Valentine’s Day: For the Love of Chocolate!

     The day of love is coming up, and people have all sorts of ways that they express themselves. Some traditional choices are dinners, roses, and Valentine’s Day cards, but biggest tradition always seems to be the chocolate–  You can see the yearly explosion of heart-shaped chocolates from the moment you step into the grocery store!

     While no one is going to deny that chocolate is delicious, too much of a good thing always comes back to bite you in the end. So how do we indulge in our love of chocolate this Valentine’s Day without the repercussions?  You may be surprised to hear that chocolate has some healthy qualities.  In fact, new research suggests that chocolate’s main ingredient, cocoa contains some major heart healthy benefits.  Before you get too excited, let me clarify the pros and cons of this research.

Pros:

  • It’s rich in antioxidants and magnesium
  • The compounds in chocolate, theobromine and phenethylamine has been associated with increased serotonin levels.  Serotonin is what I like to call our body’s natural “happy pill.”
  • Flavanols in chocolate may reduce inflammation, blood pressure and improve blood flow.

Cons:

  • All chocolate is not created equal.
  • Dark chocolate has a lot more healthier benefits than milk chocolate (Darn!)
  • The milk components in milk chocolate may prevent some of the absorption of the antioxidants
  • You need to limit the amount of chocolate you consume daily, especially if you are watching your weight

     Choose chocolate with at least 72% cocoa. Also make sure it doesn’t contain partially hydrogenated fat.  Sorry, you still need to limit the dark chocolate to about 1 ounce a day.  Also consider using old fashion cocoa which has all the benefits without the extra fat, sugar and calories, which most chocolate products contain. So enjoy your chocolate (in moderation) this Valentine’s Day.

     Let me share one of my favorite ways to enjoy dark chocolate.   How about adding fruit to your chocolate treat.  Dark chocolate covered strawberries gives you the best of both worlds– yummy chocolate along with the bonus of  fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This recipe is so appropriate for Valentine’s Day.  So go ahead; have your chocolate and eat it too!

 

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries (low-sugar)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bar of 72% (or higher) cocoa chocolate
  • 1 pound of fresh strawberries, with leaves

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry strawberries
  2. Place strawberries on a wax-paper covered pan– set pan in the refrigerator.
  3. Break the chocolate bar up into small pieces, place them in a glass bowl and microwave for  about 20 seconds at a time, stirring well in between.
  4. Repeat this until the chocolate is smooth and melted (the total time will depend on the size of the chocolate pieces and amount of chocolate that you’re making)
  5. Remove strawberries from the refrigerator and immediately begin dipping your strawberries. Carefully place them on the pan – do not allow the strawberries to touch.
  6. Store in the refrigerator until the chocolate has hardened.

     There are a lot of variations on this recipe– you could use dark chocolate bars, or a 3:1 ratio of semi-sweet and milk chocolate (or white chocolate) chips. They can be coated with crushed nuts or drizzled with a contrasting colored chocolate (which also helps disguise any mistakes!).

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

 

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