Give Dark Chocolate on Valentine’s Day for Health?

People love to give chocolate on Valentine’s Day. But can it be healthy for you too?  In the recent years cocoa and dark chocolate, have been studied for their potential health benefits.  It is believed that cocoa and dark chocolate could reduce the risk for heart disease.  This is largely due to the special antioxidants found in cocoa and dark chocolate, called flavanols.  Research has shown that flavanols can help lower blood pressure, decrease the stickiness of platelets (potentially decreasing clotting ability) and improve blood flow to the brain and heart.

Do these positive findings mean that a supersized chocolate bar is good for you?  No.

Most commercial chocolates have the added ingredients of fat and sugar, especially the milk chocolate varieties. Moderation is key and dark chocolate is preferred.  Dark chocolate retains more cocoa powder and tends to have less added fat and sugar.  Dark chocolate and cocoa work best with the motto of “a little goes a long way”, since dark chocolate is still high in calories.  To get the most out of dark chocolate, limit your intake to 1 ounce a few times a week.  Select dark chocolate varieties that are 75 % or more cocoa to get the highest amounts of antioxidant nutrients.

To make dark chocolate really work for you, consider pairing it with other antioxidant rich foods such as cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, nuts, whole grains, red wine (again in moderation), and teas.

Recipes to try:

Blueberry-Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted (about 4 oz)
  • 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup (3 oz) blueberries, chilled
  • 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted

Preparation:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the oats, cocoa powder and salt. Stir in the boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes
  2. In a food processor, add the dates and oat mixture and process for 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl every 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin seeds and pulse 12 times to break down the seeds. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Fold in the blueberries, taking care not to smash them.
  3. To form the truffles, spray your hands with non-stick cooking spray. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the mixture and roll between the palms of your hands. Roll the ball in the toasted coconut and set on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Chill for 1 hour before serving.

Makes 12 truffles

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (60% cocoa or more) (6 oz)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 cup dried cherries (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In large bowl, mix brown sugar and butter until blended.
  3. Stir in vanilla and egg until light and fluffy.
  4. Stir in oats, flours, baking soda and salt.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips, nuts and cherries and mix until well blended together.
  6. Onto ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough in rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Cool slightly and remove from cookie sheet to a wire rack.

Yields 4 to 5 dozen cookies

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups dark chocolate morsels (60% cocoa or more)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup dried cherries (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Combine flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl, until all ingredients and thoroughly mixed through.
  3. Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until creamy.
  4. Beat in eggs for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.
  5. Gradually beat in flour mixture, adding in small quantities until it is all blended thoroughly.
  6. Stir in morsels, nuts and dried fruit.
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Let sit on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then promptly remove to a cooling rack.

Yields 4 to 5 dozen cookies

Enjoy!

 


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