Chocolate is a staple of Valentine's Day, and for good reason. It's a sinfully sweet treat, of course, but it also contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that has been shown to have health benefits for the very target of Cupid's arrow—the heart. But not all chocolate products are created equal: they can vary wildly in flavonoid content, fat and calories, and quality of ingredients. So how can you be sure you're expressing your love with the most healthful chocolate option?
According to dietitian Gloria Tsang, many products you might find in the chocolates section of your grocery store or gift shop have much more sugar and fat than real chocolate. "It's always a good idea to stick to real chocolate rather than candies and bars with chocolate flavoring," Tsang says. "But even when you're buying real chocolate, there are major nutritional differences between types that you may not be aware of."
Here's how some common chocolates stack up against each other:
- Cocoa powder: Cocoa powder ranks highest in flavonoids, and is also lower in calories than dark or milk chocolate. Try creating a custom cocoa drink for your sweetie, or look for chocolates dusted with real cocoa powder.
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is a great source of flavonoids, though it contains about twice the fat and calories of cocoa powder. Its intense flavor makes it best for savoring, meaning one small square can often satisfy a sweet tooth craving. Look for the highest cocoa content you can find.
- Milk chocolate: Milk chocolate has about the same calories as dark chocolate, but it often contains no flavonoids at all. Flavonoids are only present if you find cocoa solids or cocoa liquor on the ingredient list, so if you're looking for heart benefits, check to make sure you know what you're getting.
- Chocolate candies: Chocolate candies (like M&Ms) have similar fat and calories as straight-up chocolate, but they tend to have candy shells that add artificial colors and flavors to the mix. Again, check for cocoa solids or cocoa liquor if your'e looking for flavonoids – it's likely you won't find them.
- White chocolate: White chocolate does contain cocoa butter, but it does not contain any cocoa solids or cocoa liquor, so it does not offer any heart health benefits. It's a bit of a stretch to call it chocolate at all!
No matter which chocolate you choose to give this Valentine's Day, focus on quality, not quantity. A rich square of quality chocolate is a much more luxurious eating experience than gorging on cheaper chocolate candies, and it's much more healthful, too.
Where can you get the best chocolate in Plymouth? Here are some suggestions:
Fedele's "Let's do...Chocolate": This sweet shop in the Village Landing Marketplace on the Waterfront offers the most amazing chocolates. They're so good, you don't even need the heart-shaped box. The shop also offers hand-dipped chocolate covered strawberries. Mmmmmmm.
The Plymouth Winter-into-Spring Market at Plimoth Plantation offers all the romantic, and local, ingredients for Valentine's Day. Along with locally made wine, Sirenetta Seaside Chocolatier from Scituate will have samples from its new collection of artisanal valentine chocolates including Champagne Bon Bons, Berry Smitten and Vanilla Tryst, Solid Chocolate Kiss Me Frog, and Cabernet Truffle Bites.
"Our passion for true flavor begins with only the best ingredients. Ganaches are created using fresh herbs, local when available, fresh cream, nuts, liqueurs, fruits and spices. Our confections are never chemically altered." Come talk to the chocolatier and try an intense taste experience that will melt slowly and linger on your tongue.
Edible Arrangements always has chocolate dipped treats. For Valentine's Day the chain store offers bouquets of heart-shape pineapple and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Whatever you decide, make sure to order early.