As Valentine’s Day Approaches, Here’s Word On the Sweet Science Behind Dark Chocolate, a Great Recipe for Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts & Two Heart-healthy Books

January 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Food & Recipes, Health & Fitness

 As Valentine’s Day Approaches, the Sweet Science Behind Dark Chocolate

Dr Janet BrillToday’s guest author is Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, a leading diet, nutrition, and fitness expert. She frequently serves as a  nutrition and health spokesperson on national television, radio and is often quoted in print.

Brill specializes in cardiovascular disease prevention. Her first book, Cholesterol Down: Ten Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs has been widely endorsed.

Her new book, Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease, was inspired by her father’s death at a fairly young age (69) from his second heart attack, and by her husband, whose heart attack at age 51 made her look very closely at what could be done to make a difference in his life. Dr. Brill lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children.

The Sweet Science Behind Dark Chocolate: What Eating Dark Chocolate Can Do for You

by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN

Dark chocolate — with a high content of nonfat cocoa solids — is the new guilt-free super food! The scientific evidence is stacking up linking daily consumption of deep, dark chocolate with phenomenal health benefits, especially on your heart and blood vessels.

Studies show that people who eat generous amounts of superbly-heart-healthy and flavonoid-rich cocoa rarely develop high blood pressure and have a very low death rate from heart disease.

Eating dark chocolate is key to heart health because it is loaded with powerful plant antioxidants called flavonoids.

That is why is it included as a bonus in a plan I developed to reverse heart disease, and/or to build good heart health to hopefully avoid heart troubles. My full program is detailed in “Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease. Valentine Chocolate

The eight key food groups that form the core of my plan are:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Leafy greens
  • Figs and other fruits
  • Salmon and other seafood
  • Lentils and other legumes
  • Walnuts and flaxseeds
  • Oatmeal and other whole grains
  • Red wine

Eating your daily sweet treat will make a significant contribution to the antioxidant potential of your diet, as dark chocolate has a higher antioxidant quality/quantity than most heavy hitters — red wine, black tea, and green tea.

Consumption of the dark, flavonoid-rich type of chocolate can improve your blood vessel health by increasing your endothelium’s production of that crucial blood vessel relaxation chemical nitric oxide, rendering your dysfunctional endothelium (the damaged inner arterial layer that instigates and promotes heart disease progression) healthier and more functional.
In fact, research shows that consuming a small daily dark chocolate treat reduces inflammation and promotes more relaxed and dilated blood vessels, especially if you’re diabetic.

To sum it up, consuming just one or two squares (up to one ounce) of dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa) every day can help:

  • Boost your blood antioxidant level
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Make your dysfunction endothelium more functional
  • Fight inflammation

Here are a few ideas to eat chocolate daily — for you and your heart.

  • Try a nightly cup of steaming, decadent homemade hot chocolate. Put 2 heaping spoonfuls of dark chocolate natural unsweetened cocoa powder into a mug, add a touch of sweetener (you might consider a sugar substitute), and mix together with soy milk and microwave. Top with fat-free whipped topping and you have a delicious, chocolaty, super-heart-healthy sweet treat.
  • Remember, to satisfy your chocolate craving and fortify your heart disease defense strategy simultaneously, think real cocoa. Natural unsweetened cocoa powder has the highest concentration of flavanols compared to other chocolate products (followed by unsweetened baking chocolate), plus is low in sugar, fat and calories, so favor this chocolate choice over solid bars when possible. And don’t forget that milk chocolate and chocolate syrup rank lowest on the antioxidant scale, so avoid choosing them for your heart-healthy chocolate splurge.
  • Look for dark chocolate products derived from single-origin countries or areas. Note that Madagascar and Java cacao beans have been shown to contain double the flavanols compared to beans from other areas.
  • If you prefer a small piece of chocolate, purchase one of the new high-flavonoid chocolate bars (not milk chocolate or Dutch processed) — at least 70 percent cocoa, and limit yourself to one to two small pieces a day. Be sure to check the ingredients list and choose a bar where the first ingredient is cocoa solids or chocolate (not sugar) such as Lindt® Excellence 70% Cocoa Bar.
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of dark cocoa powder to your banana and soy milk smoothie — a luscious addition to a heart-healthy drink.

Isn’t this the best nutrition news to come along in decades? Try my Quick, Healthy (and sinfully satisfying) Dark Hot Chocolate (see above) and my Flourless Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts (see below).

So this Valentine’s Day or any day, enjoy your chocolate…just make sure it is dark chocolate in the appropriate quantity only. It isn’t so hard when you remember that a healthy heart is the best treat of all.

Dr. Janet’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts

Serves 16 — A dark, moist chocolaty treat.

    One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
    3/4 cup packed Splenda ® Brown Sugar Blend
    1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
    1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    2 tablespoons ground flax seed
    1 tablespoon espresso powder
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place black beans in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, oats, cocoa powder, olive oil, espresso powder, flax seed, vanilla, and salt. With an electric mixer blend the ingredients until the black beans are mushed up and the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape batter into the prepared pan, top with walnuts, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the middle of the brownies is firm. Let cool before slicing into 16 pieces.


Calories: 140
Fat: 6 g (0 g EPA, 0 g DHA, 1 g ALA)
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg
Sodium: 89 mg
Carbohydrate: 16 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: <1 g
Protein: 3 g

Excerpted with permission from Prevent a Second Heart Attack by Janet Bond Brill ©2/2011.

Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, is a leading diet, nutrition, and fitness expert. She is the author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack and Cholesterol Down: Ten Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs. Learn more at


12 Responses to “As Valentine’s Day Approaches, Here’s Word On the Sweet Science Behind Dark Chocolate, a Great Recipe for Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts & Two Heart-healthy Books”

  1. Keith@MLM Leads on February 24th, 2011 4:50 am

    Thanks for posting this information. I have always heard that dark chocolate was better but never knew why. Heart disease also runs in my family so I will be added more of your key food groups to my diet. Who knows you may have just saved my life in the future!

    Thanks so much!

  2. Anna@Bolån on March 11th, 2011 2:34 pm

    I have always been a big fan of dark chocolate but never knew of all these fantastic qualities it possessed! As we have had quite a few heart diseases in my family i will defiantly integrate this into my daily diet. Thanks for great information!
    Best regards

  3. Peter from RSA course on March 14th, 2011 6:30 pm

    Another thing that’s good for your heart in small amounts is red wine. I like to think of the health benefits when I’m having a glass and eating dark chocolate;)

  4. Robin@Dallas Homes for Sale on March 22nd, 2011 3:56 pm

    I drink red wine and use olive oil on my food. I need to eat more nuts and greens. I wonder if having a glass of wine and chocolate helps your heart, but also reduces stress which can help your heart.

  5. Carol@Tour Operator on June 1st, 2011 3:41 pm

    I have a hard time finding expresso powder (and my blender doesn’t seem to want to grind up expresso beans that fine) but I love this recipe for dark chocolate brownies!

    I also finely chop dried cranberries or dried cherries and sprinkle them on top. I like the tart flavor that is added.

  6. Rob@Quitting Cigarettes on June 17th, 2011 11:40 am

    Dark chocolate definitely makes me happier if used in moderation. A guilt free super food, for sure! However, it is important to maintain a healthy varied diet as far as you can. 🙂

  7. Zaman@Online Casinos on July 6th, 2011 9:35 am

    Wuhhooo, it sounds super amazing, was merely knowing of the fact that by eating dark chocolate you won’t feel hunger for quite longer time, a good friend in long journey. But you summed up quite wide range of good points about dark chocolate. Appreciated it a lot. Keep it up and sounding our knowledge treasure.

  8. Stacy @ Candy Floss Makers on January 30th, 2012 9:02 pm

    I love dark chocolates as they are said to be healthy. This is really a great recipe. Thanks! 🙂

  9. Peter Bloch@Bloch Healing Cheshire and Manchester on February 11th, 2012 2:26 pm

    Now that Valentines day is here again, I’ve had the good fortune to come across your article! Like many people, I feel as if I could live on chocolate, and I like dark chocolate the most. What is there to stop me now?

  10. Peter Bloch@Bloch Healing Cheshire and Manchester on February 12th, 2012 1:32 pm

    OK, my wife baked your brownies this afternoon.They were definitely healthy!! Thanks!

  11. Anne on February 19th, 2012 12:00 am

    I’ve since found another delicious brownie recipe which is not quite so healthy. They are still made with dark chocolate, and feature toasted almonds, which are heart healthy. But they also include a delicious cheesecake ribbon running through them. Let me know if you and your wife would like THAT recipe as well…

  12. monali on January 22nd, 2013 1:24 am

    Thanks for posting the blog my sister and i enjoyed a lot with this delicious dark chocolate…

    Thanks a lot…