For the Love of Chocolate

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

What’s the most important “heartfelt” holiday celebrated in February? You get points for knowing Valentine’s Day is on the 14th, but did you also know February is American Heart Month? The goal throughout the month is to raise heart disease awareness, the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Then on the first Friday in February we celebrate National Wear Red Day where we not only get to make a fashion statement, but we can use it to remind women they may be at risk of heart disease and not know it.

I hope you agree February is the perfect time to show our love for the ones we love by helping them take steps to keep their hearts healthy!

Now for a harder question: How can we celebrate Valentine’s Day right smack dab in the middle of heart health awareness month and still be kind to our hearts? One simple answer is to have sweet celebrations, with less added sugars. Both the American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend cutting back on added sugars, and using SPLENDA® Sweetener Products is an easy way to do just that!

Recipes for Desserts and Drinks with Less Added Sugar

To help you get started I’ve collected some of my favorite chocolate dessert and drink recipes from the SPLENDA® collection – all with less added sugars. As you will see, using SPLENDA® Sweetener Products in place of full sugar isn’t the only way these recipes are made more heart healthy. They also use vegetable oils or soft spreads instead of butter and fat-free milk instead of whole to reduce the saturated fat content. By making those substitutions and using SPLENDA® Sweeteners instead of full sugar, the caloric content of the recipes is also lowered to help with weight management. And another way you can cut the calories of any dessert is to simply cut the serving size in half!

If you have questions about the health benefits of chocolate, please read my earlier blog about the Health Benefits of Chocolate.

Chocolaty and Sweet Recipes with Less Added Sugar

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups rolled oats

6 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons trans-free margarine, softened

1/2 cup SPLENDA® Sugar Blend

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine flour, oats, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In bowl of electric mixer, beat margarine and SPLENDA® Sugar Blend on medium speed 1 to 2 minutes, or until light and aerated. Beat in eggs for 1 minute, or until light. Beat in extracts. Stir in dry ingredients.
  4. Drop teaspoons full of dough onto lightly greased baking sheets and flatten each with the back of a fork dipped in water.
  5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven, or just until puffed and no longer shiny on top. Cool on sheets 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

Nutrition Info

 Ingredients:

1 cup slivered almonds

1 1/4 cups SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with vegetable cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Bake almonds in a shallow pan for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring once, or until lightly toasted. Set aside.
  3. Beat SPLENDA®Granulated Sweetener, 3 eggs, and milk at medium speed of an electric mixer for 3 minutes or until mixture is smooth and pale yellow in color. Beat in extract.
  4. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; add to SPLENDA®Granulated Sweetener mixture and beat on low speed until a stiff dough forms. Stir in almonds. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Divide dough in half; shape each portion into an 8-inch log. Place logs on prepared cookie sheet and flatten to 3/4-inch thickness; brush with beaten egg white.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown; reduce oven temperature to 325° F. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack; cool 10 minutes. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices with a serrated knife, using a gentle sawing motion. Place slices on cookie sheets. Bake 10 minutes; turn cookies over, and bake 10 additional minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Nutrition Info

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup SPLENDA® Sugar Blend

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

 Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F.
  2. Bake walnuts in a shallow pan, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until toasted. Set aside.
  3. Beat egg whites and vanilla at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy.
  4. Add SPLENDA®Sugar Blend, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form; stir in walnuts and chocolate morsels.
  5. Spoon rounded teaspoons of mixture onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated oven. Drop oven temperature to 200° F. Bake for one hour and 45 minutes. Cool slightly on cookie sheet. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight tin.

Nutrition Info

Ingredients:

1/4 cup water

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

5 1/2 cups skim milk

2 cinnamon sticks

1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Whisk water, cocoa powder and SPLENDA®Granulated Sweetener in a saucepan. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture thickens and resembles a syrup.
  2. Mix in remaining ingredients and heat. Do not boil. Serve hot.

Nutrition Info

Of course, eating a heart-healthy diet is important all year long if you want to reduce your risk for heart disease. Using a sugar substitute like one of the SPLENDA® Sweetener Products in place of full sugar can help you with the goals of reducing your added sugar and calorie intake and with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

 

Compounds in raw cocoa can be good for the ehart

Does Chocolate Deliver Health Benefits?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Have you ever stopped to think about why the iconic heart we see everywhere for Valentine’s Day is the symbol of love? I did, and after a little research I learned that in ancient times people believed the heart was the center of all human emotions because it was in the center of the chest. That isn’t a very scientific explanation, but I can’t argue with it since we still don’t have a better answer.

Then I started to wonder how chocolate become part of the “love story.” If you love chocolate, you’ll be happy to learn there is a scientific connection!

The Benefits of What’s in Chocolate

First, a brief anatomy lesson. The heart is a pump that pushes blood through a network of more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels made up of arteries, veins and capillaries. Together the heart and blood vessels are referred to as the cardiovascular system and its job is to deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to every cell in the body.

As we age our blood vessels become less flexible, making it harder for them to expand and contract with changes in blood flow. This can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Flavanols are naturally occurring compounds found in many plants, including the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Research has shown that when we eat certain types and amounts of these “cocoa flavanols” they can have effects on blood vessels that may help keep them more elastic and therefore make the cardiovascular system work better.

