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Loving Chocolate: A Dark Dream or Sweet Reality?

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry

By Betty Garrity MPH, RD
Internship Coordinator
UC San Diego Medical Center Dietetic Internship
and Bridget Marden, dietetic intern

A gift from the heart that may help the heart? Recent studies suggest chocolate consumers may lower their risk of coronary heart disease. One of the primary benefits of chocolate is in the powerful antioxidants called flavanols. These compounds are also found in red wine, tea, onions and cranberries. Flavanols appear to benefit cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart and making blood less sticky, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.

There is a caveat with chocolate. Milk chocolate is not associated with the potential health benefits, and you can definitely eat too much of a good thing. While studies on dark chocolate suggest positive effects on heart health, moderation is key. The more we consume, the lower the potential benefit. In addition, there are other essential elements of a healthy diet that important in preventing heart disease, such as including an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

In order to reap the cited health benefits of chocolate-based flavanols, look for dark chocolate that has a 70 percent or higher cacao content and lists cacao as its first ingredient, not sugar. Limit portions to 1-3 ounces once or twice per week, which will minimize the extra calories that might lead to weight gain.

On Valentine’s Day, enjoy some chocolate-covered strawberries with that special someone. It might be good for both of your hearts.

Chili Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

  • 6 oz dark bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon butter 1/8 teaspoon ground pure chili powder
  • 10 large strawberries with stems

Heat the chocolate, cream, and butter in a mixing bowl over another pot of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted, and then add the chili powder and stir until blended. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip it in the chocolate and place on wax paper. Allow the strawberries to cool and chill until set, approximately 30 minutes.

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