As a kid, I used to reach for a square of 70% dark chocolate from my mother's collection whenever I needed a quick breakfast on the run, an afternoon snack, or when dinner needed a bittersweet end. But it wasn't until I began eating a vegetarian diet and practicing an extensive exercise regimen caught up with me that I began to take a closer look at my eating habits. As I battled anemia, I took more time to examine what I was putting in my body rather than what I was leaving out.
During my weekly trip to the health food store, I passed by a bag of raw cacao powder and was excited to find that it contained 16% iron!
After some cacao experimenting, I discovered a great post-workout recipe. Before I share it with you, here's a little science behind the need for iron: Females tend to have lower iron counts to begin with because hemoglobin levels are naturally lower in females than in males. Exercising expends energy through the body which demands iron, and over time this can deplete iron altogether if it's not replenished consistently. It's important for female athletes – especially those vegetarian or vegan athletes – to source B-12 and iron on a regular basis.
Have a craving for chocolate? You go, girl! Here's my post-workout pudding recipe laden with iron-rich cacao, potassium, and protein (this makes enough for four):
Chocolate Chia Pudding:
1 cup nuts (almonds for low-fat pudding)
1/2 cup coconut milk (or rice milk)
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds or meal
1/8 cup raw cacao
2 medjool dates (pitted)
If you're feeling fruity, add in a cup of your favorite fruit. Strawberries pair great with the bitter cacao.
Blend together in Vitamix or food processor and enjoy!