Like I said in last week post, this month is dedicated to the heart as it’s the American Heart Month (don´t forget Wear Red this Friday!) and also St. Valentine´s Day, celebrated on Friday 14th. The day is named after St. Valentine, a third century priest who tradition says was martyred on February 14, 270. St. Valentine is known for conducting weddings contrary to the decree of Emperor Claudius II. This religious celebration turned to be a more pagan event especially in English-speaking countries. Over the last century many countries beyond western culture started to celebrate Valentine´s Day with their own versions. (Please share Valentine´s Day traditions in your country!)
In Latin America, February 14th it´s also the day of love and friendship. In Argentina, Valentine´s Day is becoming more and more popular. In general, lovers give each other a small present like chocolates, candies, flowers, etc. Eating out is also common, as special menus are offered at local restaurants. Like in all celebrations, food has a protagonist role. I think that worldwide, the most popular food in Valentine´s Day is chocolate. And, speaking about love and sweethearts chocolate is good for HEART health!
Why? Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids (e.g. cacao polyphenol) which are antioxidants and may lower blood pressure and improve the blood flow to the heart. White chocolate has no flavonoids and milk chocolate has very little (plus, saturated fats and high sugar). The highest cocoa content the higher the benefits. It is thought that chocolate flavonoids increases body's production of nitric oxide, a powerful substance that causes blood vessels to relax and dilate. This, in turn, causes an increase in blood flow to the heart and a decrease in blood pressure. Nitric oxide is also stimulated by drugs such as Viagra, that may be one of the reasons why chocolate has had a long reputation as an aphrodisiac (although there is no proof of that). Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, which research suggests is a stimulant that releases endorphins giving us a sense of well being and pleasure. Many other benefits have been linked with chocolate like stroke prevention, reduction of diabetes prevalence, support of cognitive function, etc.
So, this Valentine’s, choose a good quality dark chocolate to give to your loved one or just to indulge yourself (and your HEART!). Don’t forget that chocolate is high in fat and calories, so moderation is key. Just a square of a chocolate bar can provide all the benefits.
Happy Valentine´s Day!!
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