For the Love of Chocolate: Healthy Treats for Valentine’s Day

It’s the month of love and according to a survey from the National Confectioners Association, 69 percent of Americans want chocolate on Valentines Day.  And chocolate can definitely be part of a healthy lifestyle for families, teens, and kids!

Chocolate originates from the cacao bean – cacao refers to the plant or bean, chocolate is anything made from the bean and cocoa refers to the powdered form of chocolate.

Cacao beans are full of flavenoids, a group of antioxidants giving it a pungent flavor. Flavenoids are linked with health benefits including decreased inflammation and insulin resistance, lower risk of heart disease and stroke, and better memory and brain function. Cacao has a high saturated fat content but it is stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on cholesterol levels. Chocolate may also help with weight control – if consumed in the correct form and portion! And as a mood enhancer, chocolate makes a sweet and romantic Valentine gift.

Generally the more processed the chocolate, the less flavenoid and antioxidant properties with more sugar and fat calories. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are low in flavenoids whereas cocoa powder and dark chocolate with 45-90% cocoa are higher in flavenoids. Other foods high in flavenoids include berries, peppers, red wine, and black and green teas.

The bottom line for chocolate lovers – look for unsweetened cocoa powder or dark chocolate with 60% cocoa or more. Recommended serving size is 1 ounce several times a week. When you eat it, make sure it’s after a meal, eat slowly and savor the flavor. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Super Easy Chocolate Brownies

Baking from scratch may sound difficult, but many recipes are just as easy as grabbing a box mix. And no fake stuff here!

½ cup melted butter or coconut oil ¾ cup evaporated cane juice (or ¾ cup white sugar) 2 eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 1/3 cup cocoa powder 1/3 cup fresh-ground soft white wheat flour (or ½ cup unbleached white flour) ¼ tsp salt ¼ tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly mix everything except flour together in a bowl. Add flour and fold together just until blended. Pour batter into a greased 8 inch square pan and bake for 25 minutes. Rest until set, cut into 16 squares and enjoy!

Hot Cocoa

This is a lower calorie treat that satisfies chocolate cravings. Sip slowly!

• 1 cup milk of choice (cow, almond, rice, coconut, etc)
• 1 TBS. unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cocoa
• 1 tsp (or to taste) honey, maple syrup or stevia equivalent

Taste variations:
• Couple drops mint or vanilla extract
• A pinch of cinnamon or warm the milk with cinnamon sticks
• A few mini marshmallows

Pour milk into small saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk in cocoa and sweetener. Add variations as desired. Warm through and serve.

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