I’ve struggled with iron deficiency since I was young. Having been a vegetarian from age 7-16 but also a picky eater, I almost exclusively ate bread and cheese for every meal. And french fries. When I first found out I was iron-deficient in high school, I started really paying attention to nutrition, so much so that I decided to make it my LIFE! Who knew? Now that I am an omnivore who eats mostly plant-based, my iron has improved- but I still pay close attention to it. In fact, when I used to work at WIC, we checked all of our patient’s hemoglobin (a bio-marker of iron levels) using a finger stick- so I got to check my iron all the time!
Iron is a component of our blood, and it helps bring energy to our muscles and cells. Women lose a large amount blood every month through menstruation, and also during childbirth. Interestingly, iron deficiency is not a common problem for grown men, and it also is less of a problem for women after menopause. If you experience heavy menstrual bleeding or are pregnant, you may really want to pay attention to your iron intake. You can find out more about the importance of iron, and iron deficiency, and good sources of iron here.
Cacao is a good source of iron, as well as magnesium. I mention this because magnesium, in conjunction with calcium, is involved in muscle contraction and blood clotting. Soooooo, during menstruation, it would make sense that a woman might crave chocolate, because it could replete the nutrients lost, and could also help with cramping! Yes!!! Make sure you tell that to anyone making fun of you for having chocolate cravings. Then, proceed to give them some of these chocolate bites.
This is a recipe that I made up about a year ago after realizing how delicious coconut butter is. I’ve had friends, family, and co-workers try this and its always been a huge hit. I often get asked for the recipe, but I haven’t been able to give it until now- usually I just throw the stuff in a bowl and I use different ingredients every time! Today I decided to measure my amounts, so what follows is a basic recipe.
However, these little guys are pretty versatile- I’ve also added protein powder, hemp seeds, hemp meal, and flax seeds to these on other occasions and they’ve always been delicious. I also once used cocoa powder in place of the chocolate bar, which you can do, but they won’t hold together as well. These little guys are full of iron, magnesium, fiber, and a bit of protein. They are great for women at that time of the month especially, but can be enjoyed by anyone all the time!
Coconut Chocolate Bites
Should make about one dozen bite sized treats
- 100 grams or one large bar of at least 70% dark chocolate (I personally use this brand because I love their chocolate and they are fair trade. Learn why that’s important here. Another good brand is Equal Exchange. A RDN who works for them also explains iron in chocolate here.)
- 1/2 cup coconut butter
- 1/4 cup maple syrup (or any other liquid sweetener of your choice. I’ve also used honey in this recipe and it worked well.)
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 3/4 cup to 1 cup of nut meal (I’ve personally used almond and hazelnut, both worked great)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)
Break the chocolate bar into individual pieces and place in a large glass bowl, with the coconut butter. Place in a microwave for one minute, stopping at 30 seconds to stir, or, use a double boiler until all of the chocolate is melted.
Once mixture is melted, slowly add in your sweetener. This is actually a really cool step. When you add your liquid sweetener you will see that the chocolate begins to seize up into a paste! This is because even in a liquid state, chocolate is a relatively dry product, so adding any sort of liquid to it will cause it to act like flour and create a paste. #foodscience
Next, add the chia seeds and incorporate well so they start doing their binding gelling magic. Then, add in nut meal, vanilla, and sea salt. At this point, your mixture should be clumpy and should easily be rolled into balls. If it’s too liquidy, you can add more nut meal, and if its too dry you can add in some water or milk of your choice.
Form the clumps into bite-sized balls by using your hands. Optional step: place unsweetened coconut flakes in a bowl or on a plate and roll in chocolate balls (this is best to do when they are still warm so the coconut will stick. I also think rolling in nut meal could be good here if you don’t like shredded coconut!). Store in a Tupperware or on a covered plate in the refrigerator for up to 12 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.