Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the amped-up expectations and “how much is enough/too much” anxiety that often come with over- hyped, couple-y holidays like Valentines Day—New Years Eve is  another least favorite. Perhaps it’s just my textbook Sagittarius-ness talking, but I’d rather be surprised with a romantic outing or flowers on some random day in, like, March, rather than a 4-dollar Hallmark card on February 14th.

When you’re in a relationship, it seems silly to pick one arbitrary February day to do nice things for each other. Besides, nothing kills the mood like “Well, I guess it is Valentines Day…” Though I’ve read and written about aphrodisiac foods, I don’t really believe in the magic of oysters. And for those of us single and single-ish gals out there, I especially don’t buy into the implication that eating chocolate, sending ourselves flowers or enjoying other things we can do for ourselves anytime we like somehow connote failure. When it comes to certain things in life (though true, not all), if you want it done right, you’re better off doing it yourself.

Which brings me back to chocolate. Sure, a heart-shaped gift box from the drugstore is nice, but there’s something to be said for meeting your own needs and figuring out what you like. One of my favorite recent finds is Trader Joe’s dark chocolate with caramel and black sea salt. I also love Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark. As a dark chocolate lover, I don’t know if I’d be able to hide my disappointment upon being presented with a last-minute gift of waxy milk or white chocolate. Worse would be something with almonds in it. “Aww, thanks so much. Just a sec, let me get my epi pen so I can try one…” Hot. Of course, as with many things in life, it also works to have a partner who knows what you like.

Though chocolate is often considered a guilt-inducing food, there are plenty of well-established reasons that enjoying a little bit (especially dark chocolate, which has a higher cocoa content) within your daily calorie limits may actually benefit your health, thanks to the flavonoids in cocoa. Some studies suggest up to one ounce a day to put you in the sweet spot without overdoing it. Studies show chocolate may:

When you consider that cocoa is a rich source of magnesium and that it also plays a role in the regulation of mood-affecting neurotransmitters, it makes sense that many women crave it during “that time of the month.” While you can get it from eating a few squares of the good stuff, cocoa powder (if only slightly or not alkalized, as alkalization can impact antioxidant levels) is one of the easiest ways to get your fix. Some of my favorite ways to incorporate it are:

  • In oatmeal (I stir in a tablespoon during cooking)
  • In yogurt
  • In smoothies
  • In homemade hot cocoa, made with milk and a little sweetener
  • In chili
  • In pancake batter

Of course, I also love cocoa in chocolate desserts. A few bites of something really decadent can be a great way to end a meal. This year, I’m spending Valentine’s Day with a few lady friends. Wine and chocolate will definitely be involved, though that’s pretty much how it goes any time we get together.

Are you a chocolate lover? What’s your favorite kind? Do you add cocoa powder to certain foods? 

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