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Healthy Treats: Nutritious Desserts for Your Family

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February is the American Heart Month. With the combination of sweet treats and health in the spotlight, what better time to focus on heart healthy sweet treats and healthy recipes than the month of February? Always keep in mind, sweet snacks and delectable treats do not have to be unhealthy. There are plenty of heart healthy and delicious alternatives to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Here are two wonderful healthy recipes:

Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Fresh fruit, unencumbered by artificial sugars and heavy fats, is always a smart choice for a healthful diet. And it goes without saying that fruit is refreshing and delicious. Dress up your favorite combination of fruits with some creamy yogurt and a bit of angel food cake (everything in moderation) for a guilt-free indulgence. This healthy recipe, containing very little harmful fats and cholesterol, is a fantastic heart healthy dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1/4 cup mandarin oranges
  • 1 kiwi, sliced
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/2 cup non-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tbsp shredded toasted coconut
  • 1 cup angel food cake pieces

Directions

  1. Place half of the angel food cake in the bottom of a bowl or large martini glass. Top with half of the vanilla yogurt.
  2. Layer each type of fruit, separated by a thin layer of yogurt.
  3. Place any remaining yogurt as the final top layer.
  4. Top with toasted coconut.

Chocolate Dipped Fruit with Vanilla Yogurt

Chocolate is a favorite amongst sweet lovers, especially this month of the year. Though it is often viewed as an unallowable indulgence, chocolate can actually be an ideal choice for heart health. Recent studies have shown that chocolate can be beneficial in protecting the cardiovascular system. This is due in large part to the heavy presence of flavonoids, a plant nutrient that protects from toxins and repairs environmental damage, in cocoa beans.

In fact, most fruits and vegetables are very high in flavonoids. Flavonoids also account for the antioxidant benefits found in chocolate. One specific type of flavonoid that is found in cocoa and chocolate are flavonol. Flavonol, in addition to the aforementioned antioxidant qualities, have also been shown to help lower blood pressure, make blood platelets more able to clot, and improve blood flow not only to the heart, but the brain as well.

For the maximum level of heart benefits, opt for dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains more pure cocoa and less sugar and dairy. Also, keep in mind that white chocolate actually contains no cocoa and, hence, has little heart health benefit. The following healthy recipe is both simple, delicious, and quite satisfying.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup melted dark chocolate
  • assorted sliced fruit (bananas and strawberries work particularly well)
  • 1/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

Directions:

  1. Place your choice of fruits on a plate.
  2. Drizzle melted chocolate over the fruit.
  3. Top with yogurt.
  4. You can also dip the fruit in the chocolate and yogurt.

Heart Healthy Tips

The following are heart healthy tips:

  • Opt for granola instead of cookies and ice cream. It is a lower-fat, lower-sugar, lower-calorie option and still satisfies a sweet craving.
  • Moderation is key. Experiment with lowering certain ingredients like butter, oils, and shortening when making baked goods and use substitutes like apple sauce and other pureed fruits.
  • Try substituting other flavoring ingredients in place of sugar. Many dessert recipes will taste just as wonderful when made with nutmeg or cinnamon instead of pure sugar. If a sweetener is absolutely necessary, consider using agave nectar or palm sugar in place of cane sugar.

What are some of your favorite heart healthy recipes?

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