Healthy and Indulgent Dark Chocolate Brownies

 

These brownies are a beautiful treat to reward yourself after an intense workout, a difficult day or for one of those days where you need some chocolate indulgence. Brownies are often associated with naughtiness but a healthy version of dark chocolate brownies made from scratch is both undoubtedly delicious and decadent. They have no refined sugars and they  contain healthy fats, fibre, protein, and antioxidants like  good quality dark chocolate. I had no dark chocolate in the house last sunday, so used dark organic cocoa powder instead and got them ready for the oven within minutes before the Master Chef finale !

Serves about 15

Time to prep: 10 mins

Time to bake :25-30 minutes

Ingredients :

28 g or about 5 ounces of high quality organic 60-70% cocoa dark chocolate

1/2 of organic coconut oil

2/3 of agave nectar

1/2 cup of ground almonds

A pinch  of maldon sea salt

1/4 cup of gluten free self raising flour or another type of flour you may prefer using

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

2 organic free range eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon of bourbon vanilla essence

Method :

Preheat your oven to 180-195 degrees Celsius. Line a square baking pan with parchment paper, or spread some coconut oil well with a kitchen towel.Aim for a baking pan of about 8 inch by 8 inch

Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, and stir gently. If using dry cocoa powder, then you can add it to the bowl with the other dry ingredients.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the agave nectar, almond flour, the gluten-free flour, Maldon sea salt, and baking soda. Make a well in the centre and add the beaten eggs, vanilla extract and melted chocolate mixture. Beat for about under 2 minutes long and allow the batter to come together .At first it will seem like a thin  cake batter but do continue to beat it until it becomes smooth .Spread the mixture evenly in the tray and with a spatula

Add cocoa nibs/ dark chocolate chips to the top of the brownie mix once in the tray, and press in lightly.

Bake in the centre for about 30 mins or until the brownies have set

Cool on a wire rack once ready

Allow to chill for 1 hr before cutting if you wish or have them warm and gooey with a cup of tea

For nutty dark chocolate brownies, add chopped hazelnuts or almonds in the mixture before baking

brownie bake

The wonderful powers of Magnesium

In an ideal world, our daily food consumption should provide us with the necessary organic minerals but a lot of us are deprived of this option not only because of our dietary habits. The intensive use of pesticides and nitrogen based fertilisers therefore means that plants grow fast and artificially, causing a depletion of the magnesium content. This directly affects us, as our health also depends on the fertility of our soil.

Magnesium is involved in about 300 enzymatic body processes that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body. These include muscle and nerve function, protein synthesis, blood glucose control, neurotransmitter activity (i.e chemical messengers’ activity in the brain), hormonal balance and blood pressure regulation. It is an abundant mineral and vital for every organ in the body.

Our body contains approximately 25 g of magnesium with 50 to 60 % present in the bones and most of the rest in soft tissues.

 

Magnesium plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across our cell membranes, an important process to the conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and a normal heart rhythm. Magnesium contributes to both the strength and formation of bones and teeth, and is required for several processes such as: for energy production (alongside other components); the synthesis of an incredible molecule called glutathione which supports our liver detoxification pathways, and above all it is required for the synthesis of DNA and RNA.

What about plants? Magnesium also has such an important role for photosynthesis! Without it, plants cannot capture the sun’s energy for photosynthesis. The mineral in plants is found in the enzymes, in the heart of the chlorophyll molecule, and the mineral is responsible for providing the leaves their beautiful green colour.

So which foods contain this wonder mineral? Animal and plant sources including wholegrains, nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables and legumes.

Recent data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey and the American National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed evidence of daily intakes being much lower than recommended amounts, in particular for magnesium, selenium and potassium. Being deficient in those minerals often leads on to profound cravings which are most commonly satisfied with high intakes of fast and processed foods, sugar and carbohydrates.

Unfortunately magnesium deficiency is one of most pronounced mineral deficiency. The industrial process involved in refining grains strips off the nutrient rich germ and bran, causing a significantly lower magnesium content. Other factors that can deplete us of magnesium, include: alcohol; medications such as diuretics, corticosteroids, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the contraceptive pill, proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole) and antibiotics; ageing, calcium supplements and bisphosphonates. A diet high in saturated fats also causes a reduction of magnesium in the intestines. Conditions which can affect magnesium status include poor digestive health, prolonged stress, poor kidney health, diabetes, heavy periods, irritable bowel disease or Chron’s disease. Intakes high in sugar also promote the excretion of magnesium via the kidneys. Whereas carbonated/fizzy drinks’ content of phosphates, bind to magnesium causing this new molecule to be unstable in the body and therefore having no good use.

On a regular basis, clients unknowingly present physical signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency. To name but a few: muscle spasms, anxiety, pre-menstrual symptoms related to hormonal imbalances, irritability, arrhythmias (irregular heart beat).Often subclinical symptoms are concealed by the lack of awareness and ability to distinguish the signs of magnesium deficiency from other health conditions/concerns. In particular when it comes to the diagnosis of depression, migraines, chronic fatigue and insomnia.

Beneficial intakes of magnesium have shown to be associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure, which correlates with a lower risk of coronary heart disease. Due to magnesium’s action in the digestive tract, it supports the breakdown of food and the assimilation of nutrients. It also supports the production of hydrochloric acid and bile. It is used commonly for postmenopausal osteoporosis where it supports calcium metabolism and bone formation

Overall, the best ways to obtain magnesium, is consuming it organically bound as we would find in whole foods. Magnesium can also be absorbed through the skin, through the use magnesium salts or magnesium oil. This is also a wonderful way of relaxing the nervous and musculoskeletal system with a bath or foot soak of magnesium salts.

