The use of chocolate medicinally dates back at least 3,000 years. The health benefits have been linked to epicatechin, a flavanol found in the cacao bean (1), and current-day research supports its use for various health conditions. Making chocolate from 100% raw cacao beans is a fun way to experience the richness of the cacao beans, and gives full creative control over how much sugar to add.
Chocolate and Cardiovascular Heart Health
Epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that dark chocolate may have a beneficial effect on blood lipids (cholesterol), inflammation and blood pressure (1). Research has shown the beneficial cardiovascular effects come from the flavanols through their antioxidant effects. They also work via anti-inflammatory, anti-adhesive, anti-thrombotic and vasodilatory effects (2,3).
While the evidence supporting the benefits of chocolate is increasing, we don’t yet have any long-term randomized controlled trials (gold-standard in the world of research) on chocolate and cardiovascular health.
Chocolate and Mood
Chocolate is also believed to positively impact cognitive function and mood, with the proposed psychoactive components of chocolate being the flavanols and the methylxanthines (MXs) caffeine and theobromine (4). Several studies have shown an improvement in mood state or a reduction of negative moods with chocolate consumption.
Chocolate and Memory
The evidence from epidemiological studies is strong that there is a positive effect of chocolate on cognitive function, but evidence from clinical studies is limited and randomized controlled trials are lacking. Research on the effect of chocolate on mood and cognitive function is ongoing.
Chocolate and Antioxidants
Flavonoids in Chocolate
The main type of antioxidant flavonoids present in cacao beans is called flavanols. The more flavanols present, the higher the antioxidant content and the more potential health benefits:
Comparing flavonoid content in chocolate, per 30g serving:
- Milk Chocolate Bar – 4mg
- Dark Chocolate Bar (40-90% cocoa solids)– 32mg
- Baking Chocolate, unsweetened – 62mg
- Cocoa Powder, unsweetened – 81mg
- Cacao Beans – 103mg
Flavonoids In Other Foods
Flavonoids are more than just chocolate! There are more than 5000 different flavonoids, and six major flavonoid categories including flavanols, flavanones, flavones, isoflavones, flavanols, and anthocyanidins. The various subclasses are listed below, along with some common food and beverages with a substantial content of flavonoids (7):
- flavanols (catechin, epicatechin): chocolate, tea, red wine, beans, apricot, cherry, grape, peach, blackberry, apple
- flavanones (hesperetin, naringenin, eriodictyol): citrus fruits and juices
- flavones: (apigenin, luteolin): parsley, celery
- isoflavones: (daidzein, genistein): soy products
- flavanols: (quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin): onions, kale, broccoli, tomato, blueberry, apples, tea, red wine
- anthocyanidins (cyanidin, pelargonidin, peonidin, delphinidin, malvidin): blueberry, black grape, cherry, blackberry, black currant, rhubarb, strawberry, red wine, plum, red cabbage.
How Chocolate Is Made
Chocolate is made from cacao beans which come from the fruit of the tree Theobroma cacao, commonly found in Western Africa, Columbia, Mexico, Costa Rica and countries with similar climates. Cacao beans are fermented, roasted, ground and then separated into approximately 50% cocoa powder and 50% cocoa butter.
The chocolate that we commonly purchase in the grocery stores is made up of the separated cocoa powder and cocoa butter, which have been put back together and sometimes at differing ratios (the use of lecithin, a stabilizer, means that less cocoa butter is needed).
Dutch Cocoa vs Cocoa Powder
Additional processing of the cocoa portion of chocolate may include alkalinization, or dutching, to create a more mellow flavour that is less acidic, such as in Dutch Cocoa. Unfortunately, because of the processing, most of the flavanols from the cocoa have been removed. Regular Cocoa Powder has not undergone this additional processing and will, therefore, be higher in antioxidants.
Cocoa vs Cacao Powder?
While cocoa powder has undergone less processing than Dutch cocoa, cacao powder has undergone even less processing still. Cacao powder is exposed to less heat, and will, therefore, be higher in flavinol antioxidants compared to Cocoa Powder (and Dutch Cocoa).
All cacao beans are roasted after the fermentation of the bean. This is done to get rid of moisture and add even more complexity to the flavour, bringing out that rich chocolate flavour. This means that technically there is no such thing as ‘raw chocolate’ available for purchase. In this recipe for ‘100% Raw Chocolate,’ I am referring to firstly, no processing of the bean (the bean is completely whole and intact!), and secondly, no additional heat processing, which occurs with commercially prepared chocolate.
Sourcing The Cacao Bean
Look for high-quality, Fair Trade cacao beans. If you cannot find whole cacao beans at your local health food store – check online.
For this recipe, a food processor or high-speed blender such as a Vitamix is required. When I first started making this 100% Raw Two Ingredient Chocolate Recipe I used my food processor which worked fine, but the result was slightly more gritty chocolate (still delicious!). Now I like using my refurbished Vitamix, I find that it gets the cacao beans just a little bit more smooth (less gritty).
Important! Using Your Vitamix
When I first started using my Vitamix to make almond butters and raw chocolate I found that it would always overheat and the motor would stop. I would need to let it cool before resuming. After speaking with Vitamix what needs to be done to prevent overheating, is the speed of the motor needs to be turned up to the highest speed relatively quickly. This ensures that the cooling fan kicks in, and your Vitamix motor will keep going.
