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Happy–and Healthy–Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, Pasco County!  Thinking of getting your valentine a sweet treat?  Just remember that some of us are still sticking to a “better eating” new year’s goal, and so you may want to consider a healthier sweet treat.  One option is to go with dark chocolate, specifically if it’s at least 70 percent cocoa (the darker the chocolate, the healthier it is).  What makes dark chocolate healthier than milk chocolate?  It contains flavonols, or healthy antioxidants, which are also found in produce, green tea, red wine, and other foods, and have many benefits, including promoting cardiovascular health (remember, it’s still American Heart Month!), and decreasing the chances of stroke, cancer, or early aging (Hunter, 2008).  Other ways dark chocolate can help improve our health are:

  • Lowering blood pressure in those who have hypertension
  • Decreasing plaque build-up in arteries
  • Raising good cholesterol
  • Blood clotting faster
  • Blood vessels become more flexible
  • Better insulin resistance

Meanwhile, milk chocolate and white chocolate have a lot of saturated fat, which can increase cholesterol (Hunter, 2008) and don’t have high levels of flavonoids and antioxidants.  Of course, this isn’t to say that dark chocolate can replace medications or physical activity.  And the best ways to get antioxidants in our diet is through nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables or in green or black tea, since dark chocolate contains a lot of calories.

If you want to skip chocolate altogether, try making “fruit kababs” with some sweet red and pink fruit, such as strawberries, grapefruit, watermelon, or red grapes, cut into heart shapes and placed on skewers or pretzel sticks.  Or, a fruit basket might make a healthier gift as well.

Remember to enjoy everything in moderation.  Even with its benefits, dark chocolate is something that should be enjoyed once in a while, such as on a holiday that involves giving sweets as gifts.

References:

Hunter, J.G.  (2008).  Dark Chocolate: A Healthier Valentine Treat.  Retrieved from http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/hot_topics/2008/02chocolate.html

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