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Healthy eating: Susan Jane White, with tasty, nutritious pecan nuts and the raw power of cacao

Haagen-Dazs made the pecan an international celeb with their Pralines & Cream flavour. These nuts are actually very similar to walnuts only they are sweeter, chewier, smaller and pricier. You'll find them candied in decadent desserts or tossed through salads in snazzy restaurants.

Surely something so tasty has to be bad for you? Nope. These nuts are a rich source of zinc, responsible for luminous skin, solid immunity and healthy hormones. A deficiency in this precious mineral can result in mood fluctuations, poor fertility, spots, low immunity, difficulty sleeping, delayed healing and dull skin. But, alas, you won't get enough zinc scoffing a tub of Haagen-Dazs. Nice try, though.

A handful of pecans should do the trick and will also proffer a nice dose of vitamin E for varicose veins, beta-sitosterol for dirty arteries and potassium for those mouldy hangovers.

But aren't pecans fattening? Not so. Nuts contain monounsaturated fat. That's the healthy one associated with lower rates of heart disease and cholesterol. Commercial candy, on the other hand, is a source of nasty fat, responsible for bumping up your 'bad' LDL cholesterol and haunting your arteries. Please don't confuse the two fats -- they behave very differently in the body. In fact, the British Medical Journal published research on polymeal foods -- polymeal is a diet-based approach to combating heart disease. The research found that, if consumed daily, certain foods would reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 75 per cent. Dark chocolate and nuts were two of the foods. Glee.

You can celebrate by making these virtuous brownies, and turn your cravings into a nutritional hit.

Brownie Bites

The difference between cacao and cocoa is the amount of processing involved before it finds its way to your merry little mitts. Cacao is from the raw chocolate bean, and it is higher in antioxidants and minerals. That's why it's touted as a superfood. Cocoa is the heat-treated version, processed to stabilise the product and provide consistency for manufacturers to play with. It's cheaper than raw cacao, and still a good source of heart-healthy magnesium, but higher in caffeine and lower in antioxidants. Go for whichever one you fancy, although raw cacao can be a little trickier to find. Try www.natashaslivingfood.com or www.iswari.net

You will need:

1 cup pecans

5 medjool or other very sticky dates

Pinch of good, unrefined sea salt

2 tablespoons maple syrup

4-5 tablespoons cocoa or cacao powder

1/2 large bar chocolate 85 per cent cocoa solids

2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Pulse the pecans, the dates, the unrefined sea salt, the maple syrup and the cocoa or cacao powder, whichever you are using, into a blender until the mixture starts to clump together. Roll into 15 apricot-sized balls between the palms of your hands. Using your thumb, press a dimple into the crown of each ball. Refrigerate.

For the probiotic frosting, gently melt the 85 per cent chocolate over a saucepan of barely simmering water. It's easiest to use a plate that fits snugly on top of your saucepan, with only one inch of water beneath. As soon as the chocolate has melted, work very quickly. Remove the chocolate from heat, stir through the natural yoghurt, and immediately fill each brownie pocket with a puddle of frosting.

Try to refrigerate for two hours before looting. They're best hidden behind old jars of capers and gherkins lurking in the back of the fridge. Few will find them.



Sunday Indo Life Magazine