Just in time for Valentines Day, this post is all about CHOCOLATE! As with most holidays, chocolate comes with the territory during this fiercely loved and hated time of the year. We get bombarded at every turn – the office break room, your child’s class party, the endless aisles of pink and red candies at the grocery store, and of course, from your sweetie.
Hold up…I know what you’re thinking! “Here she goes. She’s going to give us all these strategies for avoiding chocolate and eating healthier items like kale.” But you’re wrong! I say, there’s room for a little chocolate in our diet (in moderation of course), but here are a couple of suggestions for making the best choice for your Valentines Day indulgence.
Choose Dark Chocolate
Believe it or not, chocolate contains some of the same health benefits as vegetables! (YES!!!) Flavonoids, which act as antioxidants, protect the body from aging caused by cell-damaging free radicals. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (Nearly eight times the number found in strawberries!). Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.
And here’s some good news for the ladies: Nibbling a little dark chocolate a few times a month could protect women from heart failure down the road, according to a recent study from Harvard Medical School (Unfortunately, gorging out can erase all the benefits!). The chocolate-eating habits of 31,823 women ages 38 to 83 were monitored over a nine-year period and the results showed that women who ate up to three one-ounce servings of dark chocolate a month had a 32% lower risk of developing heart failure compared to women who ate little or none. Women who ate one or more servings a week showed no benefits to their hearts, and risk actually increased in women who consumed three to six weekly servings.
The chocolate with the greatest benefits in this study was high-quality without a lot of added sugar. The higher the cocoa content, the more protection the chocolate gave. Studies also show eating dark chocolate in small doses helps to decrease high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
I like to buy high-quality dark chocolate and put it in the freezer, so I have it on hand when my nightly sweet tooth kicks in. If it’s frozen it takes me longer to eat and enjoy, and I feel more satisfied with a small amount.
Choose Fair Trade Certified Chocolate
Chocolate manufacturers get their cocoa from a limited number of places around the world. About 70% of commercial chocolate is produced from cocoa beans grown in the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroon, where child slave trafficking is common. Even in places where child slave labor is not used, cocoa farmers are impoverished and environmental degradation is rampant. If you want to ensure that your Valentine’s chocolate comes from a place where people are paid a living wage and where it’s environmentally sustainable, check out this list of Fair Trade chocolate manufacturers.
One final word about consuming chocolate. When we’re eating balanced meals the majority of the time, we’re much better able to handle a little chocolate consumption without it sending us on a sugar roller coaster. The whole reason I try to eat healthy is so I can afford little splurges from time to time!
So Happy Valentines Day to all you chocolate lovers out there! Have a wonderful weekend.
Forget love – I’d rather fall in chocolate!!!