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Mood-boosting chocolate

As we enter winter, many folks are sharing with me in my work as a nutritional health coach that the shorter and darker days are impacting their mood. It’s not uncommon for folks living in the rainy northwest to experience SAD or “Seasonal Affect Disorder.” One of my favorite suggestions for supporting a healthy mood is chocolate! 

Cacao is chocolate in its purest form, and it is actually an amazing superfood, rich in antioxidants, mood-boosting feel-good chemicals, and minerals. Cacao powder and dark chocolate have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and reduce the levels of stress hormones. They also improve mood and contain magnesium which is a relaxing mineral. Cacao contains tryptophan which enhances relaxation. It contains phenylethylamine (PEA) which improves memory and mood as it induces acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin release. Cacao contains anandamide which improves mood and anxiety. I’m not talking about Hershey bars of milk chocolate, which are mostly chocolate-flavored sugar bars.  

We can enjoy chocolate in many forms, and there are healthy, organic, and Fairtrade (growers are fairly compensated) options almost everywhere we shop. We can enjoy chocolate in many ways:

Cocoa Powder: There are different cocoa powders out there. Raw cocoa powder comes from dried, fermented, and unroasted beans. The beans haven’t been roasted to extract all the cocoa butter, and some residual healthy fat remains. Roasted cocoa powder comes from fermented, roasted beans, which is lower in fat as a result of the roasting process. 

Cacao Nibs: Nibs are like chocolate gravel, unsweetened. You can add them to smoothies, granola, trail mix, eat whole, or grind to make your own liquor/powder. 

Liquor or mass: Cocoa liquor/mass is ground up cocoa nibs/beans in solid or semi-solid form. You can enjoy this straight up or use it to make your own chocolate treats.

Chocolate Bars/chips: The finished product. The percentage of cocoa in a bar (100%, 85%, 70%, etc) indicates the amount of cocoa mass and butter. An 85% chocolate bar is 85% cocoa mass and cocoa butter, 15% other stuff like lecithin, sugar, and flavorings such as vanilla. 


These tasty no-bake cookies are especially fun to make with kids! 


1/3 cup coconut oil

4 ounces 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate

3 tablespoons maple syrup 

1 tsp vanilla 

1 1⁄2 cups nut butter (such as almond butter)

1⁄4 cup flax meal or chia seeds 

1⁄2 cup dried naturally sweetened cherries 

4 cups mixer (coconut flakes, puffed rice cereal, 

almond slices, sesame seeds or combination) 


■ In a pan over low heat (or in a double boiler), melt coconut oil and chocolate. Add maple syrup and vanilla and mix well. 

■ In a medium bowl, stir chocolate mixture into nut butter. Stir in cranberries or cherries and flax meal or chia seeds, then gently mix in “mixer” of choice until completely coated. 

■ Drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 40 minutes. It is best to store these in the refrigerator.         Recipe: Natural Grocers



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