Well as the old saying goes, a promise is a promise. We promised some sweet treats for February so here they are….
But first, let’s talk about a very important organ of ours that’s closely associated with this month: the heart. We’re bombarded by things heart-related all month long. No matter where you go, you are bombarded by hearts. Whether at the store, TV, or online, there are hearts galore in February! Of course we all know Valentine’s Day falls on Sunday, February 14th. But you don’t have to wait until then to celebrate the hardest working organ in your body. February is also American Heart Month, and what better way to treat yourself (& your heart) than with some heart healthy recipes courtesy of The American Heart Association?!? The link below will take you to their website where you can explore a variety of heart healthy recipes for all tastes and diets.
We’d like to encourage you to search through those recipes and take the initiative to lead a heart healthy lifestyle. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.
The good news? Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their own health conditions. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to create opportunities for people to make healthier choices.
You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower your risk:
- Watch your weight.
- Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
- Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get active and eat healthy.
For more information, visit The American Heart Association (http://www.heart.org/).
Now for the sweet treats. The Hunger Busters wanted to provide y’all with healthier alternatives to commercial sweets. Chocolate is the treat of choice during February (for some it’s the treat of choice year round). But in February specifically, anything and everything is either chocolate covered or chocolate made. Roses, kisses, candy, and of course, chocolate covered strawberries are all popular items this month. So we thought, why not suggest alternatives to the store bought confections? This year impress the ones you love with some homemade, healthier chocolate treats. What better way to say, “I love you” than by saying, “I care about your health?!?”
Chocolate Covered Mandarin Slices
A favorite treat of the Hunger Busters, this recipe is a great alternative to chocolate covered strawberries since citruses such as mandarins and clementine are currently in season. The recipe suggests sprinkling coarse sea salt on the mandarin slices, but if you’re watching your sodium intake you can omit the salt all together.
Quick tip: Make sure your mandarin slices are completely dry before dipping into your chocolate. Any water added to the chocolate will make it harden unattractively, which is no bueno when you’re wanting neatly coated slices for your sweetheart.
For both of these recipes it’s important to choose dark chocolate instead of the highly processed milk chocolate or white chocolate varieties. It’s true that dark chocolate is an acquired taste, but when you pair it with fruits, it brings out the natural sweetness.
Still not convinced to try dark chocolate? We suggest starting with a 65% cocoa. It’s mildly dark but still pleasing. Check out the percentage of cocoa that your chosen chocolate contains; it’s listed on the wrapper. Keep in mind that the higher the number, the darker the chocolate.
Dark chocolate provides a variety of antioxidants, such as polyphenols. Antioxidants help prevent damage in your body caused by oxidative stress and harmful free radicals.
According to an article published in the January 2005 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” consuming polyphenols may reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, such heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. The antioxidants found in chocolate may also help improve your overall immune function to prevent other types of illness and disease as well, according to a February 2007 article in the journal “Experimental Biology and Medicine.”
All that being said, remember moderation is key. Yes, dark chocolate is healthier for you, but it’s still a sweet. And like all sweet treats, they are best enjoyed in moderation.
As always thank you for all your support to the Food Bank. We hope you enjoy these recipes with the ones you love this Valentine’s Day! Make sure to check us out next month, where we’ll be discussing National Nutrition Month and Rachel’s favorite time of the year for produce: SPRING!!!
We’re off to punch hunger in the face, see you next time!