Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension
On February 14 there are lots of gifts exchanged between people who want to show their affection, respect or love. The National Confectioners Association estimates that 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates will be sold for Valentine’s Day. If you want to indulge your Valentine with chocolate, give chocolate covered strawberries as a more healthful alternative.
Chocolate and strawberries both contain antioxidants, which are thought to improve immune function and lower the risk for infection and cancer. Antioxidants help protect our bodies from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are formed in simple body processes and can increase upon exposure to environmental contaminants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution or chemicals. Free radicals can damage cells and increase the risk for cancer, artery and heart disease, cataracts, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C. Just one-half cup of strawberries provides 50 milligrams of vitamin C. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin C is 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men. Vitamin C helps produce collagen to hold muscles, bones and other tissues together, helps keep blood vessels firm to prevent bruising, helps keep your gums healthy, helps heal cuts and wounds and helps protect your body from infection.
Make sure the strawberries are dipped in dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains more flavonoids, which are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods. The source of antioxidants in chocolate is flavonoids. Flavonoids may reduce the risk of blood clots and heart disease by expanding the arteries and increasing blood flow.
Keep in mind that it is possible to get too much of a good thing as chocolate is high in calories and fat.
If you really want to make your Valentine happy, get her a small box of chocolate covered strawberries and a big bouquet of flowers. The flowers make a big impact without additional fat or calories.