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    Romance is Good for Your Heart

    My plans for bi-weekly posts went out the window this past week due to a family member’s surgery. It was elective, but things never go quite as planned, do they? As the token member of the health care community in my family I spent some time at the hospital, and gladly, but that meant I didn’t post as planned. Things are going great there now, and I hope to return to my posting plan. I am even going to try to get ahead, so that there will be posts to go up while I’m away on vacation in a few weeks. We’ll see how that goes; sometimes I’m a crazy person thinking that I can accomplish all the things on my list!

    Thursday is Valentine’s Day of course. Here are a couple of interesting valentine facts: the US Greeting Card Association reports that nearly 1 billion greeting cards are sent in the world for Valentine’s Day; this makes the holiday second only to Christmas in terms of cards sent. They also estimate that 85% if these cards are sent by women; no surprise there I think!

    Although Valentine’s Day was originally acknowledged as a celebratory holiday for various early Christian martyrs named Valentine, the first written association with romance appears to be a poem written in 1382 by Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales), called the Parlement of Foules. It was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia ,who were married at age 14.

    Here at Web MD there is a great article about the benefits of chocolate for your health that will make it that much easier to indulge your sweet tooth this week. I didn’t know that it’s botanical name, Theobroma cacao, translates to “food of the Gods.” For those of you thinking about a little romantic interlude with your Valentine it might be a good idea to eat a little dark chocolate together. It contains the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are thought to be mood boosters and mild sexual stimulants.

    Planning a Valentine’s Day meal for your loved one? Think about your menu carefully and you could make it romantic and heart-healthy! How about starting with a glass of red wine (130 calories, 5 grams of carbs)? It’s flavonoids have an antioxidant effect in the body, may raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and may help prevent blood clotting in vessels.

    For appetizers, try a seafood item, such as shrimp cocktail: three ounces have only 130 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 12 grams of carbohydrate. But here’s the good part, it’s a low-fat, high-protein treat that contains lots of zinc and mood-brightening, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid frying your seafood appetizer, which really increases the calories and heart-unhealthy fat. For your main course, try broiled salmon with steamed vegetables (about 590 kcal, 40 g fat, 5 g carbs). Choose colorful vegetables that are high in flavenoids, which boost immunity and heart health. The protein in this meal choice can also increase the production of dopamine, a mood enhancer that will make you feel good.

    For desert try chocolate-dipped strawberries: 6 berries contain 180 kcal (that’s only 90 for each of you), 9 g fat, and 24 g carbs. Strawberries contain anthocyanins, which are chemicals that improve blood flow to the body, so of course that’s good for your heart!

    While planning that romantic dinner for two, keep in mind that just being in love can improve your health. Various investigations have shown that loving relationships can help prevent plaque build-up in the arteries and protect against cardiovascular disease, boost the body’s disease-fighting antibody levels, reduce levels of stress hormones, and lengthen our lives. All good reasons to treat that special loved one to a special Valentine’s Day treat!

    Happy, Heart-healthy Valentine’s Day to all! Laurie

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