Anyone who knows me knows I love desserts – especially chocolate ones! So when I discovered I was pre-diabetic (a diagnosis I have since turned around with a plant-based diet), my first thought was "Oh no. NO MORE SWEETS."
That was before I understood how sugar raises insulin levels and which foods were the worst. There is a whole science behind this, but to simplify it, I like to think of it this way: any refined grains or sugars will spike insulin levels more than their whole food origin. So the more fiber a food has, the less it will spike your insulin.
Armed with this information, I went searching for whole food sweeteners. To my surprise, I learned that fruits like dates (with a glycemic load or GL of 50) and apples (GL40) could be used to replace refined sugar (GL75). The glycemic load of sweeteners like maple syrup (GL 54) and unrefined coconut sugar (GL54) have less impact than refined sugar, too, and they actually have some nutritional value. Along with replacing the refined sugars in my diet with unrefined ones, I also completely eliminated whole wheat bread (GL74) and a host of other insulin-spiking inflammation-causing foods.
In this process, I realized that a sweetener is only the second key ingredient to a wonderful dessert – for me, the first key ingredient is chocolate! And as I researched, I was delighted to discover that cacao beans (the unrefined origins of chocolate) are actually a superfood. The health benefits they offer, whether in the form of crushed cacao nibs or cacao powder, are numerous!
But don't get me wrong... the chocolate bars in the grocery store checkout lines aren't delivering the health benefits of the cacao beans they were made from. Just look at their ingredients lists. With sugar being the first thing listed on most chocolate labels, it's easy to see why this health food takes a turn for the worst at the hands of big food producers. When I embarked on the adventure of making my own chocolate treats, I knew I would have to put cacao first and only choose unrefined sweeteners that would enhance it's natural benefits and deliciousness.
At Nüssli118° we use raw cacao in all our chocolate products. That's where all the rich, fudgy, chocolatey flavor comes from. On its own it has a bitter, earthy, slightly acidic undertone. I have grown to love this taste, but it did take some getting used to at first. (Think of it like graduating from sweeter milk chocolate to more bitter dark chocolate.)
Here's is a short informative video explaining the process and the benefits of raw cacao vs. roasted cacao which is used by most big chocolate and candy companies. Raw cacao is fermented and then air dried to preserve its natural flavors and nutrients. It's naturally high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals – but when you roast it at high temperatures, those benefits are severely degraded.
Still need some convincing that a dessert made with raw cacao, unrefined sweeteners and no flour can be as decadent as the conventional alternative? Lucky for you, that's what we do at Nüssli118°! Pay us a visit in Cambridge, MA or place your online order today... I love converting dessert lovers like myself to the dark (chocolate) side ;)