Valentine’s Day is coming up, and for many people, that means one thing — chocolate! Here’s the good news: chocolate can be good for you.
Yes, you read that correctly.
But not all chocolate is created equal. So before you grab that sugar-laden candy bar, stick to these simple strategies to satisfy your craving, reap the health benefits and, yes, enjoy something chocolate-y on Valentine’s Day.
Rule of thumb #1: Dark is better than milk is better than white
Dark chocolate is the most nutritious form of chocolate bar available, with more than double the amount of heart-healthy flavonoids of milk chocolate. Milk chocolate is made by adding milk or cream, which ups the fat content and reduces the body’s ability to absorb beneficial antioxidants. It typically has more sugar as well. White chocolate is the least nutritious, as it is made with sugar, milk and cocoa butter, without any of the healthier cocoa solids.
Rule of thumb #2: The higher cocoa content the better
Chocolate comes from the cacao plant, and cacao is extremely high in flavonoids, which are also a powerful antioxidant. The more cacao solids the chocolate has, the higher in antioxidants the chocolate will be. The amount of cacao is often noted on the packaging of dark chocolate bars. Try to stick with 70 percent or higher.
Rule of thumb #3: Moderation is key
While a small square of chocolate a day can be good for you, more is not better. Chocolate is still high in overall sugar, fat and calories, so consider it a special occasion treat, and enjoy in small amounts.
Looking for a great recipe to indulge your craving while putting these rules to practice? Try whipping up these lightened chocolate cupcakes. With half the calories of regular cupcakes, these treats are made with flavonoid-rich cocoa powder, providing both heart-healthy antioxidants and great chocolate flavor. Make a batch to share with your Valentine this week!
Chocolate-y Chocolate Cupcakes (adapted from Cooking Light)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup egg substitute
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 cup 1 percent low-fat buttermilk
- 1 1/4 ounces dark (70 percent cocoa or higher) chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Preparation: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir with a whisk. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined, about 3 minutes. Add egg substitute and vanilla, beating well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to granulated sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups lined with muffin cup liners.
Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar immediately before serving.
Where To Buy
If you’re looking to buy high quality chocolate, check out Seattle-based Theo Chocolate. Theo sources 100 percent fairly traded, organic beans, which are roasted on-site at their Seattle factory. And did we mention they’ve won numerous awards for producing some of the best tasting chocolate in the world? You might have to try a bar. You know, just to be sure.