This “Caramel” Nut Chocolate Bark is gluten and grain-free, and depending on which chocolate you choose, can easily be dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan.
The wink-wink “Caramel” comes in the form of high-fiber hunks of Medjool dates– a treat from Mother Nature’s candy store. I’ve loaded all the crunchy, chewy, sweet, salty, dark-chocolaty goodness I could fit into this scrumptious treat, and the best part is, it’s choc-full of thyroid-loving ingredients.
We all need to indulge from time to time, like in late winter, when the sparkle of fresh snow has dulled to slush and snirt (snow + dirt). Or maybe because it’s Tuesday, and the moon is full. Or on Valentine’s Day, when you’re trying to avoid falling face first into a heart-shaped box of artificial ingredients.
Lucky for us there are loads of “compliant” sweets out there to try. Some fall heavier on the healthy (vs. heavenly) side of the fence. Then, there are times when you want to fall a teeeeeeny bit heavier on the heavenly side of the fence. This “Caramel” Nut Chocolate Bark falls into this category– with real, bittersweet dark chocolate– whilst not forgetting that we’re trying to heal and nourish our thyroids.
Rich, caramel-like bits of Medjool dates stud the chocolate alongside chunky Brazil nuts, which are absolutely loaded with selenium– a key thyroid nutrient. The top is speckled with super-food chia seeds and crystals of sea salt. And let’s not forget about the dark chocolate, with it’s own laundry list of health bennys. The whole experience feels like a genuine indulgence, with a smaller nutritional price tag than your average candy, and a little extra damage-control built in.
For compliance with dietary restrictions, choose your chocolate wisely and read the ingredient list. Many chocolates contain soy in the form of soy lecithin, an emulsifier. Another common ingredient is milk solids, so if you’re avoiding dairy, look to dark varieties of chocolate, which are less likely to contain milk.
FYI, cocoa butter is another ingredient commonly found in chocolate, and it is not a dairy product, but a natural fat derived from the cocoa bean which improves chocolate’s flavor and mouthfeel.
For this recipe, I go for a high-quality bittersweet chocolate in bulk or bar form, like this one from Guittard. It’s Fair Trade Certified, 70% cacao, and both soy and dairy free. Most importantly it’s luscious and smooth as silk. I fell in love with this company as a culinary school student in San Francisco, and it’s my #1 choice to this day, quite simply because it makes outstanding results.
This recipe yields a fairly small batch (shown below), so feel free to double or triple if you intend to share or gift it. I boxed mine up and sent it to my mom, who is spending Valentine’s day recovering from a knee replacement. I’m hoping it helps lift her spirits, but ever since I shipped it off I’ve been wishing I’d made more. On the bright side, it whips up super quick, so I will probably do just that.
Alrighty, let’s take a quick look at the Hypothyroid-specific nutrition highlights:
- High-quality dark chocolate is loaded with health benefits from it’s antioxidant, mineral, polyphenol, and flavonoid content. Numerous studies have proven it to be especially beneficial to elevated mood, cognitive function, cardiovascular health, and cholesterol levels. Specifically, it has been shown to raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol) while also preventing it from damaging tissues. This can be helpful since hypothyroidism is associated with an increased risk of high cholesterol.
- 1 ounce of dark chocolate contains 3 grams of dietary fiber which can aid in constipation often associated with hypothyroidism.
- 1 ounce of Brazil Nuts contains 774% DV for Selenium, a key thyroid nutrient. You might think of selenium as the thyroid gland’s security guard. In addition to supporting the synthesis of thyroid hormone, selenium is essential for the conversion of T4 to T3, and protects the thyroid from stress. It also protects the thyroid from an overabundance of iodine.
- 1 ounce of Chia Seeds contains nearly 5000 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids, 4.4 grams of protein, and 11 grams of dietary fiber. It also contains 18% RDA of Calcium, which is especially helpful to those of us avoiding dairy.
- Medjool dates are an excellent natural sweetener and caramel substitute. Although they are high in sugar and should be consumed in moderation, they provide 2 grams of dietary fiber per fruit.
- Sea salt is a natural source of iodine as well as numerous other bioavailable trace minerals.
Wishing you the best of health, and a Valentine’s Day that’s as good for your heart as dark chocolate : )