Will You Be My Sugar-Free Valentine?

By: Emma Brown

Since the time of Chaucer, Valentine’s Day has been about expressing love. For me that has always referred to my love affair with candy and chocolate. Now, there have been lots of years that I have been without a S.O., but I have NEVER spent February 14th without my beloved chocolate or those little conversation hearts. However, because I have declared 2017 The Year of My Gut Health, I decided to take a closer look at Valentine’s Day and just what that sugar splurge was doing to my insides.

First off, I was heartened (sorry) to discover that I am not alone in my increased sugar intake this time of year. The numbers are quite staggering! Americans spend $448 MILLION dollars on candy in the weeks before Valentine’s Day. We buy 58 million POUNDS of chocolate (that equates to 5.5 pounds of chocolate for every man, woman and child in the US). And those irresistible little Necco Sweethearts? Well, I’m not the only one hooked on them. Eight billion are sold around February 14th!

These incredible numbers raise some interesting questions: 1.How do they manage to stamp words on each and every one of those 8 billion tiny hearts. ANSWER: An old-fashioned print plate. 2. Am I actually eating 5.5 POUNDS of chocolate? ANSWER: None of your business. And most importantly in My Year of Gut Health. 3. What is all of this chocolate and candy doing to my insides? ANSWER: Nothing good.

Sugar is devoid of nutrients and loaded with fattening calories. My body digests simple sugar very quickly but isn’t satiated because it isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to function properly. This explained why I was hungry again very soon after polishing off an 18-piece Russell Stover Assortment. I was about to reach for more candy when I decided to stop for a moment and listen to my body. And do you know what I realized? I felt lousy. Sure, it was fun for 30 minutes (ok, 15) tossing back all of those bonbons, but now I was fatigued, bloated, kind of gassy and I had a headache. I’m not Sugar Intolerant (there are many people diagnosed with CSID, who have terrible digestive reactions after consuming just a little bit of sugar). What I had developed was a “sugar hangover”. It’s a real thing, I looked it up, and this was not the way I wanted my gut to feel in 2017.

So why, when I felt gross after a sugar binge, was I still tempted to reach for more? That answer is kind of scary. Scientists have determined, through the use of brain scans, that sugar is highly addictive. When eaten frequently, just like drugs, it becomes harder and harder to quit. In 2014 the NY Times reported that, “cravings induced by sugar are comparable to those induced by addictive drugs like cocaine and nicotine.” Yikes!

All of these facts have convinced me to stop popping foil wrapped chocolates into my mouth as fast as I can get them unwrapped, but still, it’s Valentine’s Day. A nice bag of baby carrots just wasn’t going to cut it. So I came up with a great compromise: Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries! Dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher) contains healthy antioxidants, iron, copper and magnesium. It is also reported to have aphrodisiac properties (and it is Valentine’s Day after all)! The strawberries, meanwhile, count towards my recommended daily fruit intake plus they are red and kind of heart shaped!

So this year say I’ve decided to say, “I love you” to myself with a beautiful plate of Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries. This way I still get to spend quality time with my first love, chocolate, while still keeping my gut healthy.

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces 70% dark chocolate (use baking squares instead of chips)
  • 12 large strawberries (preferably with long stems)

Instructions:

  1. Line a baking sheet parchment paper.
  2. Put 2 inches of water into a pan and bring to a simmer over med-high heat.
  3. Put the chocolate squares into a heat proof bowl or double boiler.
  4. Stir occasionally to facilitate melting and prevent burning.
  5. When chocolate is melted, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  6. One at a time, hold a strawberry by the stem and dip it into the melted chocolate.
  7. Allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl and lay the coated strawberry on the prepared baking sheet.
  8. Repeat with all 12 strawberries.
  9. Refrigerate the strawberries until the chocolate is set (at least 15 minutes).
  10. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
We understand at My Gut Health Today how challenging it can be to live with a food intolerance, a food allergy or a food sensitivity. One of the biggest obstacles is finding tasty recipes and/or substitutions that will not make us or our loved ones sick. Please carefully review all of the ingredients to ensure the recipe you are interested in is safe for you and your family to consume. Only you understand the unique nuisances of your situation. We are simply offering helpful suggestions to hopefully make your cooking lives easier and your stomachs happier.

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