What Is Fruit and Nut Chocolate?
In Ancient Mesoamerican cultures, it was believed that chocolate (cacao) was a gift from the Gods. So valued were these Theobroma beans, that they were used as currency during this time. As far as sweet things go, gilding the Lily by adding fruit and nuts would be a fitting description here. In its simplest form, fruit and nut chocolate is just that - pieces of chocolate, mixed nuts and dried fruit. It may sometimes include fruit purees, nut butter as well as added sugar, emulsifiers and other flavourings.
You can buy fruit and nut chocolate in bar form and enjoy a wonderfully snappable bite any time of day. Otherwise, fruit and nut chocolate could appear as chocolate-covered nuts in a packet with sultanas and raisins. Or, chocolate-covered sultanas with roasted or raw nuts. The nuts in question could be anything from peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews or Brazil nuts.
The combination of any of these ingredients creates a complex flavour profile that is much more interesting than traditional chocolate bars.
In short, there's no wrong way to do fruit and nut chocolate. The way this sweet treat can present itself is endless. However varied your fruit and nut chocolate is, the health benefits remain largely unchanged. As long as the sugar content in the chocolate itself is relatively low (as far as milk chocolate is concerned), it would be considered a healthy, antioxidant-rich snack. Bonus points for dark chocolate on that front as well, as we know that dark chocolate is naturally lower in sugar and higher in health-giving antioxidants.
Health Benefits of Fruit & Nut Chocolate
Not only does fruit and nut chocolate taste great, but it also has plenty of health benefits. It is packed with antioxidants that help protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. These compounds come from chocolate, fruit and nuts in comparable amounts. Additionally, fruit and nut chocolate is high in fibre, healthy unsaturated fats (thanks to the nuts), vitamins and minerals. Here's a snapshot of the health benefits that fruit and nut chocolate can confer.
Fruit & Nut Chocolate is a good source of
- Monounsaturated fats (omega 3 and 6)
- Vitamin E
Chocolate Improves Brain Health & Heart Health
Is chocolate delicious? Absolutely. But is it good for you? Most definitely. Plenty of data has been published over recent decades highlighting the anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and neuroprotective properties that chocolate (cacao powder) possesses. One of the bioactive plant compounds found in cacao is called proanthocyanidins. This compound demonstrates a powerful ability to reduce blood clotting, up to 6 hours after consumption. Impressive.
The flavonoids naturally found in cacao have free radical scavenging actions which disrupt cancer cell replication. Cacao has the power to not only reduce inflammation that can lead to cancer but also inhibit the production of new blood vessels supplying cancer cells. This makes it a potent functional food in the fight against cancer development. Because cacao is the basis of dark chocolate, this research can be applied easily to food such as fruit and nut chocolate.
Another recent review highlighted the impact of chocolate (cacao) on children and young adults. The results of which suggested that regular cacao intake was linked to various aspects of cognitive health. The acute consumption of cacao resulted in more blood flow to the brain, which directly influenced memory, visual processing and learning. Moreover, following prolonged consumption of cacao-based products, considerable boosts in both cognitive performance as well as neuroplasticity were detected among both children and adults in these studies.
Dried Fruit Improves Satiety & Metabolic Health
It seems counterintuitive, but the research on dried fruit shows a positive benefit on blood sugar regulation. Sultanas and raisins in particular demonstrate anti-diabetic activity, according to a study from the Journal of nutritional science. The nutritional benefits of sultanas and raisins, coupled with their low glycaemic index and ability to maintain a balanced postprandial (after food) glycaemic response are exceptional. Not only can they provide a boost of essential nutrients for any healthy person, but these sweet treats could even be an ideal option for those suffering from diabetes or insulin resistance.
There's really not any dried fruit around that doesn't offer some amazing health benefits. What's even better, is that each one delivers something different.
Let's take a look at three delicious and (very) nutritious dried fruits that have some amazing health benefits.
