Chocolate is not just for Easter. Try it for breakfast.
True confession: my love affair with chocolate began with Little Debbie Nutty Bars. You know, those long wafer-like cookies filled with fake peanut butter dipped in chocolate. Yes, I loved those crunchy bars of peanut butter wonder.
Heck, I was a kid. What did I know about chocolate?
There wasn’t a whole lot of chocolate in my childhood. My mother was on a perpetual diet and my grandmother, the cook in the family, had a proclivity for lemon. Lemon pie. Lemon cake. Lemon cookies. She must have been pining for the subtle scent of lemon trees that graced her childhood in Sicily.
Chocolate was for Easter Sunday. I remember the year I woke up at the crack of dawn and rushed into the living room to see what the Easter Bunny had left in my basket. There it was—a thick, creamy milk chocolate bunny, a foot tall, with crunchy candy eyes and a big pink satin ribbon tied around its sweet chocolaty neck. Baby blue Easter eggs, chewy gooey jellybeans, and dozens of foil-wrapped chocolate eggs surrounded him. But, oh no, WAIT! What was happening to his backside? It was caving in, being melted slowly by a blaze of sunlight streaming through the window.
I grew up in Buffalo, New York, where sunlight streaming through the window was a big deal. Snow was undoubtedly still on the ground. The Easter Bunny had probably arrived in a sleigh. I have a photograph of me in my purple lace Easter dress, sitting at the dining room table beside that disappearing bunny in a basket, arms folded across my chest, big blue eyes drooping sadly. It’s not a happy picture. No one messes with my chocolate, not even Mr. Sun.
Fast-forward many years. I’m now a culinary nutritionist, and sugar is getting a bad rap. Everywhere you look you see books like Sugar Blues, Sugar Shock, Suicide by Sugar, The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program. And once again I’m thinking, “They’d better not mess with my chocolate.”
Poor chocolate. This delectably sensuous treat has become the subject of so much controversy. First it’s touted as the best superfood on the planet: antioxidant-rich, serotonin boosting, better than sex chocolate. “Yes, I’ll have some of that!” But then, “Oh no, don’t believe a word of it. Chocolate has caffeine. There are insect parts hiding in each and every bar.”
What’s a body to do with all this conflicting information? Me? I’m a rebel at heart. I’ve studied with enough experts to know that scientists can make a case for or against anything. I’m choosing to stay with those promoting the health benefits of chocolate.
Here’s my take on cacao. It’s an extraordinary superfood, rich in antioxidants and minerals, and it doesn’t have to be laden with sugar to taste delicious. In fact, the best chocolate I’ve sampled, other than the unadulterated nib, is generally about 70% cacao. The best products come from organic cacao beans, fairly traded, preferably from Ecuador.
But even more important than antioxidants, minerals, and the quality of the bean are the rich and satisfying experiences associated with chocolate. Have you ever met a cranky chocolate lover?
So the next time you reach for a piece of beautiful dark chocolate, listen to the snap when you break the bar in half. Arrange it on a plate. Smell the aroma of the cacao bean. Make sure to clear your palette so that you can appreciate all the subtly complex flavors. After you take a bite, sit with it a minute to see if there is a second rush of flavor on your palette or in your throat. Notice the crunch of the nibs when you’re lucky enough to find a chocolatier who fancies those little crunchy wonders as much as you do.
Sometimes I put a piece of chocolate in my mouth and just let it melt, noticing every nuance as the flavor notes unfold. I encourage you to invest in the finest, purest chocolate you can acquire. Learn what it means to truly savor a treat. And the next time you’re looking for a way to include a healthy dose of cacao in your diet, try my signature Chocolate for Breakfast smoothie so that you, too, can enjoy a little guilt-free chocolate for breakfast.
Chocolate for Breakfast Smoothie
2 bananas (sliced and frozen)
2-3 leaves Swiss chard (no stems)
or romaine lettuce
8 oz filtered water
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon carob powder
1 tablespoon maca
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 ripe pear
Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender and enjoy!
Sue Ann Gleason, founder of Conscious Bites Nutrition, is a Washington, DC-based culinary nutritionist, dynamic eating psychology coach, speaker, and writer. Her entertaining, fact-filled articles on nutrition, healthful living, the psychology of eating, and the blissful benefits of chocolate have appeared in various publications as well as her own eco-friendly blog.
Sue Ann’s recipes, radiant life tips and reflections embody the concept: Dancing with Delicious. Her mission is to show people that a radiantly healthy lifestyle can be easy to achieve and delicious.
When not working with private clients, Sue Ann can be found sampling exotic chocolates or building broccoli forests in her mashed potatoes.
Follow Sue Ann on Facebook: Chocolate for Breakfast