Ah, love! February is the month of enchantment when we are reminded to celebrate our romantic selves. I, for one, find passion in the kitchen and revel in the sweet seduction of preparing foods that satisfy the soul while stimulating the senses.
February is recognized as National Heart Month and this is an excellent time to become more conscious of loving and nourishing this incredible life-sustaining organ. Heart disease is the number one killer of American women; I hope this sobering statistic can be altered with changes in diet and lifestyle.
The American Heart Association publishes a list of guidelines to help Americans achieve a desirable level of heart health, recommending eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, as well as whole grains and fatty fish (rich in Omega 3’s), such as wild salmon twice a week. Limiting the intake of foods high in calories and low in nutrition should be a priority. Other tips include limiting daily consumption of salt to no more than 1 teaspoon and consuming no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women and two for men.
There is a vast menu of whole foods that can have a powerful effect on your vitality and can aid in the battle against heart disease. Super-hero foods, such as walnuts, a solid source of omega 3 fatty acids; pomegranates, onions, avocados, kidney beans, barley, and oats can all have a promising effect on lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and preventing hardening of the arteries.
But there is one sweet, sensuous ingredient that not only ramps up romance, but provides amazing health benefits for the heart. Dark chocolate. Exchanging chocolates has long been a Valentine’s Day tradition and it turns out that the darker the chocolate, the more intense the health benefits.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, naturally occurring compounds found in the cacao plant. Flavonoids may promote heart health by helping to prevent blood clots, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke. Enjoying a small amount of dark chocolate daily may improve the health of arteries, making them expand and contract more readily, so the flow of blood may be accomplished most efficiently.
Eating dark chocolate is a delicious, decadent way to say how do I love thee. Remember to love, nurture and nourish yourself and your loved ones as you prepare your delicious life.
Dark Chocolate Fondue
Makes enough for you and your sweetheart(s)
20 ounces premium dark chocolate ( at least 65% cacao) (Trader Joe’s 72% is quite good)
1 cup organic strawberries (or well washed strawberries)
1 ripe banana, peeled and cut in chunks
Dried apricots, figs, or prunes
Break or chop chocolate into pieces and melt in a double boiler over gently simmering water. Stir the chocolate until nice and smooth. If you have a fondue pot, place in pot and serve with a selection of fruits. Otherwise pour chocolate into a bowl.
Dip fruits into chocolate, let cool a bit and enjoy!
Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP is certified in holistic health counseling by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. As The Conscious Cook, she specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to students of all ages, emphasizing the use of natural ingredients and delicious, easy to prepare recipes. Robin also blogs at confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com. For more information on scheduling a class, go to www.theconsciouscook.net or call 203-915-4872.