If you got chocolate for Valentine’s Day, you may be surprised to hear this nutritionist tell you to keep it! February does not only have Valentine’s Day in it, but it is also National Heart Month, with the focus being on the promotion of heart-healthy behaviors. I bet you didn’t know that chocolate does in fact help your heart health.
There is plenty of research out supporting the health benefits of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. Antioxidants help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals that can lead to the development of many diseases.
In particular, flavanols are the main type of flavonoid (an antioxidant) found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and helping blood platelets clot more easily.
In addition to these antioxidant benefits, dark chocolate also has vitamins and minerals such as:
It is widely known that copper and potassium help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular ailments, while iron protects against iron deficiency anemia, and magnesium helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Now, don’t go rushing out to buy candy bars and chowing down on them. Everything in moderation is key to the benefits of this heart-healthy sweet- 2 ounces of pure, 70% or more dark chocolate has the best and most powerful health punch.
Some of my favorite recipes with chocolate in them include:
Ashley’s Vegan Chocolate Glaze Cheesecake (can be made non-vegan)
Chocolate Dipped Banana Pop
You need: 1 banana and 3 TB melted dark chocolate
Take the banana and dip it into the melted chocolate, freeze until hard, enjoy!
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Buy a form of hardening dark chocolate (I like Dolci Frutta), dip in the strawberries, let harden, and enjoy!
Melt 2-3 TB of dark chocolate
Cut up strawberries and bananas
Dip the fruit into the chocolate!