Valentine’s Day comes around every February with its sweet treat temptations and chocolate indulgences. The fact that this dessert-centric holiday falls smack in the middle of American Heart Month seems almost cruel at first thought. But believe it or not, you can enjoy a dessert that’s (relatively} good for your heart.
Related Post: Announcing Our New Heart Healthy Meal Plan
Chocolate is one sweet treat that actually has heart health benefits. Chocolate contains flavonoids, which act as antioxidants, protecting your body from the damaging effects of free radicals. Damage caused by free radicals has been linked to the development of certain diseases, including heart disease. Flavonoids can also relax your blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, which may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. But not all chocolate can boast the same heart health claims. Milk chocolate and highly processed chocolate products contain less of the heart-healthy flavonoids. For the heart-healthiest chocolate, choose pure dark chocolate that is at least 60% cocoa.
In addition to chocolate, this bark contains walnuts, which are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating four servings of nuts each week. The final ingredient in this bark is dried tart cherries. Tart cherries are high in disease-fighting antioxidants, and they have been linked to heart health benefits, including reduced inflammation and reduced cholesterol.
So the bottom line: Can you enjoy a rich, chocolaty Valentine’s Day treat and still love you heart? We say absolutely. Just watch your portion, and enjoy 1 to 2 ounces of our heart-healthy chocolate bark, and share the rest with a loved one.
- 1 (4-oz) package chopped walnuts, toasted
- 3 (4-oz) bittersweet dark chocolate bars, chopped
- ½ cup dried tart cherries
- ½ tsp grated orange rind (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast walnuts on a baking sheet 5 minutes or until fragrant.
- Microwave chocolate in a large glass bowl at 50% power 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in walnuts, cherries and orange rind (if using).
- Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 1 hour or until firm. Break candy into irregular pieces to serve.
Have you seen our latest Heart Healthy Meal Plan? This plan includes seven heart-healthy, family-friendly dinner recipes each week, all reviewed by our Registered Dietitians. Sign up for a free 14-day trial, and celebrate American Heart Month with a new Heart Healthy Meal Plan.
-Text by Jessica Cox, RD