Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a holiday centered around the heart, but a candy and dessert overload doesn't exactly promote heart health. Here are a few ideas for creative Valentine's Day gifts that are great for your heart!
A Word about Chocolate
Chocolate contains phenolic compounds called flavonoids. Flavonoids act as potent antioxidants and lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. The flavonoids in chocolate are thought to protect the heart in two ways: by inhibiting low-density lipoprotein (LDL, aka “bad”) cholesterol oxidation and by stopping the blood platelet aggregation processes that contribute to atherosclerosis.
These phytochemicals are found in a greater concentration in cocoa powder than in regular chocolate, because regular chocolate is higher in saturated fat, sugar, and calories. Other plant foods like red wine, tea, onions, and parsley also contain high levels of flavonoids, but I think we can all agree that giving an onion as a Valentine's Day gift might send some mixed signals.
Creative Chocolate Valentine's Day Gifts
Remember, a portion of chocolate is rather small. Instead of buying a big box of chocolates this year, why not purchase a small, high-quality candy bar and pair it with something else? Here are some ideas:
- Coffee mug packed with a chocolate bar and gift certificate
- Fuzzy socks stuffed with a chocolate bar
- Custom picture frame with a chocolate bar taped to the glass
- Aromatherapy candle gift set with a chocolate bar nestled in the middle
- Fresh seasonal fruit basket with a chocolate bar tied to the front
- Homemade chocolate covered strawberries
Chocolate for Your Heart
You can eat right for your heart, even on Valentine's Day! In fact, this is actually easier than you might expect. Try some of the suggestions below for great ways to combine chocolate and celebrations without going into calorie overload.
- Breakfast: put a cocoa powder heart on everyone’s oatmeal for breakfast. Simply make a cardboard stencil with a heart cut out of the middle and use a tea sieve to lightly sprinkle the cocoa powder in the middle of the stencil.
- Dessert: Make a fruit plate and garnish it with small scoops of chocolate sorbet, some light chocolate syrup, and a dusting of cocoa powder on the rim of the plate.
- More dessert: Make chocolate pudding with 1 box of silken tofu (12 oz), 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, and 1/3 cup skim/soy milk. Simply combine all the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. You can chill the mixture before serving it, if you'd like.
- Dark chocolate offers a wonderful way to satisfy your cravings with fewer calories. Dark chocolate contains more pure chocolate -- which also means more antioxidants and less fatty cocoa butter -- than milk chocolate.
By Sandy Hernandez, MS, RD
Gift For YOU
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