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Dark Chocolate Snacks for Better Heart Health

Dark Chocolate Snacks For Better Heart Health The Valentine's chocolate may be long gone, but that's no reason you can't still enjoy a sweet treat now and then. A new study from Wageningen University in the Netherlands reiterates how the ingredient could benefit heart health for residents of senior living, and suggests exact ways in which chocolate promotes cardiovascular health.

According to the research, which was published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, scientists pinpointed two important ways that dark chocolate can support heart and blood vessel health. By both restoring the flexibility of arteries and preventing blood vessels from becoming clogged with white blood cells, the ingredient can reduce a person's likelihood of experiencing atherosclerosis.

Medical experts have expressed hopes that such findings could lead to the development of synthetic medications in the process that mimic dark chocolate's benefits.

"The effect that dark chocolate has on our bodies is encouraging not only because it allows us to indulge with less guilt, but also because it could lead the way to therapies that do the same thing as dark chocolate but with better and more consistent results," said Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal. "Until the 'dark chocolate drug' is developed, however, we'll just have to make do with what nature has given us!"

What are you waiting for? Take advantage of all that dark chocolate has to offer - just remember to keep the sugar and fat content as low as possible, so as not to negate the health benefits.

Low-Fat Dark Chocolate Brownies
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
1 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 C unsweetened dark cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1/2 C molasses
3/4 C plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350° F and lightly spray a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Separately, combine the eggs, sugar, yogurt, oil and pure vanilla extract.

In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter over a very low flame, stirring frequently. When the mixture is smooth, pour it into the second bowl with the eggs and other ingredients, then continue stirring together until evenly combined. Slowly whisk in the dry ingredient mixture. When the batter is smooth, pour it into the pan and bake for between 20 and 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the brownies comes out clean. Serve warm!

DIY Carb-Free, Vegan Chocolate Bars
1/2 C plus 1 tbsp dark chocolate cocoa powder
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 C honey

Line a 5-inch square pan or ramekin with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut oil and honey, stirring until they are evenly combined. Slowly add in the cocoa powder and continue mixing for about 4 minutes. Pour the liquid onto the lined pan and set in the freezer for about 30 minutes so that it sets. When it's completely solid, chop it into pieces or cut into bars.

If you're looking for something outside of the standard chocolate bar, consider adding in extra ingredients that will provide more texture and flavor. This could include dried cranberries, sunflower seeds or chopped nuts such as walnuts or almonds. 

Happy eating!

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