Karen Fauber, MA, RD, LD, MAJ, USAR
The combination of flowers, candles, and a romantic dinner for two can only mean one thing. It must be Valentine’s Day. But those three little words, “I love you,” mean so much more when you add some dark chocolate to the mix.
Want to show that special someone how much you care? Well, eating chocolate has been found to trigger feelings similar to “falling in love.” Also, to help ease the (caloric) guilt of giving it as a gift, growing evidence demonstrates that blood pressure may be lowered by eating as little as 1 ½ ounces of dark chocolate a day. This equals about two small pieces of dark chocolate daily. Makes you want to dip right in, doesn’t it?
Why choose dark chocolate? Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are also found in red wine, berries and tea. Flavonoids in dark chocolate help your heart by keeping your blood vessels relaxed and protecting your body against heart disease. Interestingly, while dark chocolate has almost four times as many flavonoids as milk chocolate, white chocolate has none.
Very dark chocolate may be somewhat bitter so you may have to try different varieties to find the one you like. Don’t forget though, chocolate is still high in fat and calories. As with most foods, portion control is the key to getting proper health benefits. Remember, just 1 ½ ounces of dark chocolate a day will satisfy your cravings and give you all the nutritional benefits you seek. And always choose dark chocolate with at least 60 percent cocoa content, which ensures a higher flavonoid content.
So go ahead. Indulge yourself a little. Try several different dark chocolates to find that special one (or two) to share with those you love.
For a delicious dip into dark chocolate, try the following recipes:
Chocolate Dipped Fruit and Pretzels
Fresh strawberries, bananas, apples, or grapes
½ cup orange juice
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave at half strength for 60 to 90 seconds in a glass bowl. Stir the chocolate until creamy and smooth. Slice apples and bananas and dip in orange juice. Dip clean strawberries, bananas, apples, grapes or pretzels in the melted chocolate and let dry on wax paper. Serve.
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup almonds
1 cup dried cranberries
Mix the dark chocolate chips, almonds and cranberries together in a small plastic container for a snack between meals.
Major Karen Fauber is a registered and licensed dietitian with more than
17 years of military service and experience with the Defense Commissary Agency, a worldwide chain of nearly 260 commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families. She is truly passionate about promoting healthy eating, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in health education.
For more recipes go to “Kay’s Kitchen,” and for more nutrition information go to the “DeCA Dietitian” section on www.commissaries.com.
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