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A Healthy Love Affair with Chocolate

It’s February…a month with a special holiday for those in love…especially those in love with chocolate! While chocolate can’t really be called a “diet food”, the dark variety does appear to convey some health benefits, namely the reduction of blood pressure and the reduction of LDL cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol”). Dark chocolate is being studied for other health promoting effects as well – everything from symptom relief from chronic fatigue syndrome to increased insulin sensitivity.

Here’s how to choose the best chocolate “indulgence” for you and your health-conscious sweetie:

1. First of all, make sure you are choosing DARK chocolate. Sometimes dark chocolate is called “bittersweet” or “semi sweet”. To reap the most health benefits, you and your sweetheart should enjoy dark chocolate made with 60% (or more) cocoa solids (generally speaking, the more nonfat cocoa solids a product contains, the more beneficial antioxidants/flavanols it contributes – good quality chocolates will display the % cocoa solids on the package for you).

2. Check the ingredient list for fats – cocoa butter is the best; try to avoid added “milk fat”, “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”, and/or saturated “palm oil” or “palm kernel oil”.

The healthiest (and most calorie-conscious) way to enjoy chocolate this Valentine’s Day (or any time of year) is to pair it with nature’s candy – the strawberry! Dark chocolate covered strawberries are sweet, good for you, and romantic too! They are readily available around Valentine’s Day, but aren’t hard to whip up on your own. Simply dip ripe strawberries into some melted dark chocolate chips/baking chocolate and let cool (or refrigerate).

Dove Dark Chocolate Hearts are a good choice for a somewhat healthful Valentine’s Day treat – they are made with 100% cocoa butter and the fact that they are individually wrapped makes portion-control a tad easier. And the sweet message found in each one beats the ol’ chalky conversation hearts any day! For comparison’s sake, if you take a look at Lindt’s Lindor Chocolate Hearts you’ll find that 3 hearts contain 250 and there’s more sugar, coconut oil and palm kernel oil in them than coooa butter (see #2 above).

Another choice for you and your valentine would be Dove Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds. As research develops displaying the potential benefits of dark chocolate, so does the continuing study of health advantages of almonds! Dove combines these two in an indulgent treat for health-conscious lovebirds. If you are feeling extra-romantic, you may want to consider creating your own “healthy” chocolate delight together at home. Here’s an easy (and basically healthy) recipe for dark chocolate covered almonds:

But remember, these treats should still be considered once-in-a-while-indulgences. Five Dove dark chocolate candy hearts or 13 dark chocolate almonds provide 210 calories…calories that can add up quickly! But take heart in knowing that it’s possible to enjoy something special and decadent this month while promoting your health at the same time.,or.r_qf.&biw=1618&bih=911&bvm=pv.xjs.s.en_US.LENCefVoHK0.O&tch=1&ech=1&psi=OLDiUoPhNcW-2QXru4CwBw.1390587961250.5&ei=XbDiUvyzJ-3lsASnpYCQBA&ved=0CGMQpiswAA

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