For Valentine’s Day we prepared this great –  very sweet – dessert for you to try at home with those you love – dark chocolate-covered strawberries.  Yes, chocolate is good for your health as long as it’s dark and enjoyed in moderation.

Dark chocolate, in moderation, is great for lowering blood pressure according to numerous studies .  According to Mayo Clinic, the raw cacao beans used to make chocolate products are a rich source of flavonoids — antioxidants found in plants.  ”Flavonoid compounds, especially flavanols, are concentrated in raw cacao beans. They appear to play a protective role in heart health.”  Other foods that have flavanols include apricots, apples, grapes, red wine and tea leaves, however;  chocolate has the highest concentration.  According to Livestrong, the exception is white chocolate; its processing removes all flavonoids.

Giovambattista Desideri, a researcher at Italy’s University of L’Aquila, reported to Huffington Post that clinical and experimental evidence demonstrate that flavonoid-rich foods, such as dark chocolate, “are effective in maintaining cardiovascular function and health and are associated with better cognitive function in elderly subjects.”  A number of widely reported studies found that, in general, chocolate lovers seem to have lower rates of certain heart risks, like high blood pressure.  The American Heart Association also reported that studies have shown that moderate dark chocolate consumption is linked to improved blood pressure and heart disease.

For all you chocolate lovers eager to indulge in something decadent this Valentine’s Day, that just happens to also be healthy, can now enjoy our dark chocolate dipped strawberries.

The recipe is simple, quick, sweet, healthy and fun to make.

All you need:

1/2 cup dark chocolate

3 simple steps to a blissful culinary experience:

1.  Wash the strawberries and dry them 100% on a paper towel lined plate or tray. Prepare another plate or tray with wax paper, baking paper or parchment to later hold the chocolate dipped strawberries.

2. Set up a double boiler. Fill a 4-5 quart (liter) saucepan with a few inches of water. Bring to a strong simmer. Place the dark chocolate in a small to medium stainless steel bowl or another smaller pan that will fit just inside of the larger water filled pan. Place the bowl or pan inside of the larger pan and turn heat down to low. Melt chocolate slowly, stirring occasionally until smooth.

3. Carefully holding each berry by its stem, dip the berry in the melted dark chocolate. You can also experiment and dip other fruits that you like.  Allow the excess chocolate to drip off then turn the berry upside down so the chocolate can set over most of the strawberry. Place each strawberry on a baking sheet, then refrigerate until the dark chocolate hardens, at least 15 minutes.

Something Extra to Jazz up Your Dessert

If you want to add heart-healthy nuts, like walnuts, then chop them up and immediately dip the chocolate covered strawberry in the chopped nuts, so that the nuts cover the chocolate.   You can also dip the chocolate in unsweetened shredded coconut, which also has many health benefits and is very tasty. Unsweetened shredded coconut contains a wide range of minerals, including iron, potassium, manganese and selenium. Low potassium levels are linked with high blood pressure, and potassium-rich foods are the best source of this necessary mineral, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Not sure which dark chocolate to buy?

When shopping for your dark chocolate, try to choose those that offer greater than 70% cacao and check the ingredients to make sure it contains no alkali.  Keep in mind that once you get to 90% or 99% cacao, the chocolate has very little sugar and will taste extremely bitter.

Here are some great brands that you can try:

Godiva 72% or 85% Cacao Chocolate Bars: Are not processed with alkali. This means the bitter taste along with those fantastic health benefits are still in tact.

Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Squares: Uses no cocoa powder to intensify the chocolate flavor; the ingredients instead include cocoa butter and liquor.  A little bit of liquor can spice things up.

Organic Taza Chocolate Bars

Green & Black’s Organic Bars

Michel Cluizel, Noir de Cacao 72%, was rated #1 dark chocolate by Kitchen Daily.

Valor Dark Chocolate, 70% cocoa

Theo Organic Dark Chocolate, 70% cacao

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate 73% super dark

Trader Joe’s The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Bar, 85% cacao

The dark chocolates that are less beneficial to your health

    • Dove Dark Chocolate: Processed with alkali or, also called “Dutch processed”, means that the acids in the chocolate are neutralized, and many of the antioxidants are lost.
    • CocoaVia Supplement Packs: These are similar to Crystal Light, except they have flavanoids (the main chocolate antioxidant) added in. You will get some health benefits from this, but it is more important to eat the whole food that contains the fiber.
    • Hershey’s Special Dark
    • Dark Chocolate M&M’s
    • Milky Way Midnight
    • Nestle Dark Hot Chocolate: Still contains trans fat!

Let us know how your Valentine’s Day dessert turns out.

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