By: Cheri Leahy, RDN
Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching – and one thing it’s associated with (aside from love) is chocolate. Studies have shown many health benefits associated with consuming dark chocolate in moderate amounts – including improved heart health.
Dark chocolate can be a rich source of flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health. In addition, the fats found in dark chocolate – unlike those in meat and dairy products – do not elevate cholesterol levels.
It’s important to remember that these health benefits don’t apply to all kinds of chocolate; you must consider the quality and quantity. (And be sure to keep your portions in check — one ounce of dark chocolate has about 150 calories; the recommended amount considered healthy to consume is 1 to 2 ounces daily).
Smooth, high-quality dark chocolate is the highest in flavonoids. When choosing dark chocolate, look for the least amount of ingredients. The purer the cacao content, the better. I recommend dark chocolate with 75 percent cacao or higher. You can also try cooking with unsweetened dark cocoa powder, which has no fat or sugar, and is high in antioxidants. It can be a great add-in for smoothies, coffee drinks and other recipes.
Imitation products, commonly labeled “artificial chocolate,” or “chocolate flavored,” fall short in terms of health benefits. Not to mention, the flavor and texture are different. In the right form, chocolate has true health benefits – not to mention being delicious. So, sit back and enjoy a chocolate treat this month to reap the antioxidant rewards of this powerful bean!
Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles Recipe:
- 6 oz. dark chocolate (70% or higher)
- 1/3 cup mashed avocado (about 1 small, ripe avocado)
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- Pinch of sea salt
Instructions: Combine the chocolate, almond extract and salt over a double boiler and melt until completely smooth. Mash the avocado with a fork until no lumps are visible, and then stir it into the melted chocolate mixture until smooth and thick. Place in the fridge to set for 20 minutes. Once the mixture has chilled, use a tablespoon to scoop the chocolate into 12 balls. Roll the balls between the palms of your hand, and place them on a pan lined with parchment paper. Serve at room temperature, but store in the refrigerator for lasting shelf life.
Cheri Leahy is a Registered Dietitian with Jefferson Health New Jersey. Visit https://newjersey.jeffersonhealth.org/ or call (856) 218-2312 to learn more.