It’s that time of year again, candy hearts, flying cupids, and chocolate covered everything. Valentine’s day, which happens to be one of my favorite holidays, is coming up this week and I am preparing with plenty of cards and sweet(ish) treats. It may seem easy to pass out the traditional conversation hearts and red lollipops, but why not give your loved ones treats that will actually support their health?!
Let’s start with the fact that chocolate literally makes you happy. This wonder food releases endorphins in the brain which are the feel-good chemicals in the brain. When chosen properly, chocolate not only makes you happy, but can make you healthy too! It is important to pick a variety with a 70% or higher cocoa content, and is sourced using fair trade practices. Additionally, keep an eye on the sugar content, remember we should cap our daily sugar intake at 25 g.
In addition to being an antioxidant powerhouse, chocolate is a decent source of minerals and fiber. 100 grams of 70% dark chocolate contains:
11 g fiber
67% Recommended Daily Intake for iron
58% RDI for magnesium
89% RDI for copper
98% RDI for manganese
Keep in mind 100 g is a lot of chocolate to have in one serving and should be eaten in moderation.
Additionally, chocolate has been shown to:
Improve circulation and lower blood pressure
The antioxidants, specifically flavanols, are known to stimulate the production of nitric oxide in the arterial walls. This increased NO production can help arteries to relax, which reduces any resistance on blood flow.
Reduce the risk for heart disease
70% or higher dark chocolate has been shown to improve insulin resistance risk and reduce levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol, which are both risks for heart disease. The antioxidants from the chocolate enter the bloodstream and can prevent damage to the LDL cholesterol.
Prevent skin damage from the sun
Flavonols, the same compounds responsible for lowered blood pressure are also responsible for reducing skin damage from the sun. This is due to their ability to increase blood flow to the skin, as well as increase skin density and hydration. In a study of over 30 people, after 12 weeks of consuming dark chocolate their skin’s ability to tolerate the sun doubled!
Improve brain function
Again, flavonols are also helpful in the improvement of brain function. This is due to increased blood flow to the brain and the slight stimulate compounds like caffeine and theobromine, which increase brain function.
My favorite chocolate brands
Your Super Chocolate Lover Superfood Supplement
Try it at home with these delicious chocolate recipes!
Spiced Hot Chocolate,Serves 2 – adapted from thechalkboardmag.com
1 cup of organic, full fat coconut/almond/cashew/oat milk
1 cup purified, hot water
4 Tbs raw cacao powder
2 Tbs raw cacao nibs
1 Tbs Ceylon cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp chili powder
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt
Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until thoroughly combined, about 3 minutes.
Chocolate Banana Pancakes, Serves 2 – adapted from thechalkboardmag.com
1 ripe banana, plus more to serve
2 large eggs
2 Tbs raw cacoa powder
½ tsp baking powder, aluminum-free
Maple syrup, to serve
Add the banana to a bowl and mash until it is creamy.
In another bowl, crack eggs and whisk until completely combined.
Add the baking powder and cocoa powder to the banana and add eggs. Whisk until everything is combined.
Add coconut oil to a griddle or skillet and heat over medium heat.
Once the skillet is hot, add 2 tbs of the batter.
Cook until the sides appear set, you will not see bubbles like traditional pancakes. Carefully flip.
Once the pancake is firm, remove and place on plate.
Continue until all the batter has been used.
Serve with sliced banana and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Note: you may need a fork to help the flipping process, these “pancakes” are thin and tend to scrunch.
By Charlotte LaGuardia