First off, who needs a reason to eat chocolate… am I right? But here’s the thing. Yep. You knew there was a catch, didn’t you? You gorgeous thing, you! The catch is this. I’m not talking about chocolate that you find in your typical over-the-counter candy bars or snack items. Those typically have MILK chocolate which has a higher sugar content and less of cocoa. The chocolate I’m referring to is dark chocolate (85% cocoa or higher, if you can stand it).
See. Dark chocolate + cocoa are a source of flavonoids which are pretty freaking amazing… and in images of the brain via MRI, doctors have SEEN how cocoa intakes improves blood flow to the brain (particularly the hippocampus, aka. memory center).
I read this in the book, The Better Brain Solution by Steven Masley, M.D. who also stated that he recommended daily cocoa or dark chocolate for years as it “improves blood pressure levels as well as insulin sensitivity and it decreases the oxidation of cholesterol into artery plaque.”
What, the WHAT?!?
Here’s the thing, though, love. Do NOT confuse MILK chocolate with DARK chocolate… dark chocolate typically has at least 70-80% cocoa in it. Dark chocolate does taste a wee bit bitter compared to milk chocolate and that’s because dark chocolate has a heck of a lot less sugar in it!
Want to dive deeper into learning about the benefits of dark chocolate, then read on my friend… read on!
The Dark Side of Dark Chocolate …. because you should know ALL things, good + bad!
So. Now you know a wee bit about the goodness of dark chocolate… some key tips I focus on when purchasing MY weekly dark chocolate. And yes, I do purchase ONE dark chocolate bar a week from our local market. Here’s my tips:
PERCENTAGE: aim for 85% or higher of cocoa… with no added ingredients (ie. dates, coconut, cherries)
LABELS: make sure it states FAIR TRADE on the label and to take things a step further, aim to snag chocolate from cacao grown in South or Central America, since child labor/slavery isn’t an issue in those regions!
AMOUNT: I aim for 1-2oz of dark chocolate (or 2tbsp of dark, unprocessed cocoa powder) a day; however, I notice that just a small amount of dark chocolate (less than 2oz) kicks my craving for chocolate!
ADDITIVES: sometimes, the hubster likes to snag chocolate with added ingredients (ie. cashews, dates, coconut, cayenne, cherries), but I steer clear… just a personal preference.
WHEN I DON’T HAVE IT: there are TIMES when I don’t have chocolate and typically it’s on days when I know I have HIT my macronutrients/calories for the day… and I’m just indulging, let’s be real, right. Those days when I’m more EMOTIONALLY eating and not mindfully eating. You feel me? And on days when I have a headache because I’ve read that cacao can trigger migraines! YIKES!
These are just a few of my tips, but keep reading as I share with you some of my FAVORITE recipes (and you’ll be surprised how I use cocoa powder in my beauty routine. but that doesn’t count to my nutritional goals! HA!)
“Chocolate comes from cocoa beans which grows on trees... so, chocolate comes from plants. Basically, chocolate is a salad, right?”
The focus of this week is how I still have my chocolate while working on my overall wellness… You can take a glance at my overall wellness transformation progress here.
Okay. Now, I know a few folks will message me… asking about my favorite chocolate to snack on + I’ll be honest. When we moved to the PNW, we stumbled upon this health foods market that imports foods from ALL OVER. It’s freaking phenomenal.
There’s a section of the store which is dedicated to just chocolate… chocolate bars, chocolate covered nuts, chocolate with alcohol, chocolate with fruit, chocolate squares, chocolate covered expresso beans (which I do enjoy!).
Anywho. Each week, we make a special trip to this store to stock up on some “fancy” items and snag mama’s chocolate bar for the week. I have been trying a new brand each week since we moved here in November. However, one brand we use to snag was the Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate Bar.
I’ll admit when branching out into dark chocolate, it wasn’t an immediate “liking” to dark chocolate. The bitterness (or lack of sugar) was something I had to build up towards UNLIKE the hubster who went from 60% chocolate to 90% chocolate with no hesitation.
Me? It was a wee bit different… I started with the 70% chocolate first then the next week I went a wee bit higher into the cacao content until I was able to enjoy the 85% cacao without the “grimace” on my face.
Alright… onto some recipes!
These are some of our FAVORITE cookies to make in our household. So, when the Gillies start asking for “cookies”, I typically whip this recipe out: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip cookies.
Loaded with healthy fats, dark chocolate… plus, they are gluten free. My hubster’s grandma was super impressed I could make cookies without using flour… actually, I think she had doubts based on her facial expression when she spotted me whipping these up one day.
But, she did enjoy ‘em!
So ridiculously delicious, Gillies-approved and MawMaw approved. Triple Win!
Now. Cute story, the other day I was whipping up this recipe (which I found a similar version in the cookbook, Keto Quickstart!)… continuing with the cute family story. I was laying out all the ingredients for our smoothie and talking to the Gillies (our 5yr old twins) about what we were going to make.
