Today’s post is contributed by Joy Goetz
What comes to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day? Hearts, chocolate, flowers and candlelight, just for starters. Most commonly, this day is used to celebrate romantic love, but who says that we can’t take this time to celebrate all the love in our lives? As I reflect on my life, I feel so grateful to have a wonderful community of friends, family, neighbors and of course, my dog, Gracie. This year, I am redefining the holiday to include all people in my life that I cherish. Of course, as a dietitian and foodie, I want give people the best, so I did a little research about chocolate. Did you know that:
- The cacao bean contains potent antioxidants called flavanols that help protect cells from damage. 1
- Eating small amounts of dark chocolate (as part of a healthy diet) can help reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart. 1
- There is actually research supporting cacao’s stress relieving properties. 2
The trick is to pick the right chocolate and eat it in moderation. Since all of the health benefits can be attributed to the cacao bean, when choosing chocolate, the darker the better, generally, 70% cacao or more. Also, you can add cocoa powder, which is just ground cacao beans without added sugar or fat, to lots of recipes, from pancakes to chili. Hershey’s website has tons of recipes that I can’t wait to try. Look for cocoa powder and chocolate that does not say, “processed with alkali” or “Dutch chocolate,” as this processing reduces the flavonal content.
Another way to get a great bang for your buck is to pair dark chocolate with fruit. Everyone knows fruit is good for you, and it naturally has fewer calories than chocolate, so it helps the chocolate go farther. Most of the research on chocolate used about 20-40 grams of dark chocolate (about the size of 4-9 Hershey kisses) or 1-2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. That’s not very much, it looks like a lot more if you drizzle it on fresh strawberries or bananas. Plus, it’s more special and delicious!
I hope you enjoy some chocolate this week, in moderation of course. And no matter who you celebrate with, may your Valentine’s Day be filled with love, happiness and gratitude.