Prunes have been shown to benefit skeletal health in older women due to their high boron content. Boron is an essential trace element for the growth and sustenance of our bones, especially found in trabecular bone tissue such as hip joints and the lumbar spine. Without sufficient amounts of boron, healthy bone development and maintenance are not as effective. Prunes are also important in promoting good digestive function, thanks to their dietary fibre content. In fact, research shows they're more effective than psyllium husk in addressing mild to moderate constipation.
Dates are another wonderfully healthy dried fruit, with an abundance of health benefits. Dates are used traditionally and now as a modern adjunctive tool in pregnancy and postpartum recovery according to some frequently-cited articles published in the Journal of obstetrics and gynaecology and BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. The evidence clearly shows that women who consume dates in the last month of pregnancy yield fewer C-sections and a smoother labour process than those who don't. Dates are also naturally high in many polyphenolic compounds, such as carotenoids, phenols, tocopherols and phytosterols. These plant compounds are cardioprotective, antioxidative and passive skin-protective qualities.
Within the Middle East and Mediterranean cultures, figs represent good fortune, longevity and success. These delicious fruits have become a symbol of abundance in these regions. Figs, like all dried fruit, help alleviate constipation and digestive issues.
Figs boast a diverse selection of biologically active compounds. As such, this dried fruit offers various health benefits. These include powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as providing liver protection from oxidative damage and reducing the risk of some cancers. Figs also demonstrate the capacity to fight bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
Nuts Are Good For ... Everything
Two years of writing about nuts have taught me a few things. Overwhelmingly, eating nuts can be incredibly beneficial to your health. Much like dried fruit, different nuts have unique and powerful health benefits. Almonds improve microbiome diversity. Brazil nuts improve thyroid function. Cashews support healthy cholesterol function. Pistachios support male reproductive health.
Broadly, nuts help regulate cholesterol levels, create red blood cells due to their copper content, and form antioxidant support systems. Plus, they aid in the creation of neurotransmitters like dopamine and are key players in weight management and diabetes prevention. Nuts also play an essential role in promoting cardiovascular & nervous system health.
Enjoy Fruit and Nut Chocolate As A Healthy Sweet Snack
Fruit and Nut Chocolate is not only good for you, but it also tastes amazing. It's a textural delight that provides familiar sweetness, fruitiness and a delicious nutty crunch. What's not to love? With its rich, indulgent taste, it's sure to become a staple in your snacking routine.
Enjoying fruit and nut chocolate is a delicious and healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth. If you’ve never tried it before, you can make your own, experimenting with different nuts, fruit and chocolate varieties, or sample some ready-made batches to enjoy. Whichever way you go, fruit and nut chocolate might just become your new favourite treat!
Fruit & Nut Chocolate Recipes
Why not experiment with making your own fruit and nut chocolate treats?
Here are some recipes to get you started.
Fruit and Nut Chocolate Bark
This easy fruit and nut chocolate bark is a great treat to make for dessert, an afternoon tea treat or to give away as gifts during the holidays. With its delicious mix of crunchy nuts, juicy dried fruits and rich dark chocolate, it’s sure to be a hit with everyone. To get started, you'll need
- 150g of dark chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup of mixed dried fruit, such as cranberries, blueberries, cherries, and raisins
- 1/2 cup of chopped nuts, such as almonds or walnuts
- 2 tablespoons of shredded coconut (optional)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring constantly until it is completely melted and smooth. Or, in 15-second bursts in the microwave, until fully melted.
- Remove from heat and pour the melted chocolate onto the lined baking sheet.
- Spread the chocolate evenly over the baking sheet using an offset spatula or metal spoon.
- Sprinkle the dried fruit, nuts and coconut (optional) onto the melted chocolate in an even layer.
- Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator for 1 hour to allow it to completely set.
- Once set, break the bark into pieces and enjoy. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a month (if it lasts that long!)