While I was walking over to grab the blender to whip up our smoothie, our little miss yelled “WAIT!” And I just looked at her…. “mama, I need to grab your camera” she replied. Slightly confused, I asked “Why?”. Her response was priceless, “so we take a photo. look at all these healthy foods. our friends need to see this recipe!”
Seriously. How cute is that? if your littles every say anything SUPER cute… I would absolutely love to hear! Just drop me a note and share with me what they said and how much it made your heart simply BURST!!!
For your viewing pleasure, here’s a glimpse of little miss’s food photo…. just for you. Enjoy!
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp of cacao powder
2 tbsp of ground flax seeds
1 scoop of grass-fed collagen
we are currently using: Vital Proteins
2 scoops of vegan vanilla protein powder
6 medium strawberries
dash of cinnamon
Personally, I add the almond milk FIRST to “measure” it on the bottom then toss everything together in the blender. Some folks have a system… but unless I’m adding leafy greens to the mix. It all gets tossed together with no true system.
BLEND until mixed thoroughly… you may consider adding ICE if you want a colder and less thick smoothie.
Add your TOPPINGS of choice. We opted for unsweetened coconut flakes and a strawberry. NOTE: I would refrain from adding the coconut flakes on the next one because it clogged up the straw and our little ones weren’t too keen on that! I liked it, but for the wee ones… skip the coconut flakes and add something else!
Now. I bet you are wondering… wait, I thought you said you use it in your beauty routine?!? Well, hold on grasshopper… here’s how!
You see for awhile now, I’ve skipped purchasing dry shampoo over-the-counter and just made my own. It’s definitely cheaper than store bought... works great + smells so good!
You can click HERE to snag the recipe; however, it’s super simply just some organic arrowroot flour and a wee bit of essential oils. Pending on if my darker roots are showing, I’ll add in some cacao powder. Super simple!
I almost forgot... I’ll be hosting a “3 Day Video Series” for our Brain + Gut Health community! We will be diving deep into how the products we use on our skin/face/hair, etc effect our health + alternatives we can use!
Just click the button below for details + snag your complimentary workbook!
Did you know that dark chocolate was one of the foods we talked about in my NO BRAINERS MASTERCLASS! It was actually called, Amber’s NO BRAINERS!
Hello, hilarious title! Anywho. The Masterclass was called “Amber’s No Brainers” because we talked about foods that stood out to me while our family was on a journey towards a healthier brain + gut.
These foods are ones, we TRY (keyword with twin 5yr olds) to have each day or at least multiple times a week. I shared my tips on selecting these items, what I've read that made me "pause" and put these foods in our grocery cart AND give you a menu to use!
If you want to take a glimpse at my “NO BRAINERS” food items, then click the button to read on!
AMBER'S MASTERCLASS ON ON "NO BRAINERS"
Now to dive into a few other things, I am loving this week during our wellness transformation include:
RECIPES: Sweet Potato Noodles
Love. I’m not a HUGE fan of pasta… but there’s something about these sweet potato noodles which make me want to make them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. You would need a veggie peeler or a spiralizer to make these but it’s so worth it. Top it off with garlicky shrimp or tomato sauce and meatballs… or better yet, sauteé some chopped brussels with a droopy egg and a wee bit of avocado. YUMMY! Okay… now, I’m just making myself hungry!
SELF CARE TOOL: Dry Brushing
Alright, love. How can you not be a fan of dry brushing and the simple luxury of taking 5 minutes before you shower to shed some "dead skin cells" and reduce the blemishes on our thighs. Bueller? Bueller? Anywho. Dry Brushing is our beauty tip for February’s NO BRAINERS issue. CLICK HERE TO SNAG YOUR COPY OF NO BRAINERS!
I mentioned this book last week and it’s one I’m still reading… as stated before, it’s all about how to start NOW with reversing and preventing insulin resistance of the brain. Plus, sharpen your cognitive function and avoid memory loss. There are so many good takeaways… with tips on eating leafy greens, drinking a cup of coffee and even meditation! Definitely a must-read!
Thank you for taking a glance of my 2019 wellness transformation and what I am loving, like Hello, DARK CHOCOLATE! Now, I would love to hear from you. Are you on a wellness journey yourself? Are you focused on a WORD of intention this year? And what steps are you taking to make sure you are not living the same chapter each year? Fill free to drop it in the comments below or in our community!
If you want to follow our crazy adventures more, I go a wee bit deeper in our Brain + Gut Health Explorers community. Otherwise, stay in the loop with snippets here where I’ll share next week some of our favorite recipes and workouts that I’m following to keep exploring health hacks to live one’s most vibrant + productive life!
Because the more you know, the more you can grow…
love + gumption.
Brain + Gut Health Explorer