Go Dark and Love Your Health This Valentine’s Day

HeartDid you know some chocolate can actually be good for you…and your heart?

This Valentine’s Day, treat your sweetheart to healthier chocolate surprises with ideas below.

When choosing chocolate sweets for your sweet, look for those made with natural ingredients…cacao and cacao liquor, a little sugar, and butter. Dark chocolate contains less sugar. Avoid artificial ingredients. Look for sweets made with dark chocolate and fruit. Great options include dark chocolate-dipped berries, dried apricots, banana and pineapple slices.

So what makes dark chocolate the smarter choice?

Cocoa beans contain a heart-healthy group of antioxidants called flavonoids. The higher the percentage of cacao in chocolate, the higher the flavonoid level and the darker the chocolate color. These beneficial flavonoids relax and dilate blood vessels, promoting healthy circulation and potentially better blood pressure levels. They also have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-clotting properties, all good for the heart. These flavonoids go the brain, too, promoting circulation, helping us feel good and enhancing cognition. Studies have found that in order to reap the health benefits of cocoa, chocolate must contain a cocoa content of 70 percent or greater. When choosing sweets for your Valentine, look for dark chocolate labeled “70-85% cocoa.”

Still, go easy on chocolate. All chocolate contains high levels of saturated fat and calories, with 1 oz dark chocolate containing about 175 calories, 12 grams of fat and 9 grams of saturated fat. An ounce daily is a reasonable portion. And with its more intense flavor, dark chocolate quickly satisfies your sweet tooth, compared to milk chocolate.

Another smart option to help the chocolate go further, is to melt it (1 oz = 2 tablespoons) to drizzle over frozen yogurt , dip in fruit or add to milk for a decadent cup of hot cocoa.

So this Valentine’s Day, treat yourself….just a little….and enjoy!

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