Sometimes chocolate truly is the answer! Any health-esteemie knows that you can have your chocolate and eat it too, because it truly can be super amazing for your health! And what better way to enjoy it than in the form of healthy gluten free vegan brownies? I certainly can’t think of one!
So let’s get our chocolate on and treat ourselves to these delish vegan brownies. And, of course, since you’re in foodie nerd town here in the Ms. Health-Esteem house, let’s learn about why chocolate deserves a spot on your healthy foodie plate. Ready to dive in?
Is Chocolate Seriously Good For You?
One of the happiest days of my healthy foodie life was the day I discovered that chocolate could actually be good for me. I mean, who doesn’t want to be able to enjoy something as wonderful and delicious as chocolate on the regular sans guilt? I know I’m still pretty pumped about it!
Which is why I love to make tons of chocolate treats (like the awesome healthy gluten free vegan brownies we’ll be making in a minute!)
While there are tons of chocolate options to choose from (some of which have an unfortunate social impact; we can talk more on that in a minute), it’s actually super easy to pick out the healthy options when you know what you’re looking for. It’s all about that cacao goodness baby!
Raw cacao is super good for you.
Raw cacao (the beans used to make chocolate) is overflowing with nutritious awesomeness. It brings goodies like magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium and fiber to the table. Sounds kind of cool right?
But what exactly does that mean for you health wise?
All of that magnesium is pretty exciting! 1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder gives you 9% of your daily recommended value of magnesium, which is kind of a big deal. It helps your body absorb calcium, plays a roll in muscle and nerve function, aids in maintaining a healthy heart, supports immune function, promotes healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and so much more. Those are some pretty important duties, am I right?
Add in all, that iron (4% of your daily in a single tbsp) and we’re rocking it in the nutrient department! This essential mineral helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Super cool, right? It’s also a pretty important factor in energy production. A lack of iron tends to have us lagging. And I don’t know about you, but I sure as heck don’t have time for that. (source)
If you weren’t already in love with cacao, this beautiful plant is also happy to support your digestive health with a ton of fiber (4% of your daily per tablespoon). All of that fiber even stabilizes your blood sugar. Isn’t that fantastic? (source)
Flavanols found in cacao may even have the potential to be super kind to your heart, protecting blood vessel linings and preventing high blood pressure (source). But it gets way cooler than that!
Those sexy flavanols also have a photoprotective quality. That means that eating healthy chocolate options on the regular will help your skin protect you from UV damage! Booyah! But keep in mind that quality truly matters here. Those inexpensive, conventional chocolate bars had no effect in this department. We’re looking for the good stuff baby. (source)
These gluten free vegan brownies would be a great go to. And so would some of the goodies in this free healthy dessert ebook:
Ingredient quality really does matter!
You may have noticed that I keep saying cacao, not cocoa. And there’s a reason for that. Those two things are not the same!
Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. This removes a lot of the fat (cacao butter) but leaves us with tons of enzymes, vitamins and minerals to devour. Cacao is seriously nutrient dense and has a ton to offer.
Cocoa powder is made when raw cacao is roasted at high temperatures, which changes our nutritional content. Enzymes and vitamins are typically heat sensitive, meaning that they don’t all make it through the process and we end up with less.
Does that mean that cocoa is terrible, useless and should never be consumed?
Heck no! If you have some pure cocoa powder hanging out in your cupboard don’t feel like you need to throw it away. I just personally prefer to get raw cacao whenever possible. Because why settle for less, you know?
On top of that, many chocolate options are mostly sugar. Honestly, that cacao deliciousness we were going for has been overly processed and buried in a sea of milk, sugar, corn syrups, flavours and more. It’s truly a shame.
If you’re a chocolate lover and find yourself excited to find healthier options, Camino’s selection is my personal fave! You can also easily make your own with a few simple ingredients.
These delish gluten free vegan brownies feature raw cacao powder in all of it’s glory. But cocoa powder would be a great sub if you already have some on hand.
Does Fair Trade Matter?
Those el cheapo chocolate bars hanging out by the cash register at your local grocery store are 100% candy. Not good for your health and honestly problematic. There’s often a high cost to low prices that we don’t tend to think about.
Harvesting cacao is a heck of a lot of work! The pods (which contain those wonderful, delicious beans) are removed from the trees and need to be opened manually with a sharpened blade. While machines have been invented to pry those pods open, many cacao farms still do it by hand. (source)
You might think that’s the end of it, but surprisingly cacao beans have to be fermented before they can be made into cacao nibs or powder and ultimately yummy, yummy chocolate. This usually takes around 5 to 8 days and is quite the process.
