Hi all! Excited to be here on Healthy Aperture, sharing my first post for the new series Food Rx. As a long time reader and fan of Healthy Aperture, I'm thrilled to be sharing my recipes with you all! First, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Rachael Hartley, private practice dietitian and blogger at Avocado A Day Nutrition. I love everything to do with food – eating, cooking, reading cookbooks, going out to eat, traveling and exploring new cuisines. I suppose the label foodie would fit! It’s my passion to help my readers and clients rediscover the joy of eating with delicious, nourishing foods and a holistic approach to eating.
Here on Food Rx, I'll be highlighting a different functional food each month, sharing health benefits and using it as an ingredient in a nutritious and delicious recipe. When it comes to functional foods, everyone has heard the saying by Hippocrates, “let food be thy medicine.” Although I hate to associate food with something that's choked down with a glass of water, it's true. Food is medicine, with more power to heal, nourish and promote wellbeing than any pill. Although there's no single food more powerful than a pattern of eating rooted in whole foods, there are some foods that have more powerful benefits than others, and that's what I'll be sharing here!
For my first post, I decided to start with a bang and highlight a functional food that I think you’ll be pretty excited about – chocolate! Yup, that’s right!
Chocolate is a functional food because it’s a rich source of flavanols, a type of antioxidant that stimulates the arteries to relax, which improves blood flow. Of course, this is great for heart health, but it also has other benefits. Studies have found the improved blood flow from chocolate can boost athletic performance by improving muscle endurance, making chocolate not only a delicious, but useful preworkout snack. It also increases blood flow to the brain, which has been shown to improve cognitive function, especially in the elderly.
- Good source of iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese
- Increases healthy HDL cholesterol and lowers LDL cholesterol
- Increases levels of serotonin, a mood boosting hormone, in the brain
- Associated with a lower risk of heart disease
Keep in mind, I’m talking about dark chocolate (preferably > 70% cacao), cocoa powder, raw cacao powder or cocoa nibs. Milk chocolate has much more added sugar and fats than chocolate. To put it in perspective, you’d have to eat 10 ½ ounces for the same amount of flavanols in just 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder! Yeah, I think I'll stick with the dark stuff.
This recipe for chocolate hazelnut chia bars takes advantage of chocolate’s ability to improve blood flow and improve athletic performance by whipping it into a convenient pre-workout snack. Naturally sweet dates are a great source of simple carbohydrate to fuel your workout and the omega 3 fats in chia seeds may help speed up exercise recovery. Feel free to use any nuts or even a mixture of what you have on hand.
Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars with Sea Salt
Makes 12 bars
- 1 cup packed, pitted dates
- 1.5 cups toasted hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 6 Tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 Tablespoon water, optional (if needed to help it stick)
- pinch of flaky or crunchy sea salt
- Place dates, hazelnuts, chia and cocoa in the food processor and blend until chopped finely and well combined.
- Add a tablespoon water if needed to help it blend.
- Scoop mixture into an oiled rectangle baking dish. Using a spatula, flatten the top and press down. It should be about 1/2-inch thick.
- Sprinkle sea salt lightly over the top and press down so it sticks.
- Cut into 12 bars and carefully remove with a spatula.
- Store in the refrigerator in a covered container where iit should be fine for a few weeks (as if they'll last that long!).