equal parts raw cocoa and virgin coconut oil. Since coconut oil melts at 70 degrees, it must be kept frozen and eaten directly out of the freezer. That’s the only down side. You cannot put it in your pocket and eat it later. Instead of consuming protein bars or some other processed packaged food which is actually expensive and often contains undesirable and unpronounceable ingredients, I make this simple snack myself. It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and freezes very quickly. I sweeten the chocolates with a little piece of unsulfered dried fruit like a blueberry, or a piece of a cherry.
I have tried other sweeteners such as honey and stevia, but they each have their drawbacks, and I have come to really like the unsweetened flavor of the chocolate with the bit of dried fruit. Honey does not freeze well, and stays sticky and messy, and I never liked Stevia. I always thought that there was something unpleasant about the taste, until I discovered NuNaturals White Stevia Powder. Its actually good and works well in the chocolates. But since I am following the GAPS diet, Stevia in this white powdered form is considered a processed food, and therefore not included in the diet. In addition, this stevia powder also contains maltodextrin, a “flowing agent” derived from grain. (Stevia leaf would be permitted on the GAPS diet). Cocoa is included on the Full GAPS diet, if there are no longer digestive issues such as diarrhea.
I like the way these chocolates taste and the way they make me feel. They give me a calm steady energy and I feel satiated. I may eat 4 or 5 of them, and then I am good to go for hours until I can sit down for dinner. I also like the fact that the majority of the calories in this snack come from a healthful fat which supports my immunity and which is extremely rich in anti-oxidents and minerals.
A bit of cocoa history:
In 1753, the tropical cocoa tree was dubbed Theobroma Cacao, “Food of the Gods”, by the Swedish physician and botanist, Linnaeus. The Aztecs used cacao beans as currency and as food and drink for the privileged. Spaniards introduced the drinking of chocolate to Europe. Those who could afford it, used chocolate as a tonic and medicinal remedy.
Cocoa is very high in flavanoids, an anti-oxident, and the mineral magnesium. Flavanoids are phytonutrients, substances that are found in plants which fulfill many functions. Phytonutrients, the chemicals that help plants defend against environmental challenges, such as damage from pests or ultraviolet light, appear to provide humans with protection as well. Some studies have shown their effectiveness in preventing and treating a range of conditions, including everything from cancer and heart disease to diabetes and high blood pressure.
It is best to use raw cocoa, rather than processed, “Dutched” or alkalinized, as the beneficial flavanoids maybe lost in processing. Even a super dark chocolate bar made from 90 % cocoa maybe devoid of the flavenoid benefits if the cocoa has been processed.
Magnesium is a mineral that is typically deficient in our modern diets, and essential to our health. It supports the functioning of the immune system, the cardiovascular and nervous system, digestion, blood sugar regulation, bone health, muscle function and is involved in myriad biochemical functions throughout the body. Its hard to get enough of it without supplementation.
The scientific name for coconut is Cocos nucifera. The plant was called coco by the early Spanish explorers. Coco means “monkey face” because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resembles the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means “nut-bearing.”
Coconut oil is also an extremely nutritious food. It is composed of medium chain fatty acids called lauric acid. The only other abundant source of lauric acid is in human breast milk. Lauric acid is very supportive and protective of the infant’s immature immune system. These vital fatty acids have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties.
Dietary fats come in the form of triglycerides, each containing three fatty acid chains. These chains can be anywhere from 2 – 22 carbon atoms long. Most of the fatty acids in Western diets are long chain, with 12 or more carbon atoms in the chain. Medium chain fatty acids have between 6 and 10 carbon atoms. Because of their shorter length they are metabolized differently. They enter the blood stream faster and are taken directly to the liver, where they are used as an immediate source of energy. Less MCTs are converted to fat than longer fatty acids.
Another source of medium chain triglycerides is palm oil. I just listened to a fascinating podcast on Sean Croxton’s Underground Wellness about this other extremely nutritious tropical oil. Palm oil is very rich in Vitamin E and carotenoids, which possess Vitamin A activity. Sean interviewed Bruce Fife, who wrote a book called The Palm Oil Miracle. I ordered some virgin red palm oil after listening to the podcast, and will try to make my chocolates with it. I don’t know yet how it will taste. I will let you know.
Here is the recipe for the chocolates:
Equipment: Silicone Ice Cube Tray
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil
2/3 cup raw cocoa
any unsulfered dried fruit: dried blueberries, very small pieces of dried cherries, raisins, pieces of dried prunes, whatever you like.
Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan and mix in the cocoa. Put a piece of dried fruit in each of the ice cube tray compartment. Fill the compartment with the melted coconut oil-cocoa mixture. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Blog linked with Healthy Home Economist, Real Food Wednesday
Made these yummy, healthy treats today! Shared ther recipe and your blog with my sister.
Thanks for all your helpful tips for health and well being!
You are most welcome! So glad you think they are yummy.
OMG, this is an AWESOME snack!!!
I filled my tray with lots of dried cranberries, almond slivers, sunflower seeds and some with shaved coconut. I found if you put a layer of melted chocolate down then drizzle it with honey and cover with another layer of chocolate its not as sticky.
Thank you Dr. Tsafrir for sharing all your great suggestions!
I am delighted that you like it! Your idea to put the chocolate around the honey is a really good one. Its so great when something delicious is also healthful.
Erin Pietrak says
They look delicious! Can’t wait til I’m on full GAPS.
Ruth @ Ruth's Real Food says
Apropos histamine, can the GAPS diet have any effect on that?
