Hey, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
You can eat chocolate without feeling guilty ever again. My afternoon indulgence is a piece of homemade dark chocolate (Almond Sea Salt Bark), a recipe by JJ Virgin. Not only is it ridiculously delicious, but you can thoroughly enjoy the bark’s health benefits.
To be considered dark chocolate, it needs to be at least 75% cacao content (not to be confused by the less healthy cocoa). I prefer 85% by Pascha. It’s organic and free from peanuts, dairy, soy, eggs, and gluten. And chock full of taste.
Onto the benefits:
Better brain function– Yes, cocoa and chocolate have high levels of flavanols which are proven to enhance cognitive function and blood flow to the brain. Maybe that’s why I enjoy a piece in the afternoon when my brain feels fried.
Protection from disease-causing radicals – The high levels of antioxidants help us remain healthy. Dark chocolate is one of the ten top foods for antioxidant levels so, believe it or not, this delicious indulgence is a super food.
Improve heart health – Flavanols also help lower LDLs and raise HDLs, which means you lower your risk of heart disease.
Skin protection – This one floored me. I love being outdoors, so this hits home for me. A study showed that after eating flavanol-rich chocolate daily, after twelve weeks the patients’ UV exposure decreased by at least 25% and their skin was thicker. In effect, this means more chocolate, fewer wrinkles.
Lower blood pressure and blood sugar – Small amounts of dark chocolate have been shown to help hypertensive diabetics lower their blood pressure. It also helped them reduce their fasting blood sugar.
Here is JJ Virgin’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Bark (with a twist of Gina)
1/3 cup raw almonds
4 ounces dark chocolate, 70% or higher I swear by Pascha 85% Cacao.
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt I use less.
I add a sprinkling of raisins – when I am craving sweets.
Dark chocolate may be an acquired taste, but the health benefits make it worth it. I find a little piece of this bark will save you from searching for sweets.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the nuts in a single layer on a second large baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Coarsely chop and set aside.
Break the chocolate into the tiles and place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 15 second intervals while stirring. Stir in the rest of the chocolate until melted. Add the chopped nuts and raisins (if so desired).
Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a thin layer. Lightly sprinkle the sea salt over top and refrigerate till it sets.
Then gently break into smaller pieces and store in the refrigerator.