By Lauren Cox – Closer To Your Food

This February we’re thinking about Valentine’s Day and Heart Health Month. Typically with food, what our hearts want and what our hearts really need are typically at odds. For example, an ice cream sundae may be what your heart desires, but a salad may be the more heart-healthy option. We’re here to tell you some good news – dark chocolate turns out to be a total superhero for both your taste buds and your heart. Lately there have been reports on the health benefits of dark chocolate, mostly due to the flavonoids and antioxidants, but did you know that a little dark chocolate might be just what you need to turn up the heat this Valentine’s Day? Not only can dark chocolate increase energy and mood, it can increase blood flow to sexual organs.

Buyers beware, however, that the cheap sugar-filled milk chocolate drugstore box of chocolates will not do the trick. In fact, it will do more harm with the added processed sugars and chemicals. You have to go for the good stuff, which means dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa content, preferably organic fair-trade. So be careful not to justify gobbling down that cheap candy bar with the “it’s good for me” excuse, as it’s a slippery slope.

Here are a few ways we suggest you enjoy your dark chocolate this February:

  • Enjoy chocolate tasting. Many chocolatiers offer a chocolate tasting, just as you would a wine tasting. You’ll learn about the small nuances that make gourmet chocolate special and taste them from the most subtle to intense flavors. This also makes a great Valentine’s date, by the way.
  • Make chocolate-dipped bananas. Melt 12 ounces dark chocolate in a double boiler. Put a whole peeled banana on a caramel apple or lollipop stick and gently coat the banana in the chocolate, allowing any excess to drip off back into the bowl. If you want, you can roll the banana in heart-healthy chopped nuts like walnuts or almonds. Place them on a pan lined with parchment paper and freeze at least 4 hours before enjoying. If we forgot to mention it, bananas are great for your heart too. They’re high in fiber, which is great for your heart.[1] Most importantly they are very high in potassium and magnesium, which have been known to lower blood pressure.
  • Add a bit to your cup o’Joe. If you swoon for the expensive sugary, milky mocha at the coffee shop, try brewing your own really good quality coffee at home (we recommend a French press) and add a piece or two of dark chocolate to your mug. Swirl the coffee as the chocolate melts and it instantly turns into a decadent treat.
  • Double the benefits with berries. Berries are great for your heart because they are also high in fiber and antioxidants, but they happen to be better with dark chocolate. Our favorite? Raspberry chocolate bark. Melt 12 ounces dark chocolate in a double boiler, then pour it onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Gently shake the pan so that the chocolate spreads evenly. Liberally sprinkle with a cup of dehydrated raspberries. Cool in the fridge one hour. Break into large chunks and enjoy!
  • Get a facial. It turns out that dark chocolate is great for your skin, helping to alleviate dryness, reduce inflammation and of course, give your skin an antioxidant boost.[2] Check local spas near you to try out this decadent treat, or make it a relaxing date with your loved one.

References

[1]http://www.webmd.com/diet/fiber-heart

[2] http://www.livestrong.com/article/166488-chocolate-facial-treatments/


Closer to Your Food is a wellness blog focused on eating and cooking for health and sustainability with recipes and lifestyle tips formulated around a plant-based diet and home-grown local foods. Chef Lauren Cox holds a B.A. from the le Cordon Bleu in Culinary Management with over 8 years of fine dining experience in private dining, catering and Michelan star restaurants. For more information, please visit www.closertoyourfood.com and follow Closer to Your Food on Twitter and Facebook @Closer2YourFood. 


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.