Knowing When Your Chocolate Is Done
For the first 30 to 60 seconds, your beans will grind up and resemble fine sawdust or small flakes. Gradually, from the bottom up, you will see the cacao turning wet and darker. This is the formation of the chocolate! Keep blending until the entire mixture has turned this dark colour. You may need to use a tamper stick (or something else if you are using a food processor) to help make sure the mixture has mixed through.
Taste As You Go
No need to measure the sugar out if you don’t want to, I suggest just tasting as you go. Make sure to taste the 100% dark chocolate first (before adding any sugar), so you can get an idea of how far just a little bit of sugar goes.
What Sugar To Use
I always suggest cane sugar, as regular white sugar is made from sugar beets which is a genetically modified crop, likely contributing to pollution with unnecessary herbicides.
Raw Chocolate Recipe With Honey
I have never attempted making this recipe with honey or maple syrup, and I am not sure if it would work. If you did want to try, I would suggest letting it sit for a little longer, and know that the shelf-life will be decreased. As coconut sugar and date sugar are less sweet, you will likely end up needing to use more to get to your desired percentage of sweetness.
What Percentage Dark Chocolate
By weight, we can figure out exactly how dark our end product chocolate will be. If you like 90% dark chocolate, add only 10% sugar. If you prefer 80% dark chocolate, add 20% sugar.
How Much Sugar To Use For Raw Chocolate Recipe
Based on the weight of the cacao beans in this recipe of 450g for 3 cups:
- For 100% dark chocolate – Use 0 cups of sugar
- For 90% dark chocolate – Use 45g of sugar / ~ 1/8 cup of sugar
- For 80% dark chocolate – Use 90g of sugar / ~ 1/4 cup of sugar
- For 70% dark chocolate – Use 135g of sugar / ~ 2/3 cup of sugar
- For 60% dark chocolate – Use 180g of sugar / ~ 3/4 cup of sugar
Storing These Homemade Chocolates
Thanks to the naturally occurring cocoa butter they are stable at room temperature, so they can be left out on the counter in an airtight container. If you plan on keeping them for more than a week I would suggest storing them in the refrigerator. They also keep well in the freezer, just defrost slightly before consuming or they will be too hard to eat!
What To Use As A Chocolate Mold
I love using silicone chocolate molds. They make it easy to remove the finished chocolates. They come in many different shapes and sizes.
Raw Chocolate Bar Recipe
If you don’t have chocolate molds, I suggest just making a raw chocolate bar. Simply spread out the chocolate mixture evenly onto baking paper. Let set in the fridge for about 30 minutes before enjoying.
Spice it up as you like! Try a small pinch of salt or 10 drops of peppermint extract. For coffee lovers try 2 tbsp ground coffee. I also love them with 2 tsp of ground cinnamon.
Two Ingredient Raw Chocolate Recipe
- 3 cup cacao beans whole, organic
- 1/8-3/4 cup cane sugar (for 90 - 60% dark chocolate)
- To determine how much sugar to use consider how dark you like your chocolate. The 3 cups of cacao beans is 450g in weight. If you like 90% dark chocolate, then you will need 10% sugar, which is about 1/8 cup of sugar (10% of 450g is 45g of sugar). I prefer the pour and taste method, no measuring required.
- If you know how much sugar you are going to use ahead of time, blending the sugar in the Vitamix first will result in smoother chocolate. Simply measure out your sugar and add it to the blender and blend until a fine powdered sugar results. Remove the sugar from the Vitamix and set aside.
- Measure out your cacao beans into a Vitamix or food processor. Start blending at a low speed and then quickly move the speed up to as high as it goes. Keep blending until all the beans have broken down. Add the desired amount of sugar (and tastes as you go).
- You will notice the chocolate mixture start to moisten and darken hear the blade, and this will gradually start to spread up. Blend until the entire mixture has turned a dark colour and moist consistency. You may need to use the tampering device (Vitamix), or a spoon to push the mixture down towards the blades.
- Once the mixture is fully broken down into a chocolaty paste, taste and add more sugar if desired. Press the chocolate mixture into silicone molds. If you do not have molds, spread the mixture out onto a parchment paper lined baking tray to make thin chocolate bars.
- Let the mixture set in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Remove from molds and enjoy. Store in an airtight container on the counter for up to one week, or in the fridge for longer. Keeping them in the freezer will extend their shelf life.
References for Two Ingredient Raw Chocolate Recipe
1. Higginbotham E, Taub PR. Cardiovascular Benefits of Dark Chocolate? Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2015 Dec;17(12):54
2. Nijveldt RJ, van Nood E, van Hoorn DE, Boelens PG, van Norren K, van Leeuwen PA. Flavonoids: a review of probable mechanisms of action and potential applications. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Oct;74(4):418.
3. Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Nov 15;15(10):2779-811..
4. Scholey A, Owen L. Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2013 Oct;71(10):665-81.
5. Canadian Nutrient File, 2015 version [cited 2017 Jun 16].
6. United States Department of Agriculture database of the flavonoid content of selected foods. Release 3.1, 2013 [cited 2017 Jun 16].