Healthy Recipe Series
This week you are in for a real treat! A delicious, nutty chocolaty dessert! You have probably eaten the normal version of this dessert, but our healthy version does not fall behind in terms of flavor and richness and will definitely be a healthier option to your usual Brownies.
Raw Vegan Brownies
This is a very simple recipe, that requires few ingredients, little preparation and no baking or even dehydrating. In terms of preparation, you will need around 20 minutes and then you only have to let it chill until desired temperature or consistency.
Our healthy brownies have nuts and dates as main ingredients; however, the star ingredient in the Brownies is, obviously, cacao.
We will explore in more detail some of the nutrition facts and health benefits of these ingredients:
Cacao or cocoa
The cacao tree or cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, is a small evergreen tree belonging to the genus Theobroma of the mallow family Malvaceae. This family also includes other known members such as okra, cotton, durian and kola nuts. The name of the tree from which cocoa is obtained, Theobroma cacao, derives from the Greek theos, meaning ‘god’, and broma, meaning ‘food’. Therefore, cacao was called the “Food of the Gods.”
The cacao beans (kernels or seeds) extracted from cocoa fruits (pods) are processed to obtain the two most important cocoa products, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter. These are the products used in most chocolates worldwide and cacao powder is the star ingredient in this recipe!
Always try to buy your cacao powder raw to make sure all the amazing health benefits of the beans have been preserved.
Cacao is a rich source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polyphenols.
Health benefits of Cacao 1,2, 3
- Rich in polyphenols, like flavonoids, and antioxidants
- Contains good amounts of B-vitamins like thiamin (B-1), riboflavin (B-2), niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine (B-6), folate (B-9), and vitamin-E and K
- Rich in minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, selenium, manganese, and zinc.
- Cacao butter is a good source of fatty acids, combining monounsaturated fats like oleic acid and saturated fats, namely stearic acid and palmitic acid.
- Cacao solids contain two important phytochemicals, theobromine, and caffeine, that stimulate the nervous system and help improve mood.
- Contains phenolic antioxidants like catechins, anthocyanidins, and proanthocyanidins. The antioxidant properties of these phenolic compounds may help against cancer, inflammation, viral infections and even aging.
- Provides energy, carbohydrates, protein, and dietary fibers. The beans are high in calories from their healthy fat content. However, cacao solids, one of the byproducts of cocoa mass after extracting cocoa butter, are very low in calories.
- Contains anandamide, sometimes referred to as the ‘bliss molecule’, which binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain creating a sense of ease and happiness.
- Cacao is also rich in flavanols. Flavanols work to form new neurons, while improving their functionality and protecting them from the destruction of free radicals, increasing cognitive abilities.
This recipe calls for almonds and walnuts or pecans, but you can also use other nuts, like hazelnuts or pine nuts, and experiment with the flavors that are more appealing to you. We have explored the health benefits of almonds in our Cauliflower Crust Pizza recipe, so let’s jump into the health benefits of walnuts.
Walnuts are the kernels obtained from the tree belonging to the genus Juglans, Juglandaceae family. There are more than thirty types of walnut cultivars, however, the three most common, both traditionally and commercially, are the English or Persian walnut (Juglans regia), and the Black walnut (Juglans nigra), and the White or butternut walnut (Juglans cinerea).
Walnuts are a great source of many nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and energy!
Health Benefits of Walnuts 4,5,6
- Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (about 72%), like oleic acid.
- An excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (2.5g), the most ALA of any other tree nut, and also linoleic acid and arachidonic acid.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are highly anti-inflammatory and may be protective against many diseases including cancer. Eating just a handful (25 g) of walnuts every day can provide about 90% of RDI (recommended daily intake) of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Their lipid profile contributes to healthy blood lipid levels, by lowering LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increasing HDL or “good cholesterol”.
- Contain important antioxidant phytochemicals such as polyphenolic compounds, vitamin-E, carotenoids, melatonin and ellagic acid, and one of the highest levels of polyphenolic antioxidants of all edible seeds and nuts.
- Excellent source of vitamin-E, especially rich in γ -tocopherol (about 21 g per 100 grams of walnuts; 140% RDA).
- Contains several B-complex vitamins such as thiamin (B-1), riboflavin (B-2), niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine (B-6), and folate (B-9).
- Good source of many minerals such as magnesium, manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, and zinc. “
- Walnuts are a great source of energy, protein and fiber.
Dates are a “drupe”, or single pitted fruit, from the palm tree scientifically named as Phoenix dactylifera, botanically belonging to the genus Phoenix, family Arecaceae. Phoenix dactylifera trees seem to be originally from the lands surrounding the banks of the Nile and Euphrates Rivers of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Nowadays, there are many varieties of date palm cultivars, and the ‘Medjool’ variety that we use on our recipe is one of the most popular in the USA, for the quality, richness of flavors and taste.