I can live just fine without molasses and kombucha, but is there a way to get to the root of this and stop myself from having a histamine reaction?
Its so heartening to hear about all the improvements you have experienced with GAPS. Just wonderful.
I have a chronic histamine thing going on that manifests as chronically low blood pressure, so that when I stand up or do yoga, I get light headed. Doctors always misguidedly congratulate me on my low blood pressure, not understanding that it is not a marker of good health at all. I understand the presence of histamine to be a reflection that there is some way that my immune system is being triggered. My hope is that with the healing process from the GAPS protocol, that eventually my immune system will calm down and that I will no longer experience this issue. So maybe down the road for you, after more healing, you can try Kombucha again. I love Kombucha. I hope you are able to one day enjoy it again.
Ruth @ Ruth's Real Food says
Thanks for the kind words. I wouldn’t say that GAPS has exactly caught on here. I only know of 2 people here in Israel who are doing GAPS – my son and I. There are some a few WAP people here that I know about.
Improvements are oh, so many. I’m no longer always cold, all over low-level joint pain (which would no doubt develop into something bothersome in the years to come) disappeared. Infrequent but terrible IBS attacks comepletely stopped, daily sneezing and nose blowing gone.
There have been many nice little cosmetic changes. My ugly fingernails are less ugly. One day I absentmindedly glanced in the mirror and was pretty shocked to see that my eyes were greener. They’ve remained that way. BTW, I think my son’s eyes are now bluer, since starting GAPs. … I could go on.
Ruth @ Ruth's Real Food says
Yes, the molasses snack was pre-GAPS. Cleaning up my diet (something between WAP and Paleo) has brought lots and lots of benefits. With both molasses and kombucha, I added them to my diet and they were ok for a while and then I realised they were making my itch. I was actually enjoying my molasses treats and the kombucha.
I’m going to look raw cocoa in the health food store and try making your version of the snack.
I just went to your website. Its just lovely. I love the simplicity and design of it and the message. I think its great the way you are teaching people to cook. Its a lost art and is so essential to good health, not to mention a rich and beautiful uniquely human activity. I was also so interested to learn that you are writing from Israel, so that GAPS has apparently caught on there as well. Is the Weston A Price philosophy well know there?
I would be curious to know what benefits you saw from changing your diet. Probably there is something in the molasses and kombucha that caused release of histamine, and thus the itching.
Ruth @ Ruth's Real Food says
So glad I read this post. I’m on GAPS now and I was sure chocolate was forbidden. Life just got a little bit better 🙂
I used to make a similar snack using equal quantities of coconut oil, molasses (high in minerals), and then either cocoa, peanut butter, or tahini paste. I gave it up because the molasses made me itch. This combo only needs to be kept in the fridge.
A number of other foods, like kombucha, also make me itch. I’m hoping that after GAPS this will go away but I’m not sure this specific reaction has anything to do with gut dysbiosis. Any thoughts?
Good luck with the new blog!
Thanks for the good wishes.
Its really curious the itching with molasses. I assume this was prior to starting GAPS. Your reaction to kombucha is also really interesting. I wonder what it could be. The whole issue of food sensitivities is fascinating, and I have felt heartened by Dr. Natasha’s experience that they often can be healed with GAPS, but apparently not always. I am just about to get to work writing my next blog post about my own experience with eggs. I will address your question in my next blog post.
jean finch says
I have been making this with dried coconut, crispy nuts, vanilla, cocoa and coconut oil. I have poured it into a glass container and stored in fridge. We have tried honey, and stevia and I agree they do not work that well. also the glass container is not as convienant as that ice tray looks! Where do I buy raw cocoa? This is such a great idea!
I am so glad that you found the idea of the ice trays helpful. I get my raw cocoa from Wilderness Family Naturals.
cannot wait to try this – I know it will be superb!
I looked at your 16 Balls in the Air blog. I love the juggling motif.
I’ve tasted Judy’s deilcious on-the-go snack, and they are as good as she promises. Thanks for the recipe and all of the background information.
So sweet of you to vouch for my chocolates!
I love the simplicity of this recipe! And yes, the silicone trays work well for tomato paste. Much neater than blobs on a cookie sheet!.
IKEA (if there’s one near you) carries a variety of silicone ice cube trays in cute designs (much better for candy than ice cubes I think.)
That is just great to know about IKEA carrying those silicone trays. Thanks for letting me know that. It is such a simple recipe, and it is so delicious and good for you.
Judy, where can you buy those trays, this looks like a great snack, and sweet when you have a craving. I do give my kids gluten free energy bars, but they might like this instead!
I think I bought that tray at a grocery store, but I can’t remember where. I did see them available on-line at a site Called Optimal Health Network for five dollars. Here is the link
Its a great snack. I think you would have to use more dried fruit for the children in order for them to find them sweet enough. Maybe dates. If you were not doing GAPS you could try the NuNatural Stevia I mentioned. Its actually really good. Maybe also you might reduce the proportion of cocoa to coconut oil. They are extremely chocolately which might too much for a kid’s palate. Maybe instead of equal parts cocoa and coconut oil maybe try 2/3’s oil and 1/3 cocoa. You could experiment and see what works. I would be interested in hearing back about what you discover.
The new blog looks great. Love the suggestion to use silicone-bottomed ice cube tray for making chocolates.
The silicone ice cube trays really work beautifully. The chocolates just pop out easily and the clean up is a breeze. Your comment made me think that there are probably a lot of other great uses for these trays, like freezing tomato paste or small amounts of stock. They have a lot of potential.