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Dark chocolate: Heart-healthy benefits on Valentine’s Day

It’s National Heart Month and what better way to say “I love you” this Valentine’s Day than with something that can help your loved ones be healthy – dark chocolate. But, it’s not just any chocolate. Dark chocolate is the chocolate of choice when you want to say “I love you” in a heart-healthy way.

According to Raynelle Shelley, R.D., Scott & White Clinic – Round Rock, “true dark chocolate contains flavonoids, chemicals that are found in the extracts of the cocoa bean. Flavonoids are antioxidants, substances that help protect our bodies from harmful free radicals that can damage the body. Choose dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (70 percent or higher) to give your body more of these healthy antioxidants. In addition, some types of chocolate are now enriched with plant sterols, which have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels.

Some other health advantages of dark chocolate according to Shelley, include:

  • It may lower blood pressure. Studies have shown that consuming a small square of dark chocolate daily can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure.
  • It can lower your cholesterol. Dark chocolate has been shown to increase your HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
  • It stimulates endorphin production, which provides a feeling of pleasure.
  • It contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant.
  • It has less sugar than regular milk chocolate (better for your teeth).

“It’s still important to keep in mind that dark chocolate is a high calorie food, mostly from fats, so be sure to be mindful of how much you eat,” said Shelley. “A little love and a little dark chocolate go a long way!” Also, make sure the first ingredient is not sugar.

Valentine’s Day Dark Chocolate Pancakes:

  • 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup Silk unsweetened almond milk (30 calorie variety)
  • 2 tbsp agaveIMG_0884use-225x300

Topping:

  • Very light dusting of powdered sugar
  • Smucker’s low sugar strawberry preserves

Combine pastry flour, Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder, 1 tbsp baking powder and mix well before adding wet ingredients. Add almond milk and agave then stir until just combined – lumps are okay since over-mixing makes them tough. Heat skillet or griddle on medium heat until a little water applied makes the water droplets travel across the pan. Spray with a canola spray oil and then immediately pour about 1/3 cup of mixture per cake onto the pan. This will make  six pancakes, serving two people a heart healthy breakfast full of flavonoids and dietary fiber without the cholesterol from cow milk and eggs found in traditional pancakes.

Three pancakes with 1 tsp powdered sugar and 3 Tbsp of preserves:

  • Calories 333
  • Total fat 3g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 940mg
  • Potassium 19mg
  • Total carbohydrates 78g
  • Dietary fiber 11g
  • Protein 7g

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Dark chocolate: Heart-healthy benefits on Valentine’s Day