Dates are nature’s way of delivering sweetness packed with flavor and nutrition, containing beneficial phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Health Benefits of Dates 7,8,9,10
- Fresh dates are easily digestible, composed of simple sugars like fructose and dextrose, and rich in fiber. 100g of Medjool dates are equivalent to about 277 calories.
- Contain polyphenolic biomolecules, namely the antioxidant flavonoid tannins. Tannins exhibit anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic and anti-microbial properties, among other beneficial physiological effects.
- Other antioxidant flavonoids are present, such as ß-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These may protect against the harmful effects of free radicals and against certain cancers.
- Excellent source of iron (about 0.90 mg per 100 grams; 11% of RDA). Iron is vital for health by participating in a wide variety of metabolic processes, including oxygen transport, DNA synthesis, and electron transport.
- Very good source of potassium (696 mg per 100 grams; 16% RDA). Potassium is important in major biological processes, such as muscle contraction, nerve impulses, synthesis of nucleic acids and protein and energy production.
- Rich in other minerals like calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
- Modest source of vitamin-A (approximately 149 IU per 100 grams; 5% of RDA), with antioxidant properties and other important biological functions.
- Contains good levels of some B-vitamins, including riboflavin (B-2), niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), and pyridoxine (B-6) and vitamin K.
The other two ingredients for the brownie recipe are coconut butter and salt. Coconut butter constitutes a healthy raw vegan alternative to “animal milk-derived butter”, and it adds the unique taste of coconut to the brownies. The salt gives you that other sparkle and burst of flavors from combining sweet and salty. Furthermore, when using high-quality salt, like Himalayan pink salt, you get a unique mineral composition, containing 97-98 % of sodium chloride plus more than 80 other naturally occurring minerals in trace amounts such as magnesium, sulfate, iron, etc.
Once more, our brownie recipe does not require any cooking or baking, therefore preserving all the amazing benefits of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes present in foods. All you need is a food processor (or another way to mix all the ingredients) and a place to refrigerate it. And it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks!
- Makes: 9 servings • Prep time: 20 minutes • Total time: 1-2 hours
- 1 cup almonds
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans
- 4 Medjool dates, pitted
- ½cup cacao powder
- 2 Tbsp coconut butter
- 1/s-¼ tsp salt
Place nuts in a food processor and process into fine crumbs. Add remaining ingredients and process until thoroughly combined.
Press mixture into the bottom of a small square pan, then slice into 9 pieces. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169593/nutrients, accessed Jun 20, 2022.
- Andújar I, Recio MC, Giner RM, Ríos JL. Cocoa polyphenols and their potential benefits for human health. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2012;2012:906252. doi: 10.1155/2012/906252. Epub 2012 Oct 24. PMID: 23150750; PMCID: PMC3488419.
- Nutrition and You. Cocoa beans (chocolate beans) Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cocoa-beans.html, accessed Jun 20, 2022.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Nuts, walnuts, english. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170187/nutrients, accessed Jun 20, 2022.
- Nutrition and You. Walnuts Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/walnuts.html, accessed Jun 20, 2022.
- California Walnuts. Nutrition Information. https://walnuts.org/nutrition/nutrition-information/, accessed Jun 20, 2022.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Dates, medjool. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168191/nutrients, accessed Jun 20, 2022.
- Nutrition and You. Dates Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/dates.html, accessed Jun 20, 2022.
- Chung KT, Wong TY, Wei CI, Huang YW, Lin Y. Tannins and human health: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1998 Aug;38(6):421-64. doi: 10.1080/10408699891274273. PMID: 9759559.
- Lieu PT, Heiskala M, Peterson PA, Yang Y. The roles of iron in health and disease. Mol Aspects Med. 2001 Feb-Apr;22(1-2):1-87. doi: 10.1016/s0098-2997(00)00006-6. PMID: 11207374.
Vanessa Pinto graduated with a degree in Biology and Masters in Ecology from Lisbon University. After graduating, she underwent a series of professional and personal growth experiences, including being an officer in the Portuguese Army, working in countries as diverse as Iceland and Costa Rica. Vanessa became certified as a Yoga and Meditation teacher in rural India.
Being a compassionate person by nature, Vanessa is able to bring her connectedness when working with others while enhancing the importance and practicality of a pragmatic evidence-based approach to facilitating lasting and permanent change. Vanessa is a certified health coach whose specialties are nutrition, exercise, and mind/ body connection. She works both in Portugal, Thailand and USA, where she develops her work closely with people diagnosed with cancer, mainly in the areas of nutrition, movement and health education.