When you think about Valentine’s Day, it’s likely that you think of chocolate. Although Valentine’s Day is more than just heart-shaped boxes of love, sugar and chocolate are hard to resist. They are everywhere. Believe it or not, some treats are good for your brain. While others just leave it feeling anything but love.
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt,” Charles M. Schulz once wrote. This certainly depends on the chocolate! There are other Valentine’s Day indulgences with amazing health benefits besides the chocolate you’ve grown to associate with Valentine’s Day. Here are some treats that contain the “love hormone” oxytocin and serotonin to leave you and your loved ones feeling happy.
Can Valentine’s Day Chocolate be Healthy?
There is chocolate everywhere around Valentine’s Day, but which ones are actually good for you? Kim Sasso, RD at the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care says to look for dark chocolate that contains a 70% or higher cocoa content. “Dark chocolate, in particular, is rich in a group of antioxidants called flavanols, which may help lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting and lower LDL cholesterol.” It’s high mineral content also helps to relax the nervous system.
“Indulge in moderation,” says Neurogistics Clinical Nutritionist Jessica Wilhelm. “You can’t go wrong with dark chocolate-covered strawberries to get oxytocin and serotonin moving. However, chocolate contains caffeine. If you’re going to indulge in chocolate, it’s wise to do so earlier in the day.” Strawberries are also excellent sources of vitamin c, fiber, folic acid, magnesium and potassium. Many berries also contain significant amounts of phytonutrients and flavonoids, called anythocyanins.
“It’s a gift of love that is also good for heart health,” says Sasso, “Anythocyanins reduce the risk of coronary disease and protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease.”
Chocolate contains ingredients that can lower your blood pressure, prevent memory loss, reduce insulin resistance that leads to diabetes, and treat depression. Chocolate contains fiber that helps lower cholesterol levels, and magnesium to calm the nervous system.
Valentine’s Day Candy
White flour, processed sugar and sugar substitutes are not good for your brain. We don’t want to take the fun out of Valentine’s Day, but candy containing dyes, no nutritional value or benefits, and gluten can be damaging to your brain and body. This can lead to anxiety and cravings—not the loving feelings you’re looking for on Valentine’s Day right? Wilhelm suggests some better options for satisfying your sweet tooth. “In my opinion better choices for dessert would be a fruit parfait with whipped cream or dark chocolate mousse with berries. Leave out the cake. White flour and sugar are an evil combination.” Blood sugar spikes which leads to more cravings and less satisfaction as it depletes serotonin production.
Foods that Boost Serotonin
“Foods rich in B-Vitamins, essential fatty acids, magnesium, and protein contain essential co-factors that promote the production of serotonin in the body.” Says Wilhelm. “Increasing the consumption of greens, legumes, flaxseeds, walnuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh cold water fish such as wild caught salmon all increase serotonin production.” So why not make a delicious serotonin-filled meal for your love this Valentine’s Day. Nothing says I love you like the gift of health right?
Want more serotonin-boosting foods? Here’s a list to help you plan your day.
Emily Roberts, MA, LPC
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.
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