Consulting a nutritional therapist is the best way to understand which form of magnesium may be useful for which symptoms and the therapeutic doses required to address these. It is best not to supplement without an in depth consultation where we delve deeper in what may affect your health status.

The data below was extracted from the ‘Magnesium Fact Sheet (2013) for Health professionals by the US department of Health and Human Sciences.

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Magnesium
Food Milligrams (mg) per serving Percent DV*
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 80 20
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup 78 20
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce 74 19
Peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup 63 16
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large biscuits 61 15
Soymilk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup 61 15
Black beans, cooked, ½ cup 60 15
Edamame, shelled, cooked, ½ cup 50 13
Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons 49 12
Bread, whole wheat, 2 slices 46 12
Avocado, cubed, 1 cup 44 11
Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces 43 11
Rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup 42 11
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces 42 11
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 10% of the DV for magnesium 40 10
Oatmeal, instant, 1 packet 36 9
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup 35 9
Banana, 1 medium 32 8
Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces 26 7
Milk, 1 cup 24–27 6–7
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces 24 6
Raisins, ½ cup 23 6
Chicken breast, roasted, 3 ounces 22 6
Beef, ground, 90% lean, pan broiled, 3 ounces 20 5
Broccoli, chopped and cooked, ½ cup 12 3
Rice, white, cooked, ½ cup 10 3
Apple, 1 medium 9 2
Carrot, raw, 1 medium 7 2

*DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for magnesium is 400 mg for adults and children aged 4 and older. However, the FDA does not require food labels to list magnesium content unless a food has been fortified with this nutrient. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.

Reference for this table of values and information can be found on

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ (accessed on 24/05/2015)

 

 

 

Spirulina Energy Balls

This is a recipe I have adapted and share regularly with clients. It Is low in glycaemic index with the source of sugars from fruits and agave nectar.It can be an ideal snack for you to carry, and has a content of protein and fibre in addition to the superfood ,spirulina.You can use them as a pre-workout snack or if you have a sweet tooth at 4pm. Flaxseeds from the family of lignans, have wonderful properties, supporting a healthy digestive tract and providing support to the endocrine system. They are not only high in ALA, a form of omega 3 fatty acids giving them  anti-inflammatory properties but are also high in anti-oxidants, thus help to protect against  health conditions(such high cholesterol levels, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer)

Ingredients :

1 cup of rolled oats

4 tablespoons of chopped medjool dates

1/4 cup of flaxseeds

1 teaspoon of spirulina powder (Organic burst)

1/2 cup of almond butter (Meridian)

2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil (allowed to cool down before adding to the mixture)

1 tablespoon of agave nectar

Method :

Combine the dates, almond butter, agave nectar and coconut oil in a food processor and pulse until the dates are fully chopped and everything is combined.

In a bowl, mix together oats, flax seeds, spirulina. Then add your date mixture and stir well until fully combined.

Roll into balls.Place the balls in an airtight container and store in the fridge or freezer.

 

 

 

Apple and cinnamon muffins

Wholegrain Dairy Free Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

These are delicious and perfect for a tea time snack for the family on the weekend, or as an alternative to unhealthy snacks at work or school. They have no refined sugars, no dairy(especially if you try to avoid it like I do) and the wholegrain flour allows you to have a lower glycaemic index snack and keep you fuller for longer. Therefore one muffin should be sufficient and allow you to have better control on your portion. I ran an interactive food club with some of my clients on their weight loss journey last night where the topic was about portion control and hunger management. We know it can be hard to remind ourselves how much is considered reasonable when you are trying to achieve such a goal and break off particular habits (ex: 50 % of the plate filled with unrefined carbohydrates or consuming a whole pack of Nairns oat cakes (6) as a snack when 3 oat cakes should be enough).
I will delve deeper into this in a separate article.
Let’s get back to the muffins

Ingredients :

250g of wholegrain flour ( or gluten free self raising flour is an alternative if you are gluten intolerant)

1 tsp of baking powder

1-2 tsp of cinnamon

50-70g of agave nectar (or organic honey, the amount depends on the sweetness you would like to obtain. Agave nectar is lower in GI than honey/sugar.  )

2 eggs

125 ml of unsweetened almond milk (or organic wholebean soya milk)

2 grated apples (or 1 grated large cooking apple)

4 tablespoons of organic coconut oil

(50-100 g of sultanas can be an additional ingredient to the mixture)

Method

1.Heat your oven to 180/160 degrees Celsius ( fan/gas4).In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon.
2.In another bowl, mix the eggs, milk, coconut oil ( if quite hard at room temperature, you may melt the coconut oil and allow it to cool down before adding it to the mixture), agave nectar. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well whilst raising the mixture with a wooden spoon and keeping it light. Then stir in the grated apples
3.Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases and bake for 25 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack and they are ready to eat

IMG_0204

As a note : Dried fruits like sultanas or prunes have high levels of sugar by volume not by piece.They also contain sulphites which can trigger asthmatic reactions so be careful. If you are watching the amount of sugar you are consuming, then avoid the sultanas in this recipe.

Cinnamon is a wonderful spice that contains Chromium, a mineral that plays a role in how insulin helps the body to regulate blood sugar levels.Insulin is a hormone that your body uses to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy needed for daily requirements. Chromium has been found to be a great tool in reducing your sugar cravings and research has shown that it can help pre-diabetic and diabetic type 2 patients. Always get in touch with a health professional before supplementing !