Is Eating Chocolate Good for the Heart?

Just like any other food, all chocolate is not created equal. Differences in the seeds that are planted to grow a cocoa tree, to differences in the way the cocoa beans are fermented, dried, roasted, liquefied and combined with other ingredients to make the chocolate we know and love can affect the flavanol content of the finished products. And contrary to popular notions, the darkness of the chocolate, or percent cocoa, is not an indication of flavanol content.

At present there is evidence that cocoa flavanols can be good for our hearts. Studies have shown these flavanols can reduce the clumping of platelets that create plaque in the arteries, and may help protect against higher blood pressure and reduce levels of harmful oxidized LDL-cholesterol in the blood. And further research indicates that what’s good for our hearts is good for our brains!

The only problem is that the science is still evolving on how much cocoa flavanol we need to eat to be sure of benefits, and products made with cocoa don’t always have a meaningful amount of flavanols.

Delightful Chocolate Recipes from SPLENDA® Brand

We can still enjoy the undeniably delicious taste of chocolate just for the pleasure it brings us while following the Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations of the American Heart Association to help keep our cardiovascular systems strong. And when we prepare chocolate treats using a no-calorie sugar substitute, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, we can enjoy that chocolaty-sweet taste with fewer calories and carbohydrates from added sugar.

My all-time favorite chocolate recipe is this Chocolate Pudding Cake because it combines the comfort of a mug of rich hot chocolate with the decadent satisfaction of a warm chocolate cake. You might also want to try these Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes. They’re made with ½ cup cocoa powder and are so moist and flavorful that the Rich Chocolate Frosting is optional.

For those who like their chocolate creamy and smooth, this Chocolate Pudding with Strawberries is the way to go. It’s made with skim milk and fat free whipped topping to help with reducing the calorie and fat content. And if you prefer a little crunch with your chocolate, you can whip up a batch of these Chocolate-Almond Biscotti. They’re perfect with a cup of flavored coffee at just 60 calories each.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

For more information, visit:

  • Food Timeline: Valentine’s Day Candies.
  • Bultrago-Lopez A, Sanderson J, Johnson L, Warnaakula S., Wood A., Di Angelantonio E., Franco OH. Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ.2011;343:d4488
  • Corti R., Flammer AJ, Hollenberg NK, Luscher T. Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine: Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health. Circ. 2009;119:1433-1441
  • Brickman AM, Khan UA, Provenzano FA, Yeung LK, Suzuki W, Schroeter H, Wall M, Sloan RP, Small SA. Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Neuro. November 2, 2014; 17:1798–1803 doi:10.1038/nn.3850
  • American Heart Association. The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.
Campaign raises heart disease awareness in woman using red dress symbol and helps them prevent heart disease by learning heart facts

Red Dress Symbol Helps Prevent Heart Disease in Women

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

CAMPAIGN RAISES HEART DISEASE AWARENESS IN WOMAN USING RED DRESS SYMBOL AND HELPS THEM PREVENT HEART DISEASE BY LEARNING HEART FACTS

As we all know by now, Michelle Obama wore a red dress to the inaugural ball. When she made her appearance it answered the biggest question since the election, “Who designed her gown?” I’m sure no one was thinking about her choice as a symbol for heart disease awareness in women.

But if seeing that Jason Wu gown was a reminder to women to learn our risk factors to prevent heart disease, it may have saved many lives. One woman out of every four in the United States will die from heart disease this year. Knowing the heart facts represented by that red dress is important for us all, but even more so for African American women whose rates of heart disease are twice those of white women.

What Is Heart Disease?

Any disease affecting the heart or the blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to it is a form of heart disease. It includes hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke (loss of blood to the brain), dysrhythmias (abnormalities in heart rhythm), cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), congestive heart failure (inability to pump sufficient blood), inflammatory heart disease (inflammation of the heart muscle) and rheumatic heart disease (infection in the heart).

These are not just diseases that happen to men or old people.

Heart disease occurs in women at the same rate as men, and at any age, but women are much less likely to pay attention to the early warning signs. That’s a problem because there is no cure for it. No pills, no procedures, no surgery can make heart disease go away. Once you have it you’ll always have it. Early intervention is the only way to minimize the damage and extend the quality of one’s life.

So what are we waiting for ladies?

What Can We Do To Prevent Heart Disease?

The risks for heart disease fall into two simple categories: Risks you can’t change and those you can. Age and family history fall into the first category. Smoking, being inactive or overweight are in the second.

I love this handy wallet card that lists the questions you should ask your doctor to find out your personal risk of heart disease. It provides a place to record the all-important “numbers” that help determine your risk, explains what the goals are for improving those numbers, and suggests things you can do to lower them. One recommendation is to adopt a heart-healthy diet, which is good for the entire family.

Are you ready to get started? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there will be plenty of red dresses to remind you. Once you know how to prevent heart disease, be sure to share the red dress story to raise heart disease awareness in your daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, mothers, and other women in your life so they can lower their risk, too.