Fall in Love With Chocolate

There aren’t many things on earth better than chocolate -- even though it's often a fattening sweet, a little bit here and there can be a healthy reward.

There aren’t many things better than chocolate -- though it's a high-calorie sweet, a little bit here and there can be a healthy indulgence. To get you in the mood for Valentine's Day, here are some basic facts and, of course, irresistible recipes.

Cacao to Chocolate

Originally grown by the Aztecs 2,000 years ago, pods of the cacao (pronounced "kah-KOW") tree are mashed into a paste to make this world-renowned confection. There are actually many steps to get from the cocoa bean to a delicious chocolate treat. Beans are usually roasted to enhance their flavor, cracked, ground and pressed into a thick substance called “chocolate liquor,” which contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Think of cocoa butter as the natural fat of the cacao bean -– it gives chocolate that melt-in-your-mouth quality. In some cases, chocolate makers remove remove cocoa butter and grind pure cocoa solids into cocoa powder -- great for smoothies or hot chocolate.

Flavors

Special combinations of chocolate liquor, cocoa solids, milk, sugar and cocoa butter join to create all those lovely chocolate varieties. Milk chocolate is at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% whole milk, the Bittersweet kind is 35% liquor –- different manufacturers add varying amounts of sugar and cocoa butter to create their signature flavors. White chocolate is simply cocoa butter, sugar and flavoring. Some die hard chocolate lovers refuse to accept it as chocolate since it contains none of the prized cocoa solids.

Think you’re a choco-wiz? Take the Chocolate Challenge.
Healthy Hype

Cocoa beans contain oodles of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A and E, B vitamins, calcium, iron and potassium –- there is a nutrient to benefit just about every part of your body. Cocoa is also packed with numerous antioxidants (more than green tea or red wine). Theobromine is a powerful antioxidant; it's good for reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure but bad for pets (this is the substance in chocolate that is toxic to dogs and cats). The cocoa butter alone also contains unique antioxidants as well as some heart healthy, unsaturated fat.

It’s important to recognize that COCOA contains all these fabulous nutrients, which is why eating pounds of CHOCOLATE (also rich in sugar, milk and, therefore, calories and fat) can lead to weight gain. While you may not be able to justify eating pounds of the stuff, enjoying it in moderation can be good for you. Dark chocolate varieties contain more cocoa, which means more nutrients. When it comes to calories and fat, they are about the same. An ounce of milk or dark chocolate has about 150 calories and 9 grams of fat.

Special Powers

As for calling chocolate an aphrodisiac, there’s not a large amount of scientific proof, but it does contain a bit of phenylethylamine, a substance linked to feelings of happiness or love. I say go with it!

Ways to Enjoy

However you prefer to drizzle or nibble, you can’t really go wrong. Cookies and cake are obvious choices. Fruit dipped in chocolate gives you the best of both worlds. Make your own chocolate candies with any combination of nuts and dried fruit. Sip on a cup of warm chocolate kissed with cinnamon. Enhance the flavor of chocolate by adding coffee (a tip from Ina Garten).

Chocolate doesn’t have to be for dessert. Cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate work well in chili and other sauces (like Mole sauce) to add richness and depth of flavor.

    Healthy chocolate recipes to try:
Keep Reading

Next Up

Win This Flourless Chocolate Cake!

Win a gluten-free flourless chocolate cake for Valentine's Day.

Chocolate Ramen, a Valentine's Day Curiosity

A Tokyo chain has just introduced chocolate ramen as a special Valentine’s Day treat.

Love Bites: A Valentine-Chocolate Poll

Food Network Magazine asked Food Network's Facebook fans what they'd take first from a box of Valentine's Day chocolates. Some flavors get all the love.

Your Weekender Recipe: Ina's Chocolate Truffles (the Only Valentine's Day Treat You Need)

Celebrate Valentine's Day the homemade way, with a batch of Ina's super-rich chocolate truffles.

5 Ways to Eat Chocolate for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on Valentine's Day

Have an outside-the-candy-box Valentine's Day by incorporating chocolate into your breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Chocolate 5 Ways

Just a touch of chocolate is all you need to remind that special someone how you feel. This Valentine’s Day,scrumptious chocolate recipes morning, noon or night.

Chocolate Meringue Pie — Down-Home Comfort

Some folks like sweets, some folks like chocolate. The chocolate meringue pie is the best of both worlds. Try this on your sweetie for some down-home comfort.

On TV

Food Network Apps

In the Kitchen

Get over 70,000 FN recipes on all your mobile devices.

Facebook Messenger

Ask our bot for recipes, meal ideas and daily food trivia.

Amazon Echo

Just say "Alexa, enable Food Network skill" to get started.