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Caring for someone special includes wishing them good health; therefore yes, despite being health-conscious, I will be saying “I Love you” this Valentine’s Day with boxes of creamy chocolate delights for family and friends.

That’s because over the past decade, numerous studies have been published that validate the health benefits of chocolate. However, before I perused the candy aisle, I decided to look into which types of chocolate were worth my money. Read on to get the inside scoop on how to ensure that you give your sweetie a healthy confection rather than a pile of worthless, heart-clogging fat.

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Stick to the dark varieties

Two different studies revealed that dark chocolate, not the white or milk types, was able to reduce blood pressure and boost antioxidant levels. (By the way, antioxidants are compounds that protect our bodies from damage that occurs from unhealthy stressors such as smoking and UV light – boosting them would be a good thing.)

The researchers even went as far to discover that drinking milk actually can negate the positive effects when consumed in conjunction with dark chocolate. So stop dunking your Oreos!

Aim high

The range of cocoa concentration can vary from chocolate to chocolate, so look for high percentage concentrations on the package. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the better for your honey it is – 70 percent cocoa will provide 30 percent more cocoa (along with its health benefits) and 30 percent less sugar than a chocolate with only 40 percent cocoa. Keeping in mind that you are choosing chocolate for your love, it seems only logical to pick the “healthier” one.

Stick with naturally-processed products

The compounds responsible for antioxidant activity in chocolate can contribute a pleasantly bitter taste. When extracting cocoa from the bean, many inferior manufacturing companies use harsh techniques that destroy these compounds, along with their health benefits.

I discovered that finer chocolatiers such as Scharffen Berger and Ghirardelli use natural processes to produce a higher quality chocolate that retains much of the antioxidant properties. If purchasing chocolate in a specialty store, the sales person might have valuable information about the chocolates available.

Now before you let your Valentine devour the entire box of Godiva you gave, remind them that chocolate also is loaded with calories and fat, which, unfortunately, is not a health benefit.

Amazingly, one ounce of dark chocolate packs in around 170 calories and 12 grams of fat, translating into 18 extra pounds if consumed daily for a year!

So, while the dietitian is not advocating gobbling dark chocolate on a habitual basis for its health benefits, splurging a little for a special occasion may actually be good for the heart.

Photo by Azmaan Baluch on Unsplash

Chocolate Brownies

  • 1 9-inch pan
  • 2 squares (about 4 oz) unsweetened dark baking chocolate
  • Butter to grease the foil-lined pan
  • 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1.25 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and broken (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Press a layer of aluminum foil into the baking pan, taking care when lining the corners and sides. Brush the foil generously with softened or melted butter. Set aside.
  2. In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. When melted, remove chocolate from heat to cool.
  3. Cream butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add salt, vanilla and sugar, and beat until blended.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, scraping bowl as needed, beating only until just incorporated.
  5. With mixer on low speed, add the chocolate and the flour, beating until just incorporated. Fold in nuts with a rubber spatula, if desired.
  6. Transfer batter to the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for about 25 minutes. Test for doneness starting at 20 minutes: a toothpick inserted should come out barely moist.
  7. Cool brownies for 20 minutes, and turn out onto a rack. Flip brownies right-side up onto a foil-lined cutting board. Wrap in the foil when completely cool. You may want to chill the brownies before slicing.

About the Author

Lauren Petr is a Contributor and Registered Dietician for Plumgood Food

Lauren Petr, Plumgood Food’s registered dietician, answers questions about diet and nutrition for all Plumgood customers, free of charge. Lauren also can develop personalized meal and dietary plans for individual customers for an added fee. For more information, visit www.plumgoodfood.com or contact Lauren at lpetr@plumgoodfood.com or (615) 248-4448 ext. 102.

How to talk about transgender issues

So how do we talk about transgender issues (even if you're not transgender)? There are three main things to remember when discussing transgender issues today, so before getting into the meat and potatoes of it all, let's keep these things in mind:

  1. It is not a political discussion, it is a human rights discussion.
  2. There is a rich history rooted in transgender rights that must be considered when discussing these issues.
  3. Humanization should always be at the forefront of the conversation.

Before going into any conversation, no matter who it's with, try to keep these things in mind before you say something that may be inappropriate, misguided, or just plain wrong. Even those with the best intentions can mess up; remember that it is always ok to admit when you do not know something or when you are wrong. That being said, let's get into it.

sign with a 'friendly for all genders' image showing a person in a wheelchair, and a person with half a dress and pants on.

Transgender bathroom bills


So whether you choose to become a transgender activist or if you just want to be a better ally, this easy talking point will generally keep you in line and on the safe side of conversations while still putting forth the effort to encourage and better represent transgender rights.

Easy, all-around approach: This will work for almost all transgender issues and expand on the previous three rules; firstly, trans issues are not a debate. When discussing with someone, do not indulge in hypotheticals and always remember that transgender people are the exact same as anyone else, with the exact same feelings. Keeping this in mind, let's use the bathroom bill as an example. When discussing this issue, one should humanize, de-politicize, and normalize the conversation. How does one employ this, though? Here is an example of how the conversation may go.

Person 1: I don't want men in the women's restroom, they will rape my daughters.

So this statement is clearly based on reactionary conversation perpetuated by anti-transgender ideals. This means that the person probably has a misconception of the history and oppression of transgender people. They also show concern for their family, which is a step towards humanization, despite the misconception. Here would be an appropriate response that helps to humanize, de-politicize, and normalize the conversation.

Person 2: I don't want men in the women's restroom, either, which is why we need to make sure people who identify as women are using the women's restroom. There has never been a documented case where a transgender person has raped either a man or woman in a public restroom. And by forcing people to use a restroom that does not match their gender identity, it is promoting violence, as there is a strong history of physical violence against transgender people.

By only saying about three sentences, you are able to do the previous steps while discussing the issue in a civil manner without opening it up to debate. The key to this is to keep it short and sweet, stating both the truth and an ally's stance to support the transgender community. It's critical to make sure that what you say is backed with confidence, though, which is why this second approach is more encouraged as it gives the person speaking more confidence in their opinion.

gif of a man in a suit talking about number 1. Number 1 GIF by PragerU Giphy

The second approach: backed by facts and history, is the exact same as before, but this approach leaves the other person with more questions about their stance and gives them something to consider. Before going into this approach, however, it is important to keep in mind that you are not debating the existence of trans people, nor are you trying to change someone's mind. That is not the goal; the goal is simply to get your opinion across in a way that honors both the trans community and their ideas. Let's take the same example as before but add the new sentiments.

Person 1: I don't want men in the women's restrooms, they will rape my daughters.

Person 2: There has never been a documented case of a transgender person raping anyone in a public restroom, and the only published cases of such were proven to be false. Further, when people say things like this, they are perpetuating violence against transgender people, which has historically (and still does) oppressed and insight further physical violence against them. And honestly, the most common reason there is this stance is because the person typically does not know a trans person and may not even know a person who does know a trans person. But the truth is, they probably do. The probability is more likely that the transgender people around them are just not comfortable enough in the environment to come out and speak up about their gender identity. And yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it is quite sad that some people's opinion does not invite civil discussion but instead incites violence.

This approach is more confrontational, which requires more confidence when using it in a conversation, but it still holds true to all of the previous rules and sentiments. It adds truth based on history, which is an important aspect of trans rights as it reminds people of where we were/ where we are currently with human rights. These ideas can be transferred to most all trans issues and will honor the transgender movement and your allyship. The last thing to keep in mind is the person or reason you are standing up for/with trans rights. The passion -the compassion will shine through in conversation if you keep your reasoning close to heart. Whether it is because of a transgender friend, family member, or just because of your moral values, if you put your emotions into your reasoning, it will create more compelling statements, especially if the statement is well versed with the facts.

Tips to Remember When Discussing Transgender Issues

  1. Transgender issues are not political, they are human rights issues
  2. There is a rich history behind transgender issues
  3. Humanize transgender people through our words and ideas and don't forget to include:
    • 3(b). The facts
    • 3(c).The confidence
    • 3(d). The inspiration behind the support for transgender rights

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