Farmers often need to mix the beans at specific intervals and even transfer tons (seriously, there’s often 1 to 2 tons of beans per fermentation box) of beans from one box to another daily to ensure uniform fermentation and increased aeration. No gym membership needed if you’re working on a cacao farm! (source)
Oh, and if that already didn’t sound like a lot more work than you expected, the beans then need to be dried and cleaned before they can be processed. Basically, this is a long, difficult and very involved labour of love.
And yet there are tons of really inexpensive chocolate bars out there… which seriously doesn’t reflect all of the hard work, time and dedication that goes into making chocolate happen. How do they keep the prices so cheap? Low wages. For all of their hard work, cacao farmers typically receive very little from an incredibly highly profitable global chocolate trade. Which is seriously not cool!
While it may seem a little strange to pay a bit more for chocolate, supporting fair wages is so important!
Supporting fair trade companies and investing in properly priced products helps to ensure that farmers (many of whom live in developing nations) receive fair wages and safe work environments and also supports agricultural improvements and community development. A total win!
While chocolate is a hot commodity, it can be incredibly difficult for small-scale farmers to create a profitable business. And, as you now know, it’s a lot of flipping work! Supporting companies that commit to fair pay and/or fair trade initiatives helps to ensure that farmers receive fair wages for all of their time and effort. It’s incredibly important that we do our best to support that. Learn more about the importance of supporting fair trade chocolate right here.
With that in mind I made these gluten free vegan brownies using Fair Trade Certified Navitas Organics Raw Cacao Powder and Camino Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips, which keeps it healthy with 3 simple ingredients (cane sugar, cacao mass and cacao butter). Chocolaty gluten free vegan brownies that taste amazing, support your well-being and ensure that hard working farmers receive fair waves. It’s all win baby!
Ready to get cooking?
Healthy Gluten Free Vegan Brownies
On top of all of the hearty, nutritious cacao, there’s one other secret ingredient that makes these brownies extra special… Organic Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk. This stuff is the reason these gluten free vegan brownies are moist and smooth. Trust me, you’ll never want to make brownies without it again (I know I don’t!)
Healthy Gluten Free Vegan Brownies
These homemade brownies are the perfect addition to a healthy diet, featuring ingredients like raw cacao powder, semi sweet chocolate chips and gluten free oat flour. Total yum!
- 2 Egg Replacers Like Namaste Foods - You Can Also Use 2 Eggs, but please support ethical farming practices <3
- 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk Like Let's Do Organic
- 1/2 Cup Raw Cacao Powder Like Navitas Organics
- Scrapings 1 Vanilla Bean Or 1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
- 2 Generous Pinches Cinnamon
- 1 Pinch Himalayan Pink Salt
- 3/4 Cup Oat Flour
- 1 Cup Coconut Milk Or Plant Milk of Choice
- 1/3 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips Optional - I prefer Camino (Keep those Ingredients Healthy)
- 2 Tbsp Pure Canadian Maple Syrup Optional
- Coconut Oil To grease the muffin tin.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Grease a standard sized muffin tin with coconut oil.
Prep your vegan eggs (I prefer Namaste Foods egg replacer but flax eggs would work too). Scoop into a large mixing bowl.
Using the tip of a paring knife, cut your vanilla bean lengthwise. Use a small spoon or the edge of your knife to scrape the seeds loose from the bean and add to the bowl. You can also use 1 Tsp of pure vanilla extract if you'd prefer.
Add in the sweetened condensed coconut milk, cinnamon, Himalayan pink salt, raw cacao powder and oat flour. If you want a little extra sweetness add up to 2 Tbsp of maple syrup. Lastly, add in the milk and mix until well blended (this is super easy with a hand mixer but a whisk works well too.)
Semi sweet chocolate chips are a great final addition if you want more chocolate. Keep an eye on the ingredient list in order to keep this dessert healthy. All we need is cacao and a little bit of cane sugar in there. I like to stick with Camino semi-sweet chocolate chips. Mix 1/3 Cup in with a spoon if you choose to add them.
Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin tins, filling each cup about 3/4 full.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the brownies spring back slightly to the touch and pull away from the sides. A fork should come out mostly clean. But make sure not to over cook, because they will lose their moisture and become crumbly.
Remove from the oven and let them cool in the tin for 5 minutes or so before removing them to cool completely on a plate.
Store in an air tight container to keep them fresh for a couple of days or freeze for longer term storage (but I highly doubt theses brownies will survive in your home for very long)
Enjoy the yummies!
Are you excited to get your healthy gluten free vegan brownies on? What dessert would you like to see healthified next? Share your lovely thoughts in the comments below!
Health and love,
Thought of the day: If you look closely even the most simple things can be exciting and beautiful.