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Published on February 14, 2018

dark chocolate covered strawberries

Say ‘I Love You’ With Flavonoid-Rich Foods for Valentine’s Day

The plant-based nutrient that will drive your special someone crazy this Valentine’s Day is great for fighting inflammation and can help prevent heart disease and cancer.

The good news is you can never get too much of it, either.

They are flavonoids, and these tiny good-for-you nutrients are found in many colorful foods, including a bottle of wine – and some dark chocolate. But a better choice may be a big batch of berries – you can always dip them in a cacao-rich chocolate, right?

“Flavonoids are known powerful antioxidants that fight inflammation and can prevent plaque from building up in our blood vessels,” said Avera Heart Hospital nutrition specialist Carri Oetken, RD, LN. “They are found in many foods – they provide color to many plants. “They work by preventing oxidative damage to cells, which could trigger chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Fresh berries are some of the best sources.”

Oxidative damage, or stress, can be caused by free radical, a form of unstable molecules that are found in our bodies.

Both red and white wine contain flavonoids at about the same rate. If you choose to enjoy wine this Valentine’s Day, just remember, keep it to one or two glasses daily, to be good to your body.

If you go with chocolate, but be picky about the kinds you try. Chocolate in its rawest form comes from the beans of the cacao plant to derive cocoa – like the stuff you’d add to make a from-scratch chocolate cake deliciously rich.

“Most variety-box chocolates are packed with additional sugars and dairy, so instead opt for varieties that have 70 percent or more cacao, the active ingredient in chocolate that makes it what it is,” she said. “Those products are more robust in flavors, they are not as sugary and familiar to us, but they are packed with these healthy antioxidants.”

Cacao-rich chocolates will lose some, but not all, of the flavonoid punch when baked or cooked, so raw forms are best. You can make a nice dip for berries using a raw cacao powder with a few other ingredients, or try cocoa powder and nonfat plain yogurt as a berry dip.

That might seem like a lot of work, and if it is, remember, there’s a rainbow of other choices, all in the aisle with the oranges and onions.

“Berries, peppers, citrus fruits, and tea do pack a big antioxidant punch,” Oetken said. “All veggies with strong hues are good choices as well, including chards, arugula and even tomatoes.”

So if you’re showing your love – putting your heart out there in a healthy fashion – you can still enjoy a glass of wine, a little high-cocoa chocolate, but perhaps feast upon the most vibrant-colored vegetable as your main dish.

Long life and good health, after all, is the best way to celebration affection, isn’t it?

Healthy Chocolate Dip for Berries

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (Use unsweetened baking cocoa, not hot cocoa mix)
  • 1 tablespoon liquid sweetener, such as honey, agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 5 tablespoons water, adjusted as needed to thin or thicken the sauce

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine cocoa and sweetener.
  2. Add water and mix until consistent.
  3. The mixing may take a little time – you can add more water to make it thinner, but do so carefully to avoid thinning it too much.
  4. Serve as a heart-healthy dip for any berries you prefer.

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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