Photo by Shania Pinnata on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Ihor N on Unsplash

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.

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