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It's an all-day recipe for romance with our Valentine's Day menus.

Get the scoop on chocolate's aphrodisiac properties.

Take good care of your heart with the FoodFit Plan.

   

Nutrition Smarts

Chocolate: A Sweet Surprise

Guilty pleasure and chocolate seem to go hand-in-hand, but maybe not for long. A growing body of research shows chocolate is good for the heart, and not just in the romantic sense.

A Not-So-Sinful Indulgence

Chocolate—particularly dark chocolate—contains antioxidants that promote heart health. The cocoa used to make chocolate is rich in flavonoids (also found in green tea, red wine, apples and grapes) that are linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Dark chocolate also contains cocoa phenols, which studies have found to lower blood pressure.

White chocolate doesn't have the same health merits because it is not made with cocoa.

What's more, oleic acid, one of the "good" fats, which is also found in olive oil, accounts for one-third of the fat in chocolate. It has been shown to be heart healthy.

But chocoholics shouldn't take this as license to indulge—chocolate is high in calories and should be consumed in moderate amounts as part of a diet rich in a variety of beneficial foods like fruits and vegetables.

Better than Flowers

The ancient Indians in North America called chocolate the "food of the gods." For many, it does have a heavenly, velvety taste.

Throughout history, chocolate has been considered a natural aphrodisiac—an elixir for love. Casanova, the original ladies' man, ate chocolate to inspire romantic feelings. Montezuma, emperor of the ancient Aztecs, consumed chocolate to increase his virility.

In the 1800s, doctors routinely advised their lovelorn patients to eat chocolate to ease their pining over an unrequited love. This cure is no longer medically advised, but is still widely practiced—often with the help of two men named Ben and Jerry.

In 1860, an English Quaker named John Cadbury joined with his brother Benjamin to create a chocolate business called the Cadbury Brothers of Birmingham. John touted his belief that imbibing chocolate was much healthier than drinking alcohol. A year later, his son Richard Cadbury introduced the first heart-shaped candy box for Valentine's Day. The tradition of buying chocolate for your sweetheart has blossomed ever since. Today, Americans spend more than a billion dollars on chocolates for Valentine's Day each year.

Sweet Surrender

When you're thumbing through your cookbooks, choose recipes that combine chocolate with wholesome ingredients like fruit or feature small portions like mini-cakes. You can also try adding some chocolate chips to your granola or enjoying a cup of hot chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth. Still, sometimes the best way to indulge your chocolate craving is with one rich, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth truffle—the definitive chocolate fix.

Take pleasure in these chocolate recipes:

Warm Chocolate Fantasy
Nancy Silverton's Banana and Cocoa Small Cake
Chocolate Celebration Cake
Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Meringues
Bittersweet Chocolate Souffles
Double Chocolate Chip Biscotti

 

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