According to the National Retail Federation, American shoppers plan to spend $2.4 billion on candy this Valentine’s Day. That includes 58 million pounds of chocolate.
If you really want to drill down, Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are trending on Amazon with Godiva and Hershey Kisses hot on their heels.
Everything in moderation is probably the sage advice when it comes to candy, but in the realm of healthy chocolate, there are some clear winners.
Registered dietitian Catherine Kruppa, who owns Houston-based Advice for Eating, said you should look for dark chocolate that is at least 60 percent cocoa. Cocoa is the plant from which chocolate is made.
Kruppa said the higher percentage indicates the chocolate has more flavonoids, which are antioxidants.
“Antioxidants protect our cells, but flavonoids may also play a role in reducing inflammation and aid in preventing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer,” she said. “Research also shows the dark chocolate may help alleviate depressive symptoms.”
Kruppa said the recommended “dose” is approximately 1-2 ounces or about 30-60 grams.
“Indulge in anything more than that, and you may be consuming too many calories,” she said.
Kruppa said she likes to indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate after dinner. A few of her favorite brands include Lindt Excellence 70 percent dark chocolate, Hu Simple Dark Chocolate, and Raaka Unroasted Dark Chocolate, which is 100 percent cocoa.
Other healthy options include chocolate-covered banana slices or strawberries, or adding dark chocolate chips to smoothies, protein balls and even as a topping for oatmeal.
“You can also use cacao powder to make hot chocolate on a cold day,” Kruppa said.
Here are some easy recipes if you want to take a swing at making sweets for your sweet.
Homemade Melt-In-Your-Mouth Dark Chocolate (from Allrecipes.com)
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• 3 tablespoons honey
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Gently melt coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir cocoa powder, honey and vanilla extract into melted oil until well blended. Pour mixture into a candy mold or pliable tray. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa (from Allreceipes.com)
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1?½ teaspoons brown sugar, or to taste
• 2 ounces dark chocolate, or to taste
• 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream, or more to taste
• 1 pinch ground cinnamon, or more to taste
Directions: Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat until just before boiling, 3 to 4 minutes. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved, about 1 minute. Stir dark chocolate into milk until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir cream and cinnamon